Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cory Doctorow, Matt Ruff,, John Robert Marlow

Cory Doctorow has done it again. Less speculative than his last and more dystopian. Little Brother is post 9/11 paranoia realized and thwarted, so utopian in the sense that there is a happy ending (but not a permanent solution, rather an ongoing fight for personal privacy.) The setting is San Francsico, which is fun because it's all familiar territory for the past 5 years while I've lived not too far away in the Sacramento Valley. I especially like the bibliography in the back: and Adam Greenfield's Everyware on arphids of special interest to me at the moment because we're implementing them for the first time in my library. I've avoided them as long as possible, but it would seem that the world is going in that direction for the sake of convenience regardless of the longterm implications of their potential as tracking devices.
Then there's 3D printers!??? Must look into this: Neal Gershenfeld's MIT Fab Lab with the book titled Fab and online at
Because I think all those listed in the bibliography would agree with the premise that information wants to be free, I'm including the lot for my own as well as your edification. as well as Sterling's Shaping Things
Bruce Schneier's Secrets and Lies with his blog at, and are more generic intellectual freedom sites worth visiting. You never know when you might need support. sounds hot and like much of the stuff mentioned, I must admit, is over my head, but still, I like to be informed, inquiring minds and all that.
Oh, I didn't mention that Doctorow's latest was written for YA's, though as most anyone in library land these days knows YA is just as much for us grown up kids. Cory recommends Daniel Pinkwater's comic series Alan Mendelsohn and Scott Westerfeld's So Yesterday, that is good enough to put them immediately onto the top of my must-read list.
I'm really looking forward to the possibility of hearing Doctorow at ALA 2008 in Anaheim in a few weeks. Maybe in the meantime I'll have a chance to google "spoof caller id" (though I'll actually probably ixquick it, as I prefer it as a metasearch engine 90% of the time.)
Because I think it's worth repeating,I'd like to point out to any patriot act trawlers:
"Governments are instituted among (wo)men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it..."

Nano by John Robert Marlow is also set in San Francisco, and posits a future where we repair remap neural networks which brings up many questions of how this would play out. Marlow mentions Hazel Henderson's Creating Alternative Futures that considers economic implications of such a world. A cover blurb by Vernor Vigne suggests Nano would make a great movie and I would have to agree. Kind of a Bill Gates dreams of master cyber race kind of thing to be caught out by techno journalist Bond, James Bond.

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff is far-fetched in a kind of whacked out, psychiatric mystery kind of way. Amusing and better than his Sewer, Gas & Electric which I tried to read a number of years ago but couldn't get into it. Bad Monkey's Jane Charlotte is quite endearing and makes me again think whether or not all the loonies and bag ladies on the streets are more or less sane than the rest of us in the larger scheme of things.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Living as Contradiction

MOLOKA'I, by Alan Brennert, calls up the stigma of leprosy for anyone with even a remote knowledge of the Hawaiian Islands. Just the name hints at contagion, suffering, fear while for those who have visited the island know it as a contender for paradise on earth.

Brennert's book tells us of Moloka'i immediately post Father Damien, of an island that becomes a community of the disenfranchised, but not unloved. It's a novel that reads like history and stays with you like a familiar stanza of a favorite poem.

Why does this story feel so familiar, when I've never been to Moloka'i, never suffered from a lingering disease? I think it's because it touches that place in me that reminds me of the contradiction of life: We all carry death around inside of us. We turn towards all kinds of mirrors to get a look at this little bit of death: sex, drugs, rocknroll (well maybe the last isn't an appropriate analogy unless listening to loud music could be seen as a death wish by loss of hearing.)

"Fear is good. In the right degree prevents us from making fools of ourselves. But in the wrong measure it prevents us from fully living. Fear is our boon companion but never our master."

These words are said from one sufferer of what we now call Hansen's disease to another in reference to going for it. Going for love in the shape of a lighthouse keeper on the island, a non-sufferer.

I don't know that fear has ever kept me from making a fool out of myself but it's certainly kept me from being open to love. In the next paragraph, Brennert mentions Jack London's novel, MARTIN EDEN. Is this a clue? Will I find out why I run from love? How to stop running? I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

a few good books: Thirteenth Tale, Brief History of the Dead, Boomsday

On the bestseller lists for weeks, Daine Setterfield's THE THIRTEENTH TALE lives up to the hype. A reader, a writer, a ghost, a father with an antiquarian book store, an orphan--what we have here is a gothic romance thoughtfully written and artfully implemented. The author even warrants a "readers club guide" in the back of the book with "discussion points" and an interview. Not particularly impressed with the first two pieces of the afterword, the interview is well conceived and the glimpse into the author's personality reinforces the novel's underlying theme of writers' atonement being readers' redemption. Setterfield asks "I'd be interested to know just what happens inside the brain, chemically and structurally, when someone reads. Like me and you, she wonders if she is "addicted" to reading. She describes her reading experience as "hopping into another mind," sort of like hopping a train of thought. She asks how can people stay inside one head all the time, but reader or not, there are a million ways to explore someone else's point of view (any of the art forms really) but I must acknowledge that my taste for the written word in general and the novel in particular runs on the same track as hers. Like most bestsellers, the novel engages and reads quickly. The unwritten book is at the heart of the novel's mystery, just as the unexamined life not being worth living.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD by Kevin Brockmeier is an intriguing title and tale. What if, the author considers for his reader, we each live on in a similar reality after death but only as long as we are remembered by the living. In this similar but alternate reality, what if only one person was left to remember, struggling against a hostile antarctic environment. And when she lets go, one becomes none.

On a lighter note, but only if you harbor a sense of humor on the dak side. BOOMSDAY by Christopher Buckley, author of Thank You for Smoking (made into a hilarious movie), is another tongue in cheek political spin fest. This time Bucklely takes on social security, the national debt and proposes tax cuts for those baby boomers willing to "transition" into the next world by 65 for the good of national debt reduction.