November 2009

Margaret Atwood, "Oryx and Crake"

Oryx and Crake is a return to Margaret Atwood's dystopic themes, which I think we all missed in the many years since The Handmaid's Tale.  I love me a good dystopia, and Oryx and Crake is no exception.

Whereas The Handmaid's Tale was a story about an authoritarian religious government gone out of control, Oryx and Crake is about the trend towards commercialization of everything, even human life and basic genetics.  If religion was the bad guy in The Handmaid's Tale, science is the monster in the closet of Oryx and Crake.

In the Year 2889

In the Year 2889 is a futuristic tale about Earth in, well, the year 2889. It is not the type of fictional story where the innovations of the distant future act as props to the main story or are part of the background. Rather, in typical Verne style, this short story is his vision of our way of life in the coming years. Thus, there is no main plot complete where the main protagonist races against time to save so-and-so. Far from it. The tale is set in a 'one day in the life of' type of format and merely serves to showcase the various innovations.

William Gibson, "Spook Country"

In my mind, I have been reading this book for about two years now.  In reality, I read half of it two years ago, stuck in a bookmark, and left it on the end table.  For a while it traveled around in the back seat of my car, and I kept meaning to take it into the coffee table with me.  Then I brought it into the house, because we had a big storm coming, and I would want something to read if we lost power.  Once, I took it on a business trip, because I thought I would finish reading it on the plane.

I guess I have to admit to myself that I am never going to finish this book.  Which is a very different thing from bailing on a book halfway through - which, by the way, I do without a qualm all the time.  Life's too short to slog through a book that isn't interesting me.

Neal Stephenson, "The Diamond Age"

By now, at the end of 2009, when most people hear "Neal Stephenson" they probably think Anathem, System of the World, and Cryptonomicon, in that order.  Cryptonomicon was so amazing, and little did we know at the time that it was only the beginning of this vast sprawling epic Stephenson was going to write - and continues writing still - and in longhand, by the way.

It's easy to forget that Stephenson had a science fiction career before Cryptonomicon, but he did, and it was great.  Today I want to focus on The Diamond Age, which is currently my favorite of Stephenson's earlier works.  This book is frequently overlooked by Stephenson fans, wasn't a huge hit when it was published, but it remains a solid book with a lot to recommend it.