Recent Books — Stross, Dibdin, Barr, Shields, Barclay


  • Reality Hunger by David Shields. An excellent exploration of what we read, why we read, the evolving nature of the things we read and the things we write. I used to think I was a thoughtful reader, now I realize I am a rank amateur. If you read extensively, I recommend this highly — you will gain insight into what you read, and into your own motivations for reading.
  • Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross. A lot of fun. Humanity merged with electronics in a fun way — adapted for life in space, water worlds, and other extreme environments. Also a nice exploration of the cultural and economic implications of a civilization spread across the stars, but having no FTL travel. In light of my first book, I wonder why I find hard SF engaging. On a positive note, I enjoy the complex thought exercises that a good author goes through to explore the implications of a certain technology or trend — it is just good brain exercise, keeps the brain nimble, encourages you to think longterm and to question preconceptions. On the negative side, what am I trying to escape from exactly?
  • Medusa by Michael Dibdin. Very good detective tale set in Northern Italy, how did I not find Dibdin until now. Secret love and betrayal all hidden behind political intrigue. Again, tho, what am I trying to escape from? After a day of reading technical material and screwing around with open source software, these kinds of books tend to help me decompress, I think.
  • The Rope by Nevada Barr. I am not very squeamish but this book is disturbing. I am unable to finish it, the kidnapping and brutality against the main character are just too disturbing. I’ve never had a problem with horror novels because the events always have an unreal, cartoonish feel. This book seems too real. Not my cup of tea.
  • The Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian. Do not reward this author/publisher who are trying to ride on the coattails of the Hunger Games. A horrible book. My dog has more depth than the characters in this book. No, make that my dog’s chew toy. Really terrible.
  • A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay. Starts out as a typical small town murder mystery: a mysterious encounter on a dark night, a murder, a long hidden family secret, corruption in the local police force and government, a PI with personal issues who works slightly outside the lines. I’ve read all this before. But the ending is not all neat and tidy, but is instead dark and emotional and painful. Nicely done. I’m not going to explore why I find a book with a sad, emotional, dark end so appealing.