Finished Incandescence by Greg Egan. Greg Egan is amongst the hardcore of hard SF writers, even famously contributing to a paper on quantum cosmology.
Incandescence is a novel with a thoroughly worked-out high concept. An genetically-engineered alien civilization lives in an artificial asteroid in an accretion disk, their environment dominated by tidal forces within it. Egan's homepage has a helpful article and Java simulation of the physics involved (warning: SPOILs the surprise of the gimmick).
However, I think Egan might have got a bit too close to his research to see things from the readers' point of view. I found it very difficult to visualize what was going on from verbal descriptions of things that should be diagrams. He also uses neologisms that make it even tougher to read. He uses the direction words rarb, sharq, shomal, junub, garm and sard when north, south, east, west, up and down would have made it much easier for puny humans to work out at least what's opposite to what. (I assumed it was some kind of 5-dimensional universe at first).
The plotting and character are pretty perfunctory. Usually Egan does a better job than this., but none of the characters are strictly human, so maybe he felt it was unnecessary.
On the plus side, there is quite a lot of nerd interest in seeing the gimmicks unfold and watching the aliens rapidly repeat the history of science and mathematics, developing algebra, calculus, discrete simulation, astronomy and semaphore from scratch.
Overall: flawed, but if you want the geek equivalent of a test-your-strength machine, this makes a good challenge.
What I'm Watching
Saw Hancock at the cinema. (The superhero movie, not the legendary comic actor.)
Also had mixed feelings about this one. I always like it when they try to do something a bit unexpected in an action movie: gets a bit dull with things like Iron Man where practically count down to every plot development. Whereas with Hancock, I definitely had a "whoah, didn't see that coming" moment.
Even so, the movie suffers from a odd mixture of tones, with slapstick humour followed by attempts at deep sentiment. Also the CGI's nothing special (though the crunching landings are nice), and the action a little weakened by mismatching and lack of clarity over what his powers are at any given moment.
Overall, well worth watching if you're pretty able to suspend disbelief. Otherwise will cause much sneering from the sneer-inclined.
News of the Obvious: children don't make you happy.
I think the Brown era is working out a lot better for satire than the Blair era, partly because Brown seems so utterly humourless. (Remember Blair's finest hour.)
Of course, economic woes and media hatred help too.
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