Zendegi by Greg Egan. Near future science fiction novel. Has an interestingly prescient start, with a democratic revolution taking place in the Middle East, partly fuelled by mesh-networking cellphones.
However, the meat of the story doesn't really start until very late in the book, and the rest of it isn't that interesting. There's some mild consumer goods futurology that's fairly familiar from Slashdot or BoingBoing, and rather flat characters going experiencing painstaking but unconvincing emotional journeys. I preferred the days when Hard SF writers blithely ignored human relations instead of laboriously sketching them out.
It's a shame Greg Egan was born so late: he's a fantastic short story writer but a bit weak as a novelist where you need more depth than a brilliant idea.
Overall, OK but not brilliant.
What I'm Reading 2
Finished The Magician King by Lev Grossman. Sequel to "The Magicians", may be the middle part in a trilogy.
Very good fantasy, self-consciously responding to Narnia and Harry Potter. It has similar tropes but takes them more seriously, with a bit of angst and suffering mixed in with geeky references.
This one sags a little bit compared with the first book, but comes to an excellent conclusions.
Well worth reading if you liked the "The Magicians", but you couldn't really start with this one.
What I'm Watching
Saw the highly acclaimed Italian gangster movie Gomorrah. on DVD. Follows several different characters involved at different levels of gang corruption: young teenagers obsessed with gangster movies who keep quoting Scarface, a toxic waste dumping scandal, and a tailor involved with sweatshop labour.
I think I might have liked it at the cinema, but couldn't get into it on DVD. The multiple points of view mean it lacks a strong focus, and it's filmed in a realistic but dull documentary style. It might be just a lack of attention span though: I read this Bordwell article recently, and the average shot length in Gomorrah must be enormous.
Overall: probably a good film, but I didn't like it that much.
Economics. Factchecks: UK household debt not highest in world, effects of 50p tax rate. Corporations adjust to the shrinking middle class with Hourglass Strategy (video). Consultation fails because individuals who know little are swayed by those who know less. Credit ratings and volatility. The jobless young.
Sci/Tech. Old spy satellite. Are Wet-Induced Wrinkled Fingers Primate Rain Treads? Will Your Favorite Star Survive Color? Dear Microsoft: It's not me, it's you. Zombie Caterpillars Rain Death From Treetops. The new Apple advantage.
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