E Thomas Reads

I read all kinds of books.

Reading progress update: I've read 401 out of 401 pages.

Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe - George B. Dyson

Reading progress update: I've read 338 out of 401 pages.

Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe - George B. Dyson
Sky Coyote (A Novel of the Company, Book 2) - Kage Baker The second novel in Kage Baker's delightful Company series has enough context that it could probably be read without reading the first in the series *The Garden of Iden* (although fans of Mendoza will probably get more out of the references to her if they have read the first). This story is from Joseph's point of view, and the operative (an immortal built in the past but working for people of the future) takes on the character of Sky Coyote in order to collect and save an entire Chumash native village from a time period of not recorded history in an area that will be the future California. Great world building with a lot of fun characters and Baker's contagious wit -- I'm looking forward to reading more of this series.
The Illyrian Adventure - Lloyd Alexander I read the entire Vesper Holly series -- or at least most of it, I can't quite remember -- around the time I was in 5th - 6th grade. I recall that I reread some of the books several times. They're swashbuckling adventures with a teenage Indiana Jones-like heroine and her guardian, who is the Watson to her Sherlock. I really enjoyed how the hero of this series is a girl who is sharp, reckless, and gutsy. I remember that these books were quick, easy reads in the sixth grade, and I reread this one -- the first in the series -- in a few hours today. There is definitely a nostalgia quality for me in rereading this book. Approach reading this book as you would watching an Indiana Jones-movie, with the same willingness to have fun and suspension of disbelief. Despite both series drawing on mythology and history, this series is in an entirely different genre than Alexander's THE PRYDAIN CHRONICLES and probably shouldn't be compared with it.
A Clockwork Orange (Norton Critical Editions) - Anthony Burgess, Mark Rawlinson I read *A Clockwork Orange* mostly unspoiled, without any idea about the plot and a vague memory that someone had told me Kubrick's film was difficult to understand. The high level of graphic violence in the first part of the book was a shock to me. While all of the violence and rape is described in the near-futuristic slang of the book called "Nadsat," I have always been good at picking up different dialects and didn't feel the language truly shielded me from the horror of the events that the very young Alex was orchestrating. It was all I could do to move on to parts 2 and 3 of the book that involve Alex's subsequent imprisonment and the interesting sequence of adventures that ensue when he convinces the authorities to use him as test subject for a state-sponsored reformation program called "The Ludovico Technique." The program messes with Alex's mind and neuters his spark, removing both his ability to commit violence but also accidentally his ability to enjoy music. Aside from some of the playful words Burgess coins in "Nadsat" and the interesting parallelism in the novel, it is in the philosophical questions that arise about free will and whether or not the rest of society isn't just as brutal as Alex, in their own way, that are the strongest points of this book. This edition includes Burgess' final twenty-first chapter which was excluded from the American edition, and while I see what he was trying to say with it, I unfortunately found it unbelievable as the turn doesn't follow naturally if you are paying attention to Alex's true character. Norton's critical edition is definitely worth all of the additional commentary and analyses that provide a context of the different ways that the novel (and Kubrick's film) have been reviewed and interpreted.

Distraction

Distraction - Bruce Sterling Bruce Sterling's 1998 novel *Distraction* was highly recommended to me by a friend who absolutely loved this book and thought since I'm a science fiction fan I might like it, too. Where *Distraction* really shines is that the number of plausible and implausible near-future ideas that Sterling crams into this novel -- particularly fascinating to me were some of the futuristic architecture ideas and the "proles," groups of people banded together by social network reputation ranking systems. While the characters, plot, and prose don't always hold up in *Distraction*, the sheer number of ideas and bizarre series of events kept me engaged throughout the book. Some of Sterling's observations absolutely have come true in some form or another, and his observations about the possible effect of political and scientific trends are thought-provoking. I also liked the attention to environment and his focus on setting parts of the novel in geographical regions that don't always get the near-future science fiction treatment.
Distraction - Bruce Sterling Bruce Sterling's 1998 novel *Distraction* was highly recommended to me by a friend who absolutely loved this book and thought since I'm a science fiction fan I might like it, too. Where *Distraction* really shines is that the number of plausible and implausible near-future ideas that Sterling crams into this novel -- particularly fascinating to me where some of the futuristic architecture ideas and the "proles," groups of people banded together by social network reputation ranking systems. While the characters, plot, and prose don't always hold up in *Distraction*, the sheer number of ideas and bizarre series of events kept me engaged throughout the book. Some of Sterling's observations absolutely have come true in some form or another, and his observations about the possible effect of political and scientific trends are thought-provoking. I also liked the attention to environment and his focus on setting parts of the novel in geographical regions that don't always get the near-future science fiction treatment.

