Interconnected

Three book reviews:

  1. Diaspora by Greg Egan (at Amazon.co.uk). I read this in two days. At the end of the first day I didn't want to put it down. The only reason I did was because the book had peaked, it'd snuck ideas into my head that I didn't know I could have, so I stopped reading because I couldn't think any more. This is a book about what it means to be human, what it means to be alive, and the nature of distance. On the second day, I finished the book in the morning. Egan has the concept of bridgers -- a long chain of translators, each pair having a way to communicate, so two mutually unintelligible ends are bridged, able to communicate. That's what day two was: extending the bridge of consciousness, of being human, of being itself. Stretching to extremes these things, probing in all directions to distill being to its purest form. By the end I was shattered, emotionally exhausted. I could barely talk for the rest of the weekend. And my conception of what's important about us, what makes us human, real, what loss means; these things have all changed.
  2. All Families are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland (at Amazon.co.uk). In a way Coupland's as sci-fi as any of the greats: take a world like our own, perturb it in a single, controlled way, and see what happens. Girlfriend in a Coma, which I loved, was the extreme of that. But where the worlds in previous books in which the event occurs have been as close to normality as possible, this one represents a shift. The point of a story is that there's a story worth telling. So All Families are Psychotic doesn't go out of its way to shout that it's a book. It doesn't need to... because it's definitely a story worth telling. That's a step forward, I think. And Coupland's themes - that people are always just people, what happens when people encounter magic - are still there. But this is all just a bridge to what happens after the book, which is all in your head, and where the best things happen.
  3. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn (at Amazon.co.uk). It's not really possible to say as I'm 20 pages and less than a single chapter into the book. But judging by the oohs and ahs to the fireworks those 20 pages have already set off in my brain, it's going to be a good one. In fact, it's best descibed by one of Kuhn's points: that a new discovery doesn't just stand as an addition but instead, the discovery has had its effect when "[the scientific community has] altered its conception of entities which which it has long been familiar, and, in the process, shifted the network of theory through which it deals which the world".

I'm idea foraging. The above are placed as landmarks.