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Douglas Coupland has a lovely slideshow explaining 2010 to someone from 1935 in the form of a sequence of Penguin paperback covers.
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 05:56pm on 03/07/2009 under , ,
My copy of Wireless arrived today.Wireless in hardback *abandons other books in progress*
Mood:: pleased
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 11:27pm on 27/03/2009 under , , ,
I was on a half day off work today, and met up with a timber specialist to take a look at a couple of things at the new house that had to be checked before we continue with the purchase. It all seemed okay, nothing show-stopping, though, perhaps unsurprisingly, it seems to have shrunk since I saw it last. I think that's just buyer's remorse showing up ahead of schedule.

After that I walked into town, got rained on and eventually ended up in Waterstones where I had a little accident. Damn them and their 3 for 2 offers! I came away with Alastair Renyolds latest, that Lindqvist vampire novel I'd heard good things about and Tim Harford's latest economics explains everything book, The Logic of Life.

On top of those I also plonked the Collected Bone, the single volume complete run of Jeff Smith's Bone comics. Lordy, that's one fat book. But it's also one graphic novel I won't read in a single sitting, so I feel I'm getting better mileage out of it.

I then staggered home, my rucksack full of books.
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Damn, now this sound like a panel I would have enjoyed. Cheryl Morgan chaired a panel at the Denver Worldcon with Charles N Brown, Gary K Wolfe, Graham Sleight and Karen Burnham discussing their choices of the best 20 SF works of the last twenty years.

[ profile] nhw pointed me to this post by Niall Harrison discussing the same panel. he comes up with a consensus list:

  • The Culture Novels, Iain M Banks (starting 1987)
  • The Hyperion Cantos, Dan Simmons (starting 1989)
  • Grass, Sherri S Tepper (1989)
  • The Aleutian Trilogy, Gwyneth Jones (starting 1991)
  • The Mars Trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson (starting 1992)
  • Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson (1992)
  • The Flower Cities sequence, Kathleen Ann Goonan (starting 1994)
  • Fairyland, Paul McAuley (1996)
  • Diaspora, Greg Egan (1997)
  • Revelation Space, Alastair Reynolds (2000)
  • The Arabesks, Jon Courtenay Grimwood (starting 2000)
  • Light, M John Harrison (2002)
  • Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang (2002)
  • Evolution, Stephen Baxter (2003)
  • Pattern Recognition, William Gibson (2003)
  • Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
  • Air, Geoff Ryman (2004)
  • River of Gods, Ian McDonald (2004)
  • Accelerando, Charles Stross (2005)
  • Spin, Robert Charles Wilson (2005)

(thanks Niall!)

In the spirit of Nicholas' statistical analyses I've figured out my reading pattern suggests I'm 38% match for Charles N Brown, 35% Gary K Wolfe, 35% Graham Sleight, 45% Karen Burnham and 40% Cheryl Morgan. I'm only 40% caught up with the consensus too.

I guess I need to read more.

Thanks also to [ profile] drcpunk for her private communication include her notes from the same panel. I really have to get booking a holiday in Canada for next August.
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 10:38am on 20/02/2008 under , ,
I want bookshelves like these. (link via
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Missing: one wife, answers to [personal profile] sammywol, partial to Earl Grey Tea

posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 02:26pm on 30/08/2007 under , ,
Curse you [ profile] mizkit! One mention of Joseph Delaney's The Spook's Apprentice last night and [ profile] sammywol bought a copy this morning after we dropped Rowan off to her first day of school. My wife is now missing, replaced by a reader.
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 08:23am on 26/08/2007 under , ,
Lifted from [ profile] pompe, a book meme that's a little more content-full than the usual.

Are you careful with the spines? Or do you crack your books open to make them lay flat?

My mother is a librarian, though she came to that career late in life. She must always have had the urge however, as I'm genetically incapable of cracking the spine of a book and feel physically unwell when I see someone, on the bus for example, with the cover of their book folded right around. We hates it, we does.

Do you use bookmarks? Or do you dog-ear the corners? If you do use bookmarks, do you use those fashionable metal ones? Or paper?

I use a bookmark, usually a piece of paper, sometimes a more fancy purpose-made bookmark. I don't like the metal bookmarks.

Do you write in your books? Ever? If you do, do you make small marks, or write in as much blank space as you can find? Pen or pencil? Highlighter? Your name on the front page?

I don't write in books as a rule. With reference books I do sometimes add annotations, and there are books I deliberately buy a second copy of to have one I can annotate. I never use highlighter in books. [ profile] sammywol has a nightmarish tale of a undergraduate in the Early Printed Books section of the Trinity College library from her college days. Get her to tell you it sometime if you're a book lover with a strong stomach.

