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Sunday 23 September 2007

What I've been reading

Richard Dawkins. "The Selfish Gene"
It's age shows a bit at the edges but it deserves its fame. One of the great books of the 20th century. I'm shocked at how topical much of the content is and that makes the areas where its age is apparent all the more jarring. 10/10 for monumentally important content but only 7/10 for style, thankfully his writing style has improved immensely since this first came out.

Vernor Vinge "Rainbows End"
It just won the Hugo for 2007 so you can safely take it that its a good SF book but I don't think it's his best work (that would be "A Deepness in the Sky" for me). That said it is still one of the best works of near future SF for quite some time. He introduces some very interesting ideas that may or may not age gracefully, but it will be very interesting to see how it manages in its own future and I can see myself returning to it to find out. 9/10 - some of his other stuff is better but even on a bad day (and this isn't a bad day) he's one of the best story tellers on the planet. This one is firmly in "un-put-downable" territory.

Terry Pratchett "Johnny and the Bomb".
I read "Only You can Save Mankind" when it came out (ie decades ago) and liked it but for some reason I never read any of the other Johnny Maxwell books. It's good juvenile fiction but pretty harmless, "Only You can Save Mankind" was a bit edgier or at least my recollection makes it so. The use of the phrase "millennium hand and shrimp" makes an intriguing appearance, or at least is interesting if you are a dyed in the wool PT fan, like the book itself. 5/10 (of academic interest only).

Peter Hamilton "The Dreaming Void"
This is the first part of Hamilton's new "The Void" trilogy that is itself a distant follow on from the Commonwealth Saga (Pandora's star and Judas Unchained). I'm not 100% taken with the plot device he uses but others might like the idea - he intertwines a medieval fantasy (of a sort) with the ongoing development of the interstellar commonwealth first seen in . The two are linked via some arm waving mysticism that he just about gets away with (for me at least) but frankly I'd be happier if he stuck with the hard SF side. 7/10

William Gibson "Spook Country"
Niall Ferguson "Empire"
Oliver Sacks "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat"

Best Book of the year (so far):
Peter Watts "Blindsight". 10/10.

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