free books kindle my interest most

With my new Kindle, I’ve resolved to read a. more science fiction and b. spend as close to zero money on books as as possible (exceptions being books my wife or kids want to read). This does limit the options, of course, but since I have a lot of other things on my plate (including anime, which gets short shrift on this anime blog). In addition to Amazon’s awesome Lending Library program (for which authors are reimbursed), free ebook lending from local libraries (as long as you dont mind a long wait), and Project Gutenberg, I was also pointed to an amazing resource: the Baen Free Library, which offers numerous science fiction classics with no DRM. Of course as far as series are concerned they tend to offer the first few books only, and if you like it then you can and should go out and buy the rest. But it’s a great way to sample a lot of SF with no investment other than time.

And lo and behold, Lois McMaster Bujold is on the list – with the first two books of the Vorkosigan saga. I’ve already torn through Warrior’s Apprentice and will polish off Mountains of Mourning on my elliptical this afternoon. All credit for the tipoff goes to Mark who has been steadily consuming the entire Vor saga. I find the character of Miles to be very evocative of Ender Wiggins in a few ways, and I wonder if Bujold was a direct influence on Card.

It’s worth noting that Baen also sells books, and any ebook you buy from them is DRM-free (unlike Amazon). Tor Books is also following suit. In general, ebooks remain priced too high for casual buying but the trend away from DRM is very encouraging. I personally believe that reading a friend’s copy of a DRM-free ebook is the same as borrowing their physical copy.

If anyone has any other suggestions on worthwhile reading from the Baen list or other free sources, do let me know!

Reaming Reamde

REAMDE, by Neal Stephenson

I HATE to be that guy but I just wasn’t expecting Reamde to be so … mass-market. Here’s the review from, which cements the problem I have in general with most reviews of celebrity writers with the very first sentence:

It’s becoming increasingly clear that throwing all expectations overboard whenever Neal Stephenson releases a new novel is a good idea.

Um… no. Expectations are why we have celebrity rock-star writers. Neal and Neil are two of my all-time favorite science fiction writers for a reason, and I read them because I want to read a Neal or a Neil story. I don’t want a Grisham novel or a Steele book. I want more of what I love. In this, Reamde failed spectacularly to deliver, despite starting out with a concept that was almost tailor-made to set alight all my dopamine receptors: gold-farming and MMORPGs. (I don’t intend to rename the blog anytime soon, but it would probably be more apt).

I find reviews of that sort to be empty of any real value. In contrast, Mark writes an honest review in praise of Reamde which makes a far better case for any fan of Neal to pick it up at some point – I don’t have such serious qualms or complaints that I can’t agree with most of Mark’s assessment. But oh my god, Anathem was such a monumental masterpiece! And the Baroque Cycle literally expanded my horizons, historically speaking. (Yes, I’m aware it was fiction. And in an alternate universe, where gold has a stable isotope.)

I guess I expected something similarly mind-blowing with respect to MMORPGs, and i was certainly happy to see what Neal had to teach me about gun lore, liberal biases aside. But (and this is where I nitpick in spoilery fashion) I found the MMORPG part curiously shallow… for example: Continue reading “Reaming Reamde”

Reviewing Reamde

BoingBoing has an early review of Reamde up and it has seriously whet my appetite. Gold farming is the hook but apparently Stephenson is also a bit of a gun nut. Who knew? Exciting!

REAMDE, by Neal Stephenson

I’ve pre-ordered my copy from Amazon in save-a-tree format. I actually don’t even own a Kindle but it’s still the best way to read a book, especially one by the Neal. This thing is a thousand pages long.

It’s out on September 20. So basically next Tuesday is a wash for me.

NPR’s list of top 100 Science Fiction of all time

Here’s the list – I’ve read 51 of these. And the #1 and #2 slots are exactly what I’d have picked.

I am glad to see Neil and Neal on the list (though NPR spelled Neal’s name wrongly in one entry). Especially love the fact that The Princess Bride made it on the list!

Inexplicably, A.C. Doyle is missing, which boggles my mind. Not as surprising is the absence of any of the Big B’s (Bear, Baxter, Benford, and Brin) of which the omission of Greg Bear is the most egregious.

I think a top 100 list is less than useful though, what would be better would be a top 20 author list. So, let’s make one! In (first-name) alphabetical order, because a ranking will take more thought:

  1. Arthur C. Clarke
  2. C.S. Lewis
  3. David Brin
  4. Douglas Adams
  5. Frederick Pohl
  6. Fritz Leiber
  7. Greg Bear
  8. Greg Egan
  9. H.G. Wells
  10. Isaac Asimov
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien
  12. Jules Verne
  13. Kurt Vonnegut
  14. Larry Niven
  15. Neal Stephenson
  16. Neil Gaiman
  17. Ray Bradbury
  18. Rene Daumal
  19. Robert Heinlein
  20. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Well, ok that’s only 19. Some of these are for an entire series, others for a single book, but all of them wrote something that really grabbed me, more so than usual.

