etumukutenyak: (skull with nails)
Read Boneshaker by Cherie Priest this weekend, and it was a tasty little steampunk gothic zombie story, about a mother and her son. It had some interesting plot twists, good characterization -- I could practically smell that poisonous gas -- and it was enjoyable.

Also read Edward Kennedy's True Compass. As you might expect, it's not an in-depth examination of Kennedy, but a review of his life from his perspective. It's an interesting perspective, but anyone who wants deeper analysis will have to wait for a Martin Gilbert to do a Churchillian biography of Kennedy. One of the nicer aspects of True Compass was the information on his relationship with his brothers. There's a lovely photograph of Ted with his oldest brother, Joe Jr., and another of Ted and Bobby with Jack; you can see how much younger Ted and Bobby were in comparison and how they looked up to their older brothers.
etumukutenyak: (skull with nails)
I just called out to Honey (in the kitchen) that "our girlfriend is on!". We likes our Rachel Maddow Show, we does.

The lungs are settling back into place, the energy levels continue to rise, albeit slowly. Amongst other things, I wrote a 6 page letter in support of one of the "alumni" fellows who is running into some interdepartmental difficulties at a far-distant university. This can be described best as "some people are effing idiots".

Got my copy of Chris Anne Wolfe's "Fires of Aggar" and tried to read it last night. Uh-oh. I may have to spork it. Apparently, she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer just as she wrote the first book, the predecessor to this one, and consequently "resisted any changes" to her no-doubt deathless prose. Only, this was a bad idea.

For example (you knew I was going to do this, didn't you?):

The third sentence in, we read "With a sudden drop, the small winged-cat fell through an air pocket...." Well, no. Air has no pockets, nor pocketses, my preciouss.

A few sentences down, as she described the hellish landscape, we read "There was grit that tasted of carbon and sand." Really? Sand? And what would sand taste like? Perhaps, possibly, like silicon, another element to go along with carbon?

"The smaller of the sandwolves turned and trotted back along the trail while the other continued forward." Redundant, much? An editor could have suggested "One sandwolf trotted back [to do something plotwise]." The very next sentence is "The horses behind were plodding along with heads down bent into the winds, and they paid no heed to the sky above nor to the sandwolf returning from the front." How about "One sandwolf trotted back, passing the laboring [or even "plodding"] horses with their heads bent down against the winds, and [did something plotwise]"?

Because now, we're up to page 2, and I've seen a flying cat, two sandwolves, three horses, and absolutely no plot in this hellish landscape. Why am I reading this? I'm tasting something gritty, all right, and it isn't sand. At least this doesn't seem to have any "tall, dark" women, or perhaps not just yet.

In comparison, the beginning of "California Voodoo Game" (by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes), pulled completely at random from the nearby bookcase:

"Late afternoon shadows crept across MIMIC."

"Built forty miles northeast of Barstow, about twenty miles west of the California-Nevada border, MIMIC looked east with a facade that resembled a nineteen-story rust-colored sandwich board with a vertical convex crease."

"After the Quake, MIMIC lay cracked and rotting for almost 50 years."

After three paragraphs of setting, we get the people, and we're immediately pulled into the complicated world of Game Masters planning the Next Game. Everything's vivid, nothing's wasted, and nobody hits an "air pocket".

OK, lungs are feeling left out of things, so I must go take medicines and crawl into bed.
etumukutenyak: (skull with nails)
As another character says, "And what a pair of names for one such as yourself, eh?"; Blanche White is a black woman who has a business that brings her in contact with lots of other people, perfect for stumbling across mysteries and solving them. She sounds like the kind of person I'd like to hang out with in real life, except for that tendency to find dead bodies that all sleuths seem to have. An excellent read, and worth tracking down in the nearest used bookstore.



Other AoC that I recall reading:

Madhur Jaffrey, Tastes of India
Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Steven Barnes, all of his books
CherrĂ­e Moraga/Gloria AnzaldĂșa, This Bridge Called My Back
Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley
Alex Haley, Roots
Malcolm Gladwell, Blink
Audre Lorde, Zami, A New Spelling of My Name
Mark Mathabane, Kaffir Boy
etumukutenyak: (Default)
I got an ARC of this by getting an email in fast enough, and I'm glad I did. Even though the book will be released Real Soon Now (April 29th), it was worth reading so I could post about it.

Buy this book!

It's a Young Adult book, but don't let that stop you. I'm old enough to be the protagonist's mother, and I stayed up way past my bed time to read this.

It's science fiction that is set in our near future, and chillingly so. Those of you who live outside the US will note two things: (1) it will support what you've been telling everyone inside the US and (2) it will remind you of your own experiences with tyranny (which Americans do not have).

It's the "homeland security" mindset run amok. As the book points out, using technology to spy on people doesn't make everyone safer; on the contrary, it sets up an "us versus them" situation, and the definitions of "us" and "them" will vary depending on who's in charge. That's a prescription for tyranny and for totalitarianism.

The way to make the world safer is not to use every excuse that "the terrorists will win if you don't [x]", where [x] is the latest deprivation or invasion of privacy or other violation of civil rights. The way to make the world safer is to use a version of "web of trust": you start with people that you can trust, and the people they can trust, and you build outwards from there. Anyone who can't be vouched for is now outside the net of trust, and that's who you identify. The friend of my friend is my friend. The internet allows us to spread this network across the world, where in previous incarnations we were stuck trusting those in our families, neighborhoods, churchs/synagogues, etc., and where we'd eventually run out of people to network to -- thus only supporting the "us versus them" (xenophobia, fear of strangers -- because there was no way to verify their trustworthiness).

The way to make the world safer is to make things more transparent, not less. Good security relies on open source code, because the more people you have looking at something, the less likely it is to have a flaw. Bad security relies on segregation, separation, "need-to-know", and fear-mongering. What you don't know you can't respond to appropriately, so you fear all unknowns. People are hard-wired to fear what they can't name; we name everything and control it, and diminish our anxiety. When we can't do that -- either through lack of knowledge or through limited access -- we develop alternative theories and based on fear, we react to protect what we do know.

The more we know, the less we need to fear. The more people we know, the fewer strangers we need to fear.

There's more to this book than the social aspects of "security", but I'll let others address those -- I'll just say I plan to follow up on the listed references for myself.
etumukutenyak: (Xena)
Finished a new book by Elizabeth Bear ([livejournal.com profile] matociquala): Blood and Iron. Actually, was captivated by it and stayed up late on a weekday night to finish it. Scott Lynch said recently that a good writer could take a trite and hackneyed plot, and make it shiny. This book is an excellent example of that, as it is the standard Daoine Sidhe-Leannan Sidhe-Mortal Human three-way combat plot, but how it sings! Ooh, and the characterization!

I'll admit to a particular fondness for the interactions between the Seeker and the Merlin. Just sayin'.
etumukutenyak: (Default)
...and all I can say is Hornblower...with dragons!!


::cradles book tenderly::

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