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What books are you reading?
A friend of mine suggested part of his status is due to Europeans not wanting to admit that Poe and Hawthorne mastered the short story form first.
“Yes. It’s really only since wireless networks got fast enough to stream pictures to portable devices that everything changed,” Enoch said, “and enabled each individual person to live twenty-four/ seven in their own personalized hallucination stream.”
― Neal Stephenson, Fall; or, Dodge in Heck
All the earlier criticisms of Stephenson brought up when I discussed Termination Shock apply to this book as well. I mostly read it right before sleep or when I wake up at 3:00 a.m.
Shellhead wrote: I am reading The Food of the Gods, by Cassandra Khaw. It features the adventures of Rupert Wong, cannibal chef, and his interactions with various pantheons.
You CAN NOT just drop "cannibal chef" in a sentence and mic drop!
Okay, I will share some paragraphs from the book:
"So, who's Veles? My Greek mythology isn't up to snuff, but ---"
"Nobody of any significance anymore," Demeter says, almost sadly. "Once, the Slavic people knew Veles as a god of dark, growing things. The earth and the water, the forest and its wolves. But Christianity tore his worship to shreds. He became their saint, and then their devil, and then nothing at all."
I don't waste anything. Not even the gallbladders, which I spice and sauté, before slicing them thin and plating them with creamy globs of yoghurt. The small intestines are rinsed, over and over, until only the faintest stink of decomposition remains, then poured into the food processor with garlic, layers of caramelized onions, pepper, and a glazing of white wine. At some point, after they've been sewn up in their casings and left to smoke for weeks, we'll turn them into proper andouille.
Often with books like this it’s worth reading the Introduction and Conclusion, and the chapters in the middle seem designed to turn a pamphlet into a book. This one started with that feeling, but has turned into a more interesting read.
O’Brien is a big data guy, and he’s examining the war from a Grand Operations perspective. Eisenhower is too low in the hierarchy to be mentioned in the book. And the overall thrust of the book is that all of the second world war was fundamentally about production and costs to interrupt it. Individual battles are almost incidental to the big picture, and the big picture decided battles more than battles decided big picture. That is, Kursk was won by Anglo-American strategic bombing.
This is similar to the kind of work I do for a living, though on a far smaller subject matter. O’Brien has taken his time to set up his data sink and is now dipping into it to provide clear examples of how he views the war. It’s very interesting. I just finished a chapter on how German submarines cost the allied forces dearly, and it had nothing to do with sinking ships.
Likely not everyone’s read, but it has my attention now. I like these grander visions of history.
Cranberries wrote: I am reading Neal Stephenson's "Fall, or Dodge in Hell" which is a dumb title. Long essays about how socially inept but brilliant engineers and coders will save us. Also a really interesting look at how, in the near future (this was published in 2019) large swathes of the midwest will become Ameristan, a sub-country filled with conspiracy-obsessed fundamentalists who are completely entranced by AI-charged social media apps that track eye movements and other indicators of engagement. Characters from Cryptonomicon show up, and we learn of the old-age deaths of Randall Waterhouse and Amy Shaftoe which made me oddly sad.
Hahaha, sucker. That's the book he should have written. You're already past the good stuff, now get ready for 400 more pages of wankery about consciousness and artificial worlds and compute power. When you're done, go play the paperclip game as a palate cleanser. ( www.decisionproblem.com/paperclips/ )
I hated, hated, hated that book, except for the Ameristan stuff. In fact, I only read Termination Shock because I thought (somewhat correctly) that it might be more along the lines of the fake-out that was Fall.
I did finish Termination Shock recently. It's much improved from Fall, but still a pretty sloppy novel. It's interesting to hear him rail about the USA, but then reach some sort of grudging acceptance. A very axe-grindy book, overall. The info dumps really are the best part.
TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST. The classic American nonfiction work, written by a lettered man who, in dire financial straits, decides to sign on as a sailor with a commercial sailing ship. Detailed and slow, it removes most of the romance about running away to sea. It is hard, relentless drudgery. Shift work, four hours on, four hours off. But it is fascinating, and I suspect most of the knowledge has been lost. I am about a third of the way through, and the ship has just made landfall in Monterrey CA — when it was still a Spanish colony. The author has a Spanish/English dictionary, and is therefore seen as a man of towering intellect by the crew, and then sent to buy supplies.
It’s a unique look at a lost era, from the point of view of the people who are passed over by history books.
I'm now 250 pages into Seveneves, which could be retitled, "Long essays on creating an ad hoc orbiting civilization, and orbital mechanics, with people attached." But again, I am reading to take my mind off of Omicron, grading, and those dark thoughts that come to the surface at 3:00 a.m., like "Maybe I don't really like board games, I just use them as a filter to find like minded people to hang out with" or "Whose idea was it to label people 55 or older 'Post-Prime employees' and how will I adapt to my structural uselessness?" or even "Am I even capable of change at this age?"
So I'm giving Seveneves a qualified thumbs up so far. A lot of people hate it, because it is slow and filled with exposition. I mean, it's better than 95 percent of the internet, and I read that for hours.
I've got a great idea for a new novel. I've decided to call it "Seveneves", which is a palindrome. In case you didn't know, a "palindrome" is a word, phrase, number, or other sequence of characters which reads the same backward or forward. Allowances may be made for adjustments to capital letters, punctuation, and word dividers. By the way, punctuation prior to the development of printing, was light and haphazard. William Caxton (1474), the first printer of books in English, used three punctuation marks: the stroke (/) for marking word groups, the colon ( for marking distinct syntactic pauses, and the period (.) for marking the ends of sentences and brief pauses.
