Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Vanishing Book

Filed under: Art,Fun,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:26 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

What if a book slowly faded away as you read it?

I like to read.  No, really, I do.  Sure the last couple years I’ve been pretty busy and I haven’t read nearly as much as I used to read in the “old days”, but I do still love to read.  Most of the time, I grind right through a book at a pretty steady pace, never really stopping until I finish it.  Every once in awhile, though, I do get stuck.  For whatever reason, a book may not grab me and hold my attention or get to a slow part and I’ll lose interest.  So, what if there was a way to add a sense of urgency to reading?

Well, that’s just what El Libro que No Puede Esperar, which translates as ‘The Book that Cannot Wait’, does, it makes you hurry, because, truly, the book cannot wait.  It’s a collection of stories by Latin American authors that’s printed in disappearing ink.  The book slowly starts to fade as soon as the sealed, plastic package is opened and will vanish completely in about two months, leaving an exceptionally well crafted blank book.  In fact, people who buy the book are encouraged to use it as a journal after the original ink disappears completely.

So, what about it?  Would “The Book That Cannot Wait” keep you motivated to read faster?  Or just seem like a waste of paper?
Well, either way, you can hit that link and see photos of the book, both sealed and with ink disappearing.  Go ahead and take a look.  It is, after all, Friday and you weren’t doing anything anyway!


Review: Glasshouse

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Personal,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Last week, I finished Glasshouse by Charlie Stross.

I’ve been reading a lot more lately than I have in a long, long while. Part of that has included a lot of last year’s award winners. There’s been a lot of really great science-fiction that I haven’t read in recent years and I’m trying to catch up a bit. Glasshouse is one of those.

The title comes from the name of a kind of prison where the inmates are under continuous surveillance. However, the story is about a kind of experiment with partially mind-wiped patients. Ah, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. The story starts with a man named Robin who has recently undergone a significant surgery, to wipe certain parts of his memory. In fact, he’s undergone a rather radical mind wipe, no doubt driven by a significant trauma. At least, that’s what he supposes, since no one seems to know and, of course, he has no memory. Actually, he has to rely quite a bit on what people tell him and, frankly, a lot of guesswork. So, with that setting as a beginning, Robin explores who he is, why he’s there and why he knows about and is so comfortable with violence.
He quickly meets and gets involved with a woman named Kat. Though, in this future, definitions like “woman” are somewhat flexible. Kat, for instance, has four arms and is blue. And, she’s also gone through a mind-wipe, though not as radical as Robin’s. She convinces Robin to sign up for an experiment, an experiment in politics, sociology and history. The experiment takes the form of a game, of sorts, set in what would roughly be our time that includes constant observation to make sure everyone stays in character in this artificially created time and place. It’s an interesting way to look at gender roles and societal norms of our time, while layering on some other ideas for us to think about. And, of course, nothing is quite what it seems.

I have to admit, even though this won awards and was interesting, it’s not my favorite. I have a couple more by Charlie Stross in my stack of books to be read, and I’ll definitely read them, but I enjoy John Scalzi better. Still, the ideas Stross presented in this book were interesting and good, hard science-fiction. I won’t spoil any plot twists, but he creates a world where people can change gender almost at will and wear pretty modified bodies, too. Also, he portrays a world where, as an outgrowth of the mutable nature of humankind, sex and sexual morality has shifted far from our current standards, even in the most liberal of communities. I like, though, that it all fits together and makes sense internally. Sure you have to suspend disbelief in several instances, but, after that, everything else follows logically. In that respect, Stross is a very good writer, even though his style may not appeal to me. In the end, I’ll read more of his work because I can learn from it, and that’s more than enough reason for me. Also, there’s a fun “inside joke” reference to the Prisoner that made me laugh.

In short, if you’re patient and like so-called hard science-fiction, there’s a lot to like in Glasshouse. It’s well worth finding in paperback and reading.


Review: Snow Crash

Filed under: Art,Fun,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:04 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I finished Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson last night.

Okay, so let me front-load this review with all the bad things up front. The main character’s name is Hiro Protagonist. I mean, can you get any more gimmicky than that? And, as often seems to happen with Stephenson’s books, things come to an end very quickly. And, by that I mean, they build to a state of extreme tension over more than three-hundred pages and then end in less than twenty, often without much in the way of explanations or tying up of loose ends. Snow Crash is no different.

But, those things aside, it’s a damn fine bit of science-fiction.
The story follows Hiro, who’s a hacker that’s currently working for Uncle Enzo’s Cosa Nostra Pizza as a delivery driver. Hiro, however, runs afoul of Uncle Enzo after crashing his delivery car trying to get a late pizza delivered on time. He’s aided by a skateboard courier by the name of Y.T. She’s a little under-age, but she’s a great courier and, now, a friend of Uncle Enzo. That’s a good thing, considering that the Mafia is a nearly ubiquitous franchise in the world of Snow Crash. In fact, most franchises seem to be nearly ubiquitous and have managed to become their own little countries, as are the California suburbs, or “Burbclaves”, where most of the book’s action takes place.
So, when Hiro gets fired from his job at Uncle Enzo’s, he goes to his part-time job as a stringer for the Central Intelligence Corporation and starts selling them intelligence. While in the on-line world known as the Metaverse, which Hiro helped program, searching for some juicy intel, he watches one of his hacker friends get infected with a new computer virus called “snow crash”. Nothing new there, right? Well, not quite… There’s a new twist to snow crash. It seems that this virus not only infects your computer, but it does something to your mind, too. And, now, someone’s trying to infect Hiro with it.

So, that’s the basic premise. I won’t spoil the book by telling you how it all turns out. But, I will drop a few hints. There’s a bunch of religion involved. And ancient Sumerian artifacts and the Metaverse and one of Hiro’s ex-girlfriends and raft-riding refugees and more. It’s complicated, convoluted and entirely entertaining. In many places it seems so light and comical that it’s almost a farce, but, really, that just off-sets the intensity of the other, more philosophical passages.
If you haven’t read it yet, read Snow Crash.  It’s Neal Stephenson at his best and it’s great.

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