Bad Boys in Black Ties

Bad Boys In Black Tie - Erin McCarthy, Lori Foster, Morgan Leigh None of these guys were bad and the black ties were incidental, which was fine by me. This collection was okay for what it was. The Lori Foster story about two close friends who both secretly want to become more was the most enjoyable to read of the three stories, especially since the main characters knew each other more than a day. All three stories were rather forgettable, although I did enjoy laughing at some of the inexplicable plot inconsistencies.
She's the One - J.J. Murray The handful of funny moments that made me laugh -- mainly with supporting characters -- didn't fix the fact that this novel was--what do the kids call it?--"a hot mess." The concept of the secrets and the bard retelling drew me to this book, but the characters were presented unsympathetically and then obvious band-aid patches were inserted into the book to try to "fix" that problem. I would have given this two stars except that it completely failed as a romance despite graphic voyeuristic sex scenes, and in the end I felt generally icky about the entire storyline and my implicit compliance with it by choosing to read the book. I can't help but think a novel with Walt and Fish playing the two characters in WAITING FOR GODOT would have been a better book, although maybe it would also have the same structural issues. The thing is I *should* have liked almost all of these characters, but in the end I felt that the author himself didn't truly understand what made them tick...except for perhaps Walt, who was the most sympathetically portrayed, but then again...wasn't Walt the writer?
The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1 - Neil Gaiman, John Costanza, Steve Oliff, Malcolm Jones III, Sam Kieth, Steve Parkhouse, Daniel Vozzo, Kelley Jones, Todd Klein, Chris Bachalo, Mike Dringenberg, Michael Zulli, Colleen Doran, Charles Vess This book is a beautiful bound tome with gorgeous art and some wonderful stories. Content-wise, I could tell that Neil Gaiman was experimenting when he began writing this now-famous series. The quality of the story is a bit uneven. Some of the novels were amongst some of the best graphic novels I have read, while others were "merely" entertaining, didn't quite stand alone, or felt like they belonged to a different graphic novel series. Overall this collection was definitely worth reading, and I look forward to reading future stories in Gaiman's dream-scape.
The Middleman: The Collected Series Indispensability - Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Les McClaine, Jon Siruno After watching the TV series "The Middleman," I knew that I really wanted to read the comic book it was based on. Most of the storylines in this collected omnibus of all of the comic books were later used in the series, but I enjoyed seeing them again in comic book form with some additional material (and some special effects that are easier to draw than create for television). As a fan of the television series, it is fun to see how the concept of the characters and storylines either stayed the same or changed due to casting and other creative decisions. There are also some panels of art that were so fun that I want to photocopy them and hang them on the wall. THE MIDDLEMAN comic books feels a lot like the television series -- a fun, witty story that does not take itself too seriously and yet has a big heart. Especially for anyone who is a major fan of the television series, I feel this volume is truly indispensable.

Nine Princes in Amber (Chronicles of Amber Series #1)

Nine Princes in Amber - Roger Zelazny I have heard great reviews about Zelazny's Amber series, especially from fellow science fiction and fantasy fans online, so I was excited to see this first installment in the series in my Christmas stocking. The story starts out with the main character and one of the princes of Amber, Corwin, suffering from amnesia in a shady hospital on the mundane world of earth. The novel begins as a rather standard potboiler thriller, but becomes more interesting as it shifted into introducing the idea that a certain special family of people have the ability to shift from world to world (and perhaps and create their own "shadow worlds"). The complex political machinations in the family and the question about how Corwin fits (or doesn't fit in) with them after living on earth for so long is the most interesting part of the book to me. While the concept of world shifting is very familiar to us now, one has to remember what Gardner Dozois has said--that Zelazny's Amber series has been often imitated and is highly influential on the genre. By the end of the novel, I was sucked in and ready to reach for another book in the series to discover more about the world of Amber and the inhabitants in it.

Currently reading

3 by Flannery O'Connor: The Violent Bear It Away / Everything That Rises Must Converge / Wise Blood
Flannery O'Connor, Sally Fitzgerald
Progress: 31/460 pages
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
Nassim Nicholas Taleb