Friday, April 13, 2007

Reading Update

It's been a while since I've said what I was reading. Not since Avrora was sick in February just before her BDay, actually. I blown through a few lighter fare books (scifi) and found them interesting, but at least in one case, perhaps more humorous than originally intended. However, there was one heavier book (in terms of content if definitely not length).

The light reading consisted of oldies but goodies: Asimov's Caves of Steel and Robots of Dawn (set on Aurora! Sheesh, didn't realize that it was so...embedded in me mentally) and Arthur C Clarke's The Songs of the Distant Earth. I also read two newer authors' works. Alastair Reynold's Redemption Ark (better, Mr. Reynolds) and Charlie Stross' Accelerando.

Oh, Charlie, I can't say I really enjoyed it. it did make me laugh though. A lot. I suspect that it wasn't always intended that way. One that I suspected was meant to was the uploaded Ukrainian that denied the Singularity. Considering my wife is Ukrainian and the character's arguments were something I have used I found it doubly amusing at the coincidence. And, no, I don't think I was the intended target even though I have interacted with Charlie over the years online and I emphatically don't believe in the Singularity.

Interestingly, the place I buy my paperbacks - at the local bookstores in Emeryville when I go one walks with my daughter - haven't had any Ian McDonald or Greg Egan. Very odd. I wanted to read them just to see what I've missed in the New SF Troubles out of Scotland (well, Britain really).

As for my question about what the differences between the older SF and what I am reading with Stross and the new folks, well, it's pretty simple really. The new people are frenetic in their writing and it's packed full of information where as the older stuff moves at a slower pace and is less dense in terms of action, plot, and pure info dump. It's the difference between the internet generations and those that came before. The characters typically are less cardboardish than those before, but they're also more flawed than before. Sometimes the one idea that was highlighted before and explored gets a little lost in the pure unadulterated download that the newer books contain.

The weighty read was Modeling Extinction. This book covers the mathematical models people have been working out to describe the extinction events in the fossil record. There are a few different models covered. It's quite obvious that not that many people have ventured into the arena as of the book's writing in 2001. The models described are extraordinarily simple things compared to what real life is like. My person interest was in possibly coupling this to a climate sim of the time of a mass extinction, but while there is some potential, this is very, very simple stuff and may not make sense to tie together. NOTE: this is not a knock on the people doing the work! This is just very early in the work being done and not worth tying to a supercomputer simulation. You could take the output of an HPC run and use it as input for one of the fitness models, but that's about it. It'd be something that could be done in an embarrassingly parallel fashion with slightly different initial starting conditions for species/genus fitnesses. The only way I might see this being changed is if you were to couple it to the coming biotic modules for CCSM.

I haven't continued Horns and Beaks yet. I will shortly. We'll see. I have to say I'm getting more Deep Time and Byzantine itchings. I am starting to get tempted into reading various books on politics too. heh. Weirdo, I know. Surprised that more of you didn't say it sooner.

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