Books #18 & #19 and miscellaneous readings

I had a whirlwind trip to Philadelphia this week, and given non-direct flights from Seattle I managed to read a couple more books; both science fiction.  I suspect I’m taking a bit of a break on non-fiction, since I’d also taken Michael Freeden’s Liberal Languages:  Ideological Imaginations and Twentieth-Century Progressive Thought, which I cracked but only read the introduction. 

As a digression, the airports were awful this week.  Who knew that so many people traveled for Easter?  Or is it a combination of spring break and Easter?  Regardless, the airports were jammed with groups of schoolkids and families, and the security lines were brutal.  But that gave me plenty of time standing or sitting around to read. 

Book #18 was Chris Moriarity’s debut novel, Spin State.  Spin State is a combination of hard science fiction (i.e., at least pseudo-accurate physics) and a political thriller, with a dash of cyber-punk thrown in for good measure.  The mixture was hypnotic, and I read it pretty much in a straight shot (6 hours of plane flights and a fully charged iPod helped out…).  The sequel is coming out mid-2005, apparently, and given the quality of his first novel I eagerly await Moriarty’s second. 

Book #19 was Ken MacLeod’s Newton’s Wake, hastily bought at O’Hare after finishing Spin State and concluding that I was much too tired and spaced out to spend a four-and-a-half hour flight trying to focus on Liberal Languages.  Not a bad novel, another in a series of books I’ve read lately that focus on the after-effects of technological singularity.  MacLeod is a friend of Charles Stross, the author of Singularity Sky, so I thought I’d get a taste of his work.  I like Stross better, given my limited sample, but I don’t regret reading Newton’s Wake by any means. 

But what I’m really hoping on the science fiction front is to see a next novel from Greg Egan.  I still haven’t gotten over the amazement of my first reading of Diaspora.  I recommend the latter very highly, but it’s not an easy read if you’re not fascinated by artificial intelligence, software, and some reasonably heavy physics. 

On miscellaneous readings, the cover article on Justice Scalia in the current New Yorker is excellent; not much surprising about his jurisprudence but overall a very solid biographical piece and description of his legal philosophy.  And the Lukacs piece in New York Review of Books this week, reprinting his foreword to Siege of Budapest is also superb.


21 Comments so far. Comments are closed.
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  14. Oscar,

    By the way, you might want to stick a couple of the links he sent me on the progressive commons. What is going on is pretty bad. Here is what Greg said:

    ===begin quote====
    There’s an essay with an overview of the detention system here:

    which should give you some idea of our laws, and how people can end up
    stranded in detention for years despite being genuine refugees. And even
    Peter Qasim, who has given up his claims for refugee status and agreed to
    return to his native India, is still stuck in prison:

    ===end quote===

  15. Mark,

    Wow, thanks! Not as soon as I’d hoped, but it gives us something to look forward to…

  16. Oscar,

    I just heard from him, and he is spending most of his time on the refugee issue in Aus – follow the links at the top of his home page. He doubts a new novel will be done before the end of the year which publication in 2006/2007. He says there might be some short fiction earlier.

  17. Oscar,

    I asked him. If he tells me anything, I will let you know.

  18. Mark,

    Absolutely! My favorite part of his website are the applets he wrote to illustrate things like decoherence and spin networks…

    Have you heard any rumors of a next book? The website appears to have been updated in Feb 2005, but no real news of anything upcoming. Maybe he’s too busy doing serious physics…

  19. Oscar,

    Well, I like those stories as well as his short story collections. Egan said back in 95 that he was going to beg his publisher to put the Baez quote on the pb edition of Permutation City, but, as far as I know, he failed to persuade them. He has since collaborated with Baez on some work on spin foams.
    Have you checked out Greg’s website at ?

  20. Mark,

    Absolutely agree…sadly, I’ve read everything I can find by Egan and am waiting for something new. _Permutation City_ was a terrific read, basically pre-figuring _Diaspora_ in terms of the “prehistory” of the Copy technology. Fascinating stuff. Ultimately, I think that _Diaspora_ is a much better book, and is Egan’s best, but I definitely can see how some would find it a bit abstract in places.

    Not necessarily as abstract as _Schild’s Ladder_, however, which in the later sections speeds right off the cliff of comprehensibility, though the man definitely digs telling stories about geometry…

  21. Oscar,

    You should try Egan’s “Permutation City” of which physicist John Baez wrote:

    “if it’s a pageturner you’re looking for, Egan’s Permutation City beats
    Connes’ Noncommutative Geometry hands down.”