Wednesday, January 01, 2003(personal) a 2003 reading list
White Noise - Don DeLillo: I'm trying to work out whether I like this or Libra more. Libra's got the Kennedy conspiracy theory thing going for it, but this wins points for absurdity. And I absolutely love the description of the air crash that wasn't. ("We're going down! We're falling out of the sky! We're a silver gleaming death machine" - from the pilot).
American Tabloid - James Ellroy: The Kennedy assassination, and the preceding five years, played out as a glorious conspiracy of triple and quadruple-crosses involving the FBI, CIA, mafia, Cuban revolutionaries, and the Kennedys' investigation of organised crime. Ellroy's usual anti-heroes suffer and inflict highly gratuitous violence. Very interesting counterpoint to DeLillo's Libra, which apparently influenced Ellroy a lot. And I've just found out there's a sequel. Woot woot!
Life's Grandeur - Stephen Jay Gould: explains probability using examples from baseball and evolution. Proves that the decline in 0.400 hitting in baseball reflects an improvement in quality, and that, whatever illusions we may hold about our primacy, it's really a bacteria's world. (A lot more interesting than it sounds).
What if our world is their heaven? The final conversations of Philip K. Dick: insight into Dick's opinion of Blade Runner, his plans for a new book (never published due to his death), and discussion of his views on writing, especially creating characters. (I loved the section where he tells how his therapist pointed out that all the women he was involved with were analogues of the emotionless, destroying women that turn up in his books (think Rachel Rosen, Ubik, and others I forget the name of now).
Robert Heinlen Friday: light-hearted adventure yarn set in a world where corporations wield as much power as nation states. Liberals (like me) will hate much of this book - Heinlen reminds us why democracy isn't a great idea compared to a strong dictatorship, and the sexual politics aren't much cop. But entertaining.
Philip K. Dick Ubik: Mindreading, pre-cognition, and all that good stuff. Explores once again Dick's obsession with the true nature of reality. Nice asides, as well - US coins of this book's 1990s have Fidel Castro and Walt Disney's heads on them, but Dick never explains why.
Sean McMullen The Centurion's Empire: Roman centurion discovers means of time-travel by cyrogenic suspension, ends up in 2028 where nothing is quite what it seems.
Stephen Baxter, Evolution: fictional account of humanity's rise and fall, from our earliest ancestors through to our post-human descendents. A decent read, with a lot of thought-provoking ideas, but sometimes the story takes second place to the science. Like always, though, when I read Baxter it makes me want to go out and read the science he's based his fiction on.
Sean McMullen Souls in the Great Machine: post-collapse librarians attempt to restart civilization in Australia using a human-powered computer. Gripping read, and not just because the protagonists are librarians.
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