Do you toss your books on the floor? Into book bags? Or do you treat them tenderly, with respect?

Not on the floor. I do sometimes carry paperbacks in my backpack, and then worry when they get a bit bashed.

Do you ever lay your book facedown, to save your place?

NO! In fact I sometimes insert a bookmark into books I find like this and save them from their uncaring readers.

Um--water? Do you bathe with your books? Hold them with wet hands? Read out in the rain? Anything of that sort?

Nope. We don't have a bath in our house so I'm not about to read in the shower. I don't read in the rain unless caught out by surprise.

Are your books lined up on a bookshelf? Or crammed in any which way? Stacked on the floor?

In common with many on my friends list I suspect, we have more books than shelf space. Most of our books are on shelves, double-shelved in some cases, and in piles on the floor elsewhere.

Do you make a distinction--as regards book care--between hardcovers and paperbacks?

It's irrational, but I do generally take better care of hardbacks.
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 09:49pm on 24/01/2007 under , , ,
I've just finished Old Man's War by John Scalzi. I enjoyed middling-much, but really can't see what all the fuss was about. It's a well done first novel, very much in the Heinlein mould, with some hard to swallow moments where my suspension of disbelief just choked. ([ profile] nhw will recognize at least one such moment.)

spoilers follow )

That said I did enjoy the book as a quick read with some good characterisation. It just didn't set me alight the way I was expecting from some of the buzz I'd read beforehand.

One other thing. What the fuck is going on with Tor's trade paperback covers? My copy curled up like a pubic hair, front and back cover both. Most other paperback cover books in my possession manage to survive my rough touch, so what's the problem with Tor's covers?
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 01:54pm on 24/06/2006 under , ,
Which ones have you read? I've listed the ones I've read in bold and the ones I've started but not finished in italics.
(lifted with thanks from [ profile] nhw and [ profile] autopope simultaneously.)

Cut for length )
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 09:16am on 26/04/2006 under ,
Last night I had the house to myself as both daughter and [ profile] sammywol were away visiting relatives. I am vaguely pleased that I did not spend the entire evening playing Neverwinter Nights but managed to clear out a closet full of board games, re-fill the closet with role-playing games, and arrange the newly homeless boardgames in the space left on the shelves by the role-playing games and save space by doing so.

This pleased many of my inner voices, particularly the topologist, the tetris player and the librarian.
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 07:15pm on 25/02/2006 under , , ,
My daughter Rowan was just tidying away some books. I saw her putting them on the shelves and said "Are you a librarian, Rowan?"

"Shh!" she replied, finger to her lips, "people are reading books."

Her grandmother, the librarian, would be proud.
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 09:40pm on 02/01/2006 under , , ,
Thanks to all who remembered my birthday today. (Shared with [ profile] braisedbywolves, [ profile] pnh and Isaac Asimov. Happy birthday guys!) My birthday celebrations were low-key as usual, but pleasant and satisfying, also as usual. My mother, sainted and rail-mobile, made the train journey down to Cork yesterday to take us out to dinner last night and then made chocolate brownies with my daughter Rowan in the morning. By my best estimate, she's made brownies for every birthday of mine since about 1974. When I grow up I want to be a mother like her. Friends came round this afternoon and we consumed the brownies along with acres of other naughty food. January doesn't really start until tomorrow.

Christmas was fun and spread over a sinfully extended period, being as it was celebrated first with my mother in Dublin and then again with my wife's parents in West Cork. Rowan benefited from the time-honoured right of an only granddaughter to monopolise the attention and affection of all three grandparents and barely avoided being lost beneath a heaping pile of presents. I didn't do badly myself, and have yet more books to find homes for in our shrinking living space. I also received Imogen Heap and Kate Bush's new CDs and have been looking for excuses to go out driving to listen to them. I don't listen to much music at home while Rowan is awake; my attention is usually needed elsewhere. Never mind, both will be ripped onto my MP3 player for the walk to and from work.

Christmas holidays are usually a time for me to stick my nose in a book or two, and I was pleased to read three books in four days as the year closed. I thought I'd lost the ability, but this bodes well for retirement, only another 28 years away.

And guess what? I lost a couple of pounds over Christmas. I must go and be checked for a tapeworm. It's the only explanation.
Music:: Imogen Heap - Daylight Robbery
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From [ profile] pyat by way of [ profile] doc_mystery

1. Total number of books I own: Who knows? It's over a thousand, but I can't be sure of the exact figure. There are a few hundred books at my mother's house that belong to me but I haven't managed to move out.

2. Last book I bought: An Amazon order, so there's several books: Sethra Lavode by Steven Brust, Storm Front by Jim Butcher, The Owl Service by Alan Garner, Time-gifts (Writings from an Unbound Europe) by Zoran Zivkovic and Kinds of Minds: The Origins Of Consciousness by Daniel Dennett.

