Finished Rule 34 by Charles Stross. Near future SF with a police officer investigating a spate of suspicious deaths.
Fortunately the title doesn't have much to do with the book itself. Theoretically the police officer is in charge of a "Rule 34 squad" investigating Internet memes which might have an impact on crime in her Edinburgh location, which doesn't make much sense, but she's immediately seconded to a murder investigation so it's not really relevant.
Good points: the book is packed full of clever, up to date ideas that could be grabbed from Wired or BoingBoing. 3D printers, a permanent deflationary recession, corporate psychopathy, augmented reality, CDOs, a black market in illegal biochemistry. Has a reasonably fast plot though the ending is heavily telegraphed.
Bad points: I really miss the days when SF writers couldn't write relationships, knew they couldn't write relationships, and so didn't write relationships. If you can't write even basic relationships from your own experience, cramming in angst-ridden polyamorous lesbians and guilt-ridden closeted gay/bi men isn't that great an idea. It's not convincing, it's not involving; and it was, it would just wreck the novel in a different way: you wouldn't care about augmented reality specs if you really empathized with a fellow human being's marriage breaking up.
Also multiple points of view doesn't work too well when the author isn't too good at creating an individual voice for each character: they all sound much the same.
Overall though: fairly entertaining and worthwhile if you're an SF fan and can cope with large quantities of Internet jargon.
What I'm Watching
Saw Life of Pi in 3D at the cinema. Adaptation of the allegorical/magical realist short novel about a boy who trapped in a lifeboat with a tiger after a shipwreck.
Liked this movie a lot. The animation and the 3D are glorious: the opening scene panning through the zoo practically justified the ticket price itself. The movie has a kind of quirky Wes Anderson feel, though it's directed by Ang Lee: scenes in India and France are idealized rather than realistic. The story keeps your attention too: it helps that the lifeboat bit doesn't start till about half-way through.
However, the allegorical stuff is hammered home rather more heavy-handedly than the book, which makes it a bit cloying at times. The god stuff might annoy both militant atheists and literal-minded religious people with the insinuation that God is a beautiful myth.
Overall though, very good movie, well worth seeing in 3D at the cinema.
Saw the grandly titled Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape at the Royal Academy. Got a ticket on the door with no queue on a Sunday afternoon though. The emphasis of the exhibition is on etchings, which apparently helped popularize landscape painting, bringing it forward from its status beneath history painting.
Quite a few of the works have some kind of classical theme, including Cicero in the garden. There are quite a few paintings, but it's actually the etchings that seem most impressive, especially in how they achieve the effects of bright light with just white space to work with.
£8 to get in, very decent exhibition, worth seeing.
Politics. Eweida ruling and religious rights. 'Insulting' to be dropped from section 5 of Public Order Act. Royal approval on bills. David Cameron should take tips from John Major about Europe. US: Hastert rule broken again, Koch brothers against breaking debt ceiling.
Sci/Tech. DSM-5 performs worse than DSM-3.
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