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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Super Sad True Love Story

This was my first E-book purchase from Barnes and Noble.  I was wandering around the store a couple of months ago and was fascinated with the cover of this book.  I read the blurb on the back, a distopian future, government intrusion, xenophobia, count me in!  I started by downloading a sample, samples are the best part about e-book readers.  It takes the best part of bookstores where you can thumb through a book you're not sure you'll like but it takes out that part where you have to travel to a bookstore and feel guilty about ruining a book you have no intention of buying.

The story is set in a near future, everyone is afraid of terrorism so government checkpoints exist everywhere from the ferry terminal to random stops on the road.  Permanent life extension is just around the corner, in fact the protagonist works for a company that sells life extension.  I loved how Gary Shteyngart handled the evolution of social networking.  Everyone is on a global social networking site called globalteens.  All of your information is on the site, your credit rating, a rating of how attractive you are, all of the photos and videos that you've ever taken or been in.  I liked it because the truth may be that in the future, when so much information about ourselves is online, the only way to manage it will be to overshare.

I loved the book and the characters but I can't say it was a great or even a very good book.  The characters were engaging, the world was deep and well thought out, but the plot was just missing.  The characters wandered around in the world, the book came to a conclusion but I was left wondering where the other half of the book is.  Not in a good way where you're waiting for a sequel but in a bad way where you wonder if the author and publisher took a half finished book and decided to push it out to meet a deadline.  If you look it up on Amazon you'll see very mixed reviews, it's a like it or hate it kind of book.  I'd liked it, but felt it deserved a bit more work.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Brief History of Time

Stephen Hawking has been on the news lately discussing how he has theorized that God is not necessary in the creation of universes.  Since the physics involved are probably at the edge of the frontier there is probably a very short list of people that can agree with him or contradict him.  The man is to the point where he can only move one cheek and one finger so I assume the existence or lack of of a supreme creator is high on his mind.

A Brief History of Time is called the most read physics book of all time.  I've seen it hanging around in book stores for quite a while and since I've been on  physics bent lately I decided to check it out.  Like Einstein Stephen Hawking is able to describe some very complex topics in simple language.  Unlike Einstein the math was missing from this book so the narrative experience was better.  When I'm reading things like this I like to have the math handy but not in the middle of the text.  Math in the middle of a theory book written for the mass market is like a Tom Bombadil poem is in the Lord of the Rings, you can just skip it and go on to the next line of the story.

If you're interested in a good description of quantum mechanics or black holes I'd recommend this book.