Down the Docks

September 22, 2008

Recent Reading

Filed under: Books — ealing @ 9:45 pm

Yeah, it’s been a while. You get what you pay for, right? And since it’s been so long, these reviews are streamlined.



January 27, 2008

Life Quickly Imitates Art, Even Sci-Fi

Filed under: Books, Current Affairs, Technology — ealing @ 1:12 pm

Charles Stross is now one of my two favourite currently publishing SF authors (the other is Iain M. Banks). I got a copy of his latest, Halting State, from Amazon a couple of days ago. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far it’s about economic sabotage in an MMORPG, set in 2016.

Like another modern Aristotle of SF, Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross seems to understand everything, including economics. More importantly, he understands why it’s important (something I only started to grasp a couple of years ago) and can explain it without killing the story. So Halting State spends some of its time discussing money supply and inflation within virtual worlds. So far ahead of the curve, so Charles Stross, I think.

Last night I picked up this week’s Economist, to find mention in the business headlines of Second Life‘s financial crisis. Halting State‘s characters refer to Second Life as a metaverse, not a MMORPG, but I still find this amazing. Theoretical GDPs and game-currency-to-hard-currency exchange rates have been published for a while now, but maybe the crossover from amusing sideline to area of serious interest is closer than even Charles Stross thinks.

January 13, 2008

The Family Trade, by Charles Stross

Filed under: Books — ealing @ 9:44 pm

Charles Stross is one of my favourite current authors, but I’d shied away from this one because it had a “fantasy” label on it. I should have known better.

Some people can move from one universe to another when they look at particular patterns. The universe that the heroine travels to (and back from) is developmentally medieval. That’s the fantasy part.

Part of the plot is the a re-run of a character realising they were born to some massive destiny. The rest is politics, economics, violence and romance mashed together into a thriller. I’m not really one for thrillers, and this probably hampered my enjoyment of the book; the plot tangles were getting a bit thick for me to follow in places. Still, Stross’s normal exciting pace is kept up almost throughout, and the book is littered with intriguing ideas.

If you’ve read Srross before, you’ll probably like it, although it’s not as good as The Atrocity Archives or Singularity Sky. If you haven’t read any Stross yet, and you like scifi full of impressive ideas, I suggest you first start with Accelerando, which is available online for free.

January 15, 2007

More Reading

Filed under: Books — ealing @ 1:00 am

Here’s some of what’s been keeping me busy over the last few weeks. More to come.


August 29, 2006

Illiteracy and its Discontents

Filed under: Books — ealing @ 3:30 am

Blackwell's, Charing Cross RoadThese days it seems that even the staff of academic bookshops can’t use an apostrophe correctly. What is the world coming to?

Still, the talk looks interesting.

Not the book Stiglitz wrote

August 27, 2006

What I’ve Been Reading Recently

Filed under: Books — ealing @ 6:51 pm

One of the things I intended to do with this blog was to write book reviews, hoping this would make me read more critically. This hasn’t worked out the way I planned, but here’s some of what I have been reading, along with my very brief thoughts.


December 22, 2005

Reading Stamina

Filed under: Books — ealing @ 1:15 pm

BBC News reports that teenagers can’t finish books these days. This brings to mind the terrible truth about my reading stamina – it was highest when I was eighteen. The huge drop-off to its present low level is largely due to tertiary education.

Back at school I had a little bit of intellectual curiosity. In the summer before going to university I read Russell’s History of Western Philosophy, all eight hundred pages of it, even the mind-numbing middle section of Catholic philosophy. I wouldn’t even try it now.

These days I struggle with anything that isn’t immediately and continuously gratifying, and this is because, at university, I stopped reading and took up beer instead. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

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