3. Last book I read: Storm Front by Jim Butcher. The first of several books by Butcher about Harry Dresden, a John Constantine-like figure with Chandler private eye stylings, who works as a wizard in the peculiar occult world in Chicago. Pretty good, and interesting enough to make me look for other books in the series.

4. Five books that I have read a lot or mean a lot to me, for whatever reason:

  • Douglas Hoftsader's Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, for a delightful romp through more topics than I can remember and provoking many odd thoughts.

  • Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, for being the book it is.

  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Komarr, for introducing me to Bujold's work, Miles Vorkosigan and a beautiful mix of space opera and romance.

  • Daniel Dennett's Consciousness Explained, for clarifying a lot of questions about cognition and consciousness, and providing me with endless snippets to bother Sam with while we read in bed.

  • and whatever it is I'm enthused about at the moment, varying day by day.

5: Five suckers/friends who can answer these questions for themselves, if they like:

You know the drill. Sort it out amongst yourselves.
Music:: Tori Amos - Ribbons Undone
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 08:36pm on 09/05/2005 under ,
Thanks to [ profile] pnh (and probably loads of other fans by the time I get this posted).

I am: Hal Clement (Harry C. Stubbs)

A quiet and underrated master of "hard science" fiction who, among other things, foresaw integrated circuits back in the 1940s.

I am:
Hal Clement (Harry C. Stubbs)
A quiet and underrated master of "hard science" fiction who, among other things, foresaw integrated circuits back in the 1940s.

Which science fiction writer are you?

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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 09:18am on 05/05/2005 under
Lifted from [ profile] mikegentry, a simple meme for booklovers (and bookhaters).

What is the best book you have ever read?

What is the worst book you have ever read?

I'm certain my answers will change with the weather and the passing of time, but I'll say now that the best book I've ever read is A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin. The language and the subject matter mesh perfectly. I came to it at an impressionable age and was marked by it, and it's one of the few books I'll re-read again and again.

I find it harder to choose my worst book. In recent memory I'd have to say Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle. I simply could not finish it, and deeply regret the time I wasted on reading as far as I did. It's a very dull and unsatisfying book, and lacking in any sense of wonder that the reviews and opinions I trusted to recommend it to me said it might have.

How about you?
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 10:38am on 01/03/2005 under ,
The Atrocity Archive is a short novel and a long short story detailing the misadventures of Bob Howard, hacker, geek and accidental member of the Laundry, a super-secret branch of the British Govt. responsible for keeping the world safe from incursions of eldritch horrors from other dimensions. While dodging ISO9000 quality reviews and questions about expenses incurred in the field, Howard romps his way in a geek-James Bond style through multiple attempts on his life slight spoiler  ), and lives to tell the tale.
Stross provides nicely punchy writing and a barrelling pace. The Atrocity Archive is not deep on characterisation but a lot of fun nonetheless. However, the smart, sexy, 6ft redhead is underused, unfortunately for the redhead fans in the audience.
Different to Stross' more recent info-singularity stories but obviously from the same swirling stew of ideas and madness. I really enjoyed it.
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 02:52pm on 28/02/2005 under
[ profile] nhw has posted a meme where you list those authors you've read or own 10 or more books by.

List obsession begins behind the cut )

It's interesting that there's an obvious age related difference between the lists. I've read a fair bit of old SF but don't own much of it nowadays. In contrast the 'own 10' list is populated by a lot of new comers (Bujold and Brust particularly) and would have Greg Egan on it too if he'd only get more written and published. Tim Powers almost made the 'own 10 books' cut but we're stuck at 9 and aren't likely to pick up Epitaph in Rust or The Skies Discrowned.
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 03:00pm on 24/02/2005 under ,
This is a new fantasy first novel by young Cambridge grad Steph Swainston. She builds an interesting world of mortals and immortals, beset by a plague of Insect invaders reminiscent of Heinlein's "bugs." The narrator and central protagonist, a drug-addicted Immortal, stumbles through the various crises, as the Immortals begin to fight amongst themselves, while the Insect overwhelm the mortal lands in a headlong rush.

The characters are good, well-drawn and convincing, though the impact of immortality is only lightly touched on. The writing is generally good, with some sudden jarring elements like modernisms that stuck out, and an irritating sliding scale that made distances seem to grow and shrink throughout the book.

I had a problem with the peculiar pacing, as it seemed to take an awfully long time to get to the meat of the Insect problem, which we're set up to view as the central plot, and then a pretty quick resolution once Comet, the narrator, kicks his drug habit in an unconvincingly speedy withdrawal. The characters were interesting enough to pull me through nonetheless, and Swainston managed to balance the various changes of scene between times and worlds well.

