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May 04, 2004

science fiction

It may come as no surprise that in my youth (say 14-17) I read a lot of science fiction, and a bit of that "fantasy" stuff. No snickering ok?

On the SciFi front I devoured the classics, but Asimov and Clarke were the ones I read most. I guess their work was largely rooted in science, compared with say Heinlein, who was definitely a bit more "out there". No mention of others, so out there they started their own religions.

In the years after, though I officially studied science and law at University, I gravitated toward what might be called the "liberal arts" or in Australia the "Humanities."

My tastes these days run more to Michael Ondaatje, author of the justly famous and wonderful "The English Patient", but whose prose poems, like "Coming Through Slaughter" while challenging, are profoundly beautiful. Or Vikram Chandra, whose Red Earth and Pouring Rain I re read every year or so, a rare thing for me.

It must have been a long while since I have read anything you might call science fiction. Recently, a lot has been written about Neal Stephenson, whose Cryptonomicon has long been a geek classic.

Something about it appealed to me, so I wandered into my local second hand bookstore which rarely lets me down, and lo! there was a copy.

I've only read a third, but even so, I have to tell you, do yourself a favour, grab a copy, and get stuck in.
Stephenson's ability to make complex mathematical concepts comprehensible is a rare gift, so if the going seems to get a little complex at times, stick at it, because it pays off. This is no Go√ędel Escher Bach, much more accessible.

Above all it is genuine science fiction, where the science and technology are in a sense characters, as much as the people.

Let me know what you think,

john

May 4, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

Well talk about a co-incidence: I haven't bought a fiction book in months, and today I picked up Cryptonomicon, came home and found your recommendation :) I'm really looking forward to cracking it open now.

Posted by: Simon Willison | May 5, 2004 1:14:56 PM

Simon

>Well talk about a co-incidence: I haven't bought a fiction book in months,
>and today I picked up Cryptonomicon, came home and found your >recommendation :) I'm really looking forward to cracking it open now.

as they say, "great minds think alike" (although I prefer "fools seldom differ") :-)

john

Posted by: John Allsopp | May 5, 2004 1:19:08 PM

Coincidence^3. On sunday night, I had dinner with my ex. She thrust a book in my hand and said "BTW, my brother said you might like this".

I'm 2/3rds of the way through, and allready insisting every remotely geeky person I know must read it.

Posted by: Jonno | May 7, 2004 10:29:15 AM