I’m sure others’ lists would differ – and certainly would be helpful, so leave yours in comments!

And a special mention for writers who I think are odious people personally, though they certainly write well: Dan Simmons and Orson Scott Card.

And I really need to add The Stand to my reading to-do list.

It occurs to me a much harder list would be of short-story authors. A good start woudl be compiling everyone who has ever appeared in the Asimov’s Best Science Fiction series. That’s something for another day…

Aragorn Shrugged

Overheard on the Internet:

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

(original source)

Dirk Gently series on BBC?!

How the heck did I miss this?

Following a successful one-off special that made its debut on BBC Four last year, the Beeb has confirmed that Dirk Gently, the world’s only holistic detective, will be returning for more adventures next year.

Stephen Mangan starred as the titular detective who may or may not be an utter charlatan, and while the adaptation didn’t please all fans of Douglas Adams’ original novel, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, the special was widely seen as a decent jumping off point for further stories in the future.

Raking in a more than respectable 1.1 million viewers when it screened last December, the show’s success has led the BBC to commission three 60-minute episodes, which will be again written by Howard Overman.

There was a Dirk Gently one-off on BBC 4 last year???? TORRENT TIME

If it’s half as good as Sherlock it will be brilliant. If it’s twice as good as the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie, it will be wretched.

what if we were lied to? a sci-fi bleg

I am racking my brain and memory to no avail – I need to recall the autor and name of the short story set in an alternate history where the Nazis win World War II. The Germans roll over Europe, conquer Britain, win in Russia. The Japanese expand into China and Asia, and the two axis powers swallow the entire globe. Then they turn on each other, and fight World War III, and the Nazis are ultimately (barely) victorious. At this point the Nazis break out the old Holocaust Instruction Manual and turn the resources of the planet towards genetic purification and the glory of the Aryan race. And they succeed. And centuries after World War II, the true Third Reich becomes a pure race indeed on white-skinned, blue-eyed, golden-haired people. As the centuries pass, the Reich liberalizes, moderates, and eventually becomes a Republic. True learning and democracy again flourish as the homogeneity of the Aryan race – now the entirety of the human race – ensures peace and prosperity and minimal conflict. The horror of the past centuries is increasingly edited out and ultimately forgotten entirely, lost in myth. A new history emerges, one scrubbed clean of any messy reference to wars or races, and after a few generations this new narrative has become set in the collectve stone of human memory.

And one day, a full millenium after the dark prehistory that gave rise to what has now become a human utopia, two students at the University of Tokyo, Hans and Franz (names may be different from my recollection) are eating lunch. Hans turns to Franz and asks him., “do you ever get the feeling we were lied to?”

if you thought that was a cool summary, the original was 10^6 times better. Help me figure out who wrote it! I think I might have read it on one of these, but I’m not sure.

Kindle gets cheaper, again

Good grief, Amazon just dropped the price of the Kindle 2.0 by another 40 bucks! New price: $259. And they are introducing a GSM-enabled version for only $20 more so you can download books worldwide, not just in the US. This is unbelievably aggressive, and probably partly motivated by Sony’s recent refresh of its own ebook line.

I still think that the Kindle DX is the one I want, though – the better PDF support is critical for me. But with the price drop on the mainstream Kindle, I am even less likely to buy a DX now; the price on the DX has to come down sooner or later. The only reason I need PDF support is because I will use the Kindle heavily for my academic journal reading; if not for that I’d probably have bought the Kindle the last time it dropped in price.. and be cursing about it now.

Of course, I’ve also been doing some actual reading of late, and am now a few hundred pages into Quicksilver. I can easily see how owning a Kindle would accelerate this habit. I am genuinely conflicted at night between WoW and these analog pursuits!

Azeroth and Anathem

Now that Ramadan has ended, I’m taking up my geeky pursuits again. I’ve got a copy of Anathem from the library and added some game time back to my Warcraft account. I have to confess that it’s a hard choice 🙂

Just saw the movie 17 Again starring teen heartthrob Zac Ephron and former teen hearthrob Matthew Perry. I was delighted to note the supporting “best friend” character was a geek otaku of the highest caliber, who also managed to score an otaku dreamgirl. You can always tell when writers are genuine geeks – it shows, unlike gross and absurd representations like Revenge of the Nerds and Urkel and whatnot.