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By TheophileEscargot (Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 10:05:06 AM EST) Italy, Reading, Me (all tags)
Back from my trips (to Italy and then my parents). Ob new year stuff. Reading: "Oryx and Crake".

Italy trip
So I have 7,200 words blogged to phone from the trip, plus a few photos. Not sure whether to parcel it out in sections like last time, or just do a giant entry that no-one will ever read. Vote?

Arno river in Pisa

Was pretty good for me: lost 3 stones, got a promotion and pay rise, remembered to go on holiday abroad a few times, got to the theatre more often. Therefore regression to the mean implies that 2007 will be worse. Pre-emptive resolutions: Get fatter, get poorer, stay at home more.

Reading (with spoilers)

Finished Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Very good overall: more than a mood piece, has a lot of narrative tension and some dramatic sequences, if not much of a plot. Book is divided into two strands. One concerns the last survivor of the human race, who plays prophet to a new species of genetically modified humanity; instructing them in the ways of the two gods, Oryx and Crake. The second strand is a series of flashbacks telling how this came about: this strand therefore reaches a resolution, though the other is left dangling.

The characters are generally well-observed, apart from Crake behind whose enigmatic facade lurks a barely updated Victor von Frankenstein.

In terms of SF world-building, the post-apocalypse is actually very well done, with a cleverly worked-out ecosystem of GM animals inheriting the Earth. Only the pre-apocalyptic strand suffers from Atwood's tendency to laboriously re-invent skiffy cliches from scratch: in this case fortified suburbs versus anarchic cities. Only a few howlers though: in this biowarfare-paranoid future world you send and have returned resumes/portfolios by physical post; and there are hacking scenes reminiscent of those in South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut.

Couple of minor irritations for me. The book seems to buy into the slashdot-friendly autistic-geek-genius theory; which I'm very skeptical of. I found the asexuality of these apparently even-sex-ratioed groups cooped up in corporate skunkworks hard to believe.

Secondly, it's hard to take Crake's masterplan seriously from an evolutionary point of view. He's supposedly in it for the very long term, but evolution's selfish genes would eventually work just as strongly on the Crakes as humans. There would be massive selection pressures to have more babies, to gain exclusive access to females, to advance ones own genes and interests ahead of the group; and that would bring all the old tragedy of the commos factors back into play.

Also seems to me that there would be better ways to do it. Maybe an antlike structure where most individuals are sterile and have to help their nieces and nephews. Or Crake could have introduced a predator, and relied on coevolution to keep the numbers down.

LHusiBeers, Saturday Jan 6th, Anchor
Did we ever agree a rough time? Is it Afternoon or Evening?

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So has Atwood started reading SF yet? by janra (4.00 / 1) #1 Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 08:04:20 PM EST
Last I heard (a few years ago) she went on record in an interview as saying she didn't write science fiction, because "science fiction was all about aliens and spaceships" as I believe she put it.

It would explain the laborious re-inventions, to be sure.
Discuss the art and craft of writing

Probably not by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 08:29:06 PM EST
But the SF elements like exposition-about-the-world didn't seem nearly as clunky as in the Handmaid's Tale, so maybe she's getting the hang of it a bit.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
"Speculative fiction" by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #11 Mon Jan 08, 2007 at 02:37:48 AM EST
The term really winds me up. It's for authors who think they're too important to write mere genre fiction, even though that's what they're quite obviously doing.

It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
LHB by Merekat (4.00 / 1) #3 Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 12:35:21 AM EST
Observing the rule that eating is not cheating, and allowing for offloading laptop etc. in advance, I'm looking at evening.

Any other opinions?

food at the anchor isn't bad, by garlic (4.00 / 1) #4 Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 03:43:44 AM EST
but you'd have to eat on/at one of their other levels, instead of the ground floor pub.

[ Parent ]
How would you rate it? [n/] by Herring (2.00 / 0) #6 Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 04:07:33 AM EST

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
What counts as "evening"? by Herring (4.00 / 1) #5 Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 04:06:06 AM EST
1800 GMT?

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
sounds plausible by Merekat (4.00 / 1) #7 Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 04:48:19 AM EST
As a 'from' time.

[ Parent ]
OK [nt] by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #8 Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 08:19:22 AM EST

It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
I may have to bail by priestess (4.00 / 1) #10 Wed Jan 03, 2007 at 12:44:14 AM EST
Seems my mother is having a surprise birthday party that night, so I might have to go up to Birmingham, even though it feels like I just got BACK from there. We'll see, no firm decisions made yet.

Chat to the virtual me...

[ Parent ]
Oryx & Crate moral: by dr k (4.00 / 1) #9 Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 10:21:39 AM EST
Don't let kinds from dysfunctional homes grow up to become mad scientists.

:| :| :| :| :|

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