Despite any reservations, I loved the book, as the descriptions of both worlds visited by Comet are compelling, and the politics of the Immortals' Circle are convincingly familiar. I'd be keen to see Swainston write more, and get a firmer grip on her voice. The Year of Our War is a good start, but not the miraculous work that the cover quotes would have you believe.

Thanks to [ profile] nhw for his earlier review which sparked my interest so that I picked up a copy when I saw it in Dublin recently.
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Sam and I read this novel recently. As is often the case, Sam read it first and then spent days encouraging me to read it too, so we could discuss it. I wonder if we shouldn't buy two copies of some books. The groaning shelves shout a mute answer to that idea.

A mainstream "literary fiction" novel telling the love story of an unconsciously time travelling man and his wife, a girl he's known from his travelling since she was six, but won't meet until after they're together for several years. Sad and joyous in turns, it's a lovely, well-written, first novel with some absolutely perfect scenes. Oddly formulaic in places, as the emotional tugging of their attempts at parenthood are gone through, and curiously unlike a lot of genre SF attempts at descriptions of time travel. The paradoxes and the mechanics are glossed over. I felt that the time travel was sometimes nothing more than a handy mechanism to focus on separation, fear of loss, and how people love one another over distance and time. None the worse for that, and I'll watch for other books by the author.
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 03:53pm on 11/02/2005 under
There are a few drawbacks to sharing your bedroom with a toddler. I've realised that a less obvious one is we've lost the opportunity to read aloud to one another.

Rowan sleeps reasonably well but can be touchy about either of us making too much noise. I suspect that reading novels to one another would only annoy her. It's a shame, as I really enjoy reading aloud, and being read too. There's something close and warm and romantic about it (assuming you're not reading a splatter-horror doorstop or what have you).

When is Rowan's room going to be ready I hear you ask? That's a very good question.
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This story is revealing about the economics of genre writing.

The typical advance for a first novel is $5000. The typical advance for
later novels, after a typical number of 5-7 years and 5-7 books is
$12,500. Having an agent at any point increases your advance.

[ profile] purplecthulhu, bear this in mind as you're working to get that story accepted.

Thanks to Boing Boing for the intial pointer.
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 11:17am on 07/02/2005 under
I finally finished Daniel Dennett's 1991 book, Consciousness Explained after over a month of slowly reading and absorbing it. I know that I'll probably have to re-read it at some point too, to have it really sink in. It demolishes the Cartesian Theatre (dualist) model of consciousness very effectively. In its place Dennett proposes a Multiple Drafts model of unconscious agents and mechanisms that produce consciousness as an emergent property of the whole. There's an intriguing section arguing for consciousness as a sort of virtual sequential machine running (inefficiently as it turns out) on the parallel structure of the brain. This sort of argument is bound to annoy some and appeal to others and is doubtless incomplete, but works for the purposes of a rough model.

Dennett stresses the self as a created "centre of narrative gravity" that allows the natural storytelling functions of the human brain (mind?) to flourish and work with a craeted "self" or "I" to hang the narratives on. This rings true to me. Far too often am I only aware of having made a choice after I've begun to act, and finding rationalizations or a narrative to explain it afterwards. An excellent and thought-provoking book.

I'm curious now to check up on the progress of the various experiments that Dennett prosposed in the appendices. More than a decade has passed since the book was written so things are likely to have changed significantly. I'm going to plough into Mind Hacks next, for a more up to date summary of brain models and tricks.

Thanks to Jonathan Tweet for his review and comments that directed me to the book in the first place.
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posted by [personal profile] mylescorcoran at 08:40am on 27/10/2004 under
Over the weekend I read the second and third novels in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series. I mentioned reading Sabriel, the first in the series, before in this blog and I was waiting for a chance to get into the sequels. Lirael, the second novel, is about the various trials etc. of two young people gradually realising the part they must play in defeating an ancient evil that threatens (as usual) the world. While the plot is relatively traditional, Nix draws you in with a well described and well imagined world of necromancy, terrifying creatures of Free Magic and an age-old Charter that binds and makes the world whole against evil and the Dead.

Abhorsen, the third and final book in the series, continues their story, reaching an impressive climax that reveals a great deal about the underpinnings of the world. The two novels are essentially one very long book, as Lirael ends very much in media res, but as I read them both in a couple of days I can't complain. They're very compelling. I very much enjoyed the setting: the Charter magic; the odd and dangerous Free Magic creatures; the descriptions of Death and the nine gates. It's all rollicking fun, but serious enough in parts too. The cost of magic and the weight of destiny are clear and the toll is great. I'd love to roleplay in this setting.

Fancy and vaguely informative publisher's website



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