Anyway, the idea for "Seveneves" came to me when I wondered to myself, "What would happen if the world were ending?" And what would be a more fantastic way to end the world than by having the moon explode (I will keep folks on tenterhooks---hooks used to fasten cloth on a drying frame or tenter--by not telling them why, just referring to the source of the explosion cryptically as "The Agent"), and break into several large pieces, that then break into smaller and smaller pieces, and eventual fall out of orbit towards Earth where they will rain down total destruction upon all living things on the surface of the Earth. The surface of the earth is known to geologists as the "crust", and the crust occupies less than 1% of Earth's volume. The oceanic crust of the sheet is different from its continental crust. The oceanic crust is 5 km (3 mi) to 10 km (6 mi) thick and is composed primarily of basalt, diabase, and gabbro, gabbro of course being a dark, coarse-grained plutonic rock of crystalline texture, consisting mainly of pyroxene, plagioclase feldspar, and often olivine.
And when the best thinkers on Earth deduce that they are going to be smashed to smithereens (always wondered where that word came from, perhaps from the Irish "smidiríní"), they team up and try to get a large group of humans off the Earth and colonized in space orbit around Earth in the two years they have before the great rain of particles reaches its most destructive phase. One of the main characters will be a thinly disguised Neil deGrasse Tyson, and I'll throw in a guy who is suspiciously similar to Elon Musk just to keep things fresh. Elon Musk, you'll remember, is a South African-born, Canadian-American business magnate, engineer, inventor and investor. He is the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors, and chairman of SolarCity. Musk has also envisioned a conceptual high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop and has proposed a VTOL supersonic jet aircraft with electric fan propulsion. That whole area interests me greatly, by the way, and so I think I'm going to focus a lot on orbital mechanics when I get to the part where the survivors colonize space, because really, who cares about the billions of people that will end up fried to a crisp back on planet Earth? I mean, where is the drama in that when we've got bolide trajectory calculations and solar radiation calculations and theories about the feasibility of various throws and holds of Greco-Roman wrestling in zero-gravity? Of course, you know that Greco-Roman (US) or Graeco-Roman (UK) wrestling is a style of wrestling that is practiced worldwide. It was contested at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and has been included in every edition of the summer Olympics held since 1908. According to the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), Greco-Roman wrestling is one of the six main forms of amateur competitive wrestling practised internationally today. The other five forms are Freestyle wrestling, Grappling/Submission wrestling, Beach wrestling, Pankration athlima, Alysh/Belt wrestling and Traditional/Folk wrestling.
Oh, and there will be a super big comet shard that comes into play, because they'll need the water from that shard to be heated and the steam used as propulsion to move the space station (and its adjoining linked spacecrafts containing the Earth's remaining population) into a higher orbit so that the survivors don't get pulled back into the Earth's gravity and have a chance at living off the planet for several thousand years until the Earth is ready to be repopulated. There will be plenty of super-detailed descriptions of all of this stuff for many hundreds of pages in the book, so don't worry if you've missed something or it's unclear. I believe it was Shakespeare who said brevity is the soul of wit, but I'm not going for wit with this book, I'm going for the antithesis of wit with this novel, so, if we think of brevity as A, and the soul of wit as B, then A=B, and of course, in propositional logic, transposition is a valid rule of replacement that permits one to switch the antecedent with the consequent of a conditional statement in a logical proof if they are also both negated. It is the inference from the truth of "A implies B" the truth of "Not-B implies not-A", and conversely. Furthermore, I'd propose that it is very closely related to the rule of inference "modus tollens". But I do throw in something kinda funny around page 786.
So finally, after I've invested all this time and effort into the incredibly detailed world-building, and tossed in a huge number of thinly sketched "characters" to help make the incredibly ornate (some might say "rococo" (/rəˈkoʊkoʊ/ or /roʊkəˈkoʊ/), less commonly roccoco, or "Late Baroque", you know, the 18th-century artistic movement and style, affecting many aspects of the arts including painting, sculpture, architecture, interior design, decoration, literature, music, and theatre, that developed in the early 18th century in Paris, France as a reaction against the grandeur, symmetry, and strict regulations of the Baroque, especially of the Palace of Versailles. Rococo artists and architects used a more jocular, florid, and graceful approach to the Baroque) accumulation of facts and descriptions more digestible and relatable to someone who is not either a post-doctoral MIT graduate or an individual somewhere on the autism spectrum, I'm gonna throw a curve at the reader by starting the third section of the book with "Five Thousand Years Later". I can just imagine my readers hugging themselves with delight at this audacious leap forward.
I don't want to go into detail about the final third of the book, so let's just say that it will provide users with a complicated description of the architectural engineering involved in housing 3 billion people in space, as well as the anthropological, genetic and cultural ramifications of humans living in space for thousands of years, all while keeping the interior lives of these people at a far remove, so that my readers don't get bogged down in all that interpersonal and emotional complexity.
If I can just say in closing, "heterozygosity" is super-important to the themes I'm trying to grapple with in what I consider to be a fairly streamlined and gripping, fast-paced thriller. Remember, a diploid organism is heterozygous at a gene locus when its cells contain two different alleles of a gene. The cell or organism is called a heterozygote specifically for the allele in question, therefore, heterozygosity refers to a specific genotype.
I should have the first draft of this book ready for your perusal sometime in the next few years or so, so please book me into a meeting with the art department sometime around then. I look forward to working with you to make this next book a huge success.
P.S. I cannot stress enough the importance of "heterozygosity" to the narrative.
P.S.S. Oh, and "bolides". Look it up. (less)
I much prefer P.G Wodehouse’s Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves. Wodehouse overwrites, but it’s in service of precisely drawing a character flouncing through life, just barely avoiding ruin by luck and charm. It’s hilarious.
Marko Kloos' Frontlines series. I've been reading them since they came out. Not bad for the genre. Don't expect deathless literature so much as aliens eating hot lead. But it's okay.