Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Animal Farm

I just finished reading Animal Farm by George Orwell.
This is a quite amusing commentary on politics and power and corruption. Its not a long read and well worth the small effort required. Essentially, the animals on a farm kick out their human overlords and take over the running of the farm themselves. It turns out the pigs are the most intelligent, and end up managing the running of the farm. The corruption and politics of the pigs and the way they take advantage of the other animals becomes more and more extreme.
This has some clear parallels with Nineteen Eighty Four too. The pigs rewrite history and convince the others that things happened differently to how they remember, and rewrite their '7 Commandments' subtly in their favour and so on. There's also the enforcement of correct thinking and abuse of power.
There is plenty of depth if you want to go into the details of the allegory if you are interested, but the main point is pretty obvious really.

The Clockwork Rocket

I just finished reading The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan.
Wow, you really have to admire the lengths Egan will go to for a novel. I thought Incandescence was pretty hardcore, and Schild's Ladder was there too. Where in Incandescence he explains general relativity as the characters discover it for themselves from basic experimentation, and in Schild's Ladder he builds on existing Quantum Theory, in The Clockwork Rocket (and soon parts 2 and 3) he proposes a whole new universe where the laws of physics are subtly yet vastly different. For a near complete explanation of these new laws of physics, you can have a look at his extensive web site on it.
As in Incandescence the reader discovers the universe through the characters experiments and discoveries. Essentially light can travel at different speeds depending on its wavelength and the ramifications are pretty weird. Following the theory is very difficult and I got lost quite a bit, but you have to remember it's a novel, and you are not studying at university, and to just try to enjoy the ride. Familiar Egan territory.
Yes, Egan is amazing and produces such massive depth and such incredibly different ideas in SF, but I'm not sure I enjoyed this as much as I would have liked. The explaining of physics through the experiments of the characters was interesting once, and while very different, still somehow very similar. If that makes sense. There were lots of really cool ideas along the way though such as the reproduction cycle of the 'people' and how it affected their society and reflections on our society I guess.
Brilliant and amazing and wondrous, but somehow also a little flat.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pacific Hi Fi

Some months ago I bought a set of speakers from Pacific Hi-Fi. The speakers are great, but I was just as impressed with the service I received. I have had some problems in some other Hi-Fi stores where you can get quite a bit of the superior, dismissive attitude because you're not interested in the top of the line equipment, or the sales droid wants to seem impressive, or something, I don't know.
The guys at Pacific Hi-Fi have been very helpful again recently when my sub-woofer died. It was checked, taken in for repair and returned within a few days on warranty, no problems, no fuss.
Well worth the trip if you need some new gear.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Departure

I just finished reading The Departure (Owner Trilogy 1) by Neal Asher.
Asher has taken the Orwellian nightmare, and pushed it to its horrible, brutal limit using some more modern SF devices such as AI integration. Set a century or so in the future, the world governments have centralized their power into a monolithic, all-controlling, ever wasteful "Committee". Those in power enjoy wealth, while the rest of Earth's twelve billion not only languish in poverty, but are instructed on politically correct thought and constantly monitored to ensure compliance. Those guilty of incorrect thought, are sent for "adjustment" which involves incredible torture and very often termination, including being fed live into an incinerator.
Of course, Asher describes all of the horrors in gloriously intense detail. My favourite part of the Committee control infrastructure was the readergun, which is a massively powerful automatic weapon emplacement with an id-chip reader, programmed to annihilate anyone with an ID on a blacklist, or alternately anyone not on a whitelist. A very nasty control device indeed. Then there is the laser weapon satellite network designed to similarly zero in on and kill individuals.
The story follows Alan Saul's journey of revenge against the Committee, and a particular member of the Inspectorate. It all comes down to control, who has it, who is willing to use it, and how far they are willing to go. Since this is a game of the highest stakes, all the main characters were willing to commit massive amounts of atrocity to achieve their aims and their struggle makes for some hugely violent reading.
Entertaining, satisfying and very dark.