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Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything
Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything
von James Gleick
  Gebundene Ausgabe

3.0 von 5 Sternen Hard and Fast, 8. Juni 2000
On the whole, I liked it.

Time is a difficult subject to tackle as definitively as Gleick has handled his previous subjects. After all, time can't even be defined, only measured. He jumps around a number of related topics - the science behind watches, computers and more, and a lucid assessment "hurry sickness" in society. All interesting stuff. Loved when he cited the best example of contemporary impatience: that some people press elevator call buttons repeatedly, even this doesn't do a damn thing to make it arrive sooner. (Yeah, I do it, too.)

Some reviewers have (fairly) stated that by the end the book seems less analytical and almost ranty. It is also written like a series of essays, rather than a whole book, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

It also helps Gleick avoid a wee small pitfall of his earlier works: being a little TOO enamored of his subject. As great as "Chaos" was, it was occassionally annoying with phrases like this: "Before Chaos, knuckle-scraping neaderthal mathematicians could barely add 1 + 1. Today, thanks to Chaos, the super-brained Math People can cause money to materialize out of thin air just by thinking of it." [OK, I know I exagerate. But not by a lot.]

Faster reads well (dare I say 'quickly'?) and provides food for thought.


Idoru
Idoru
von William Gibson
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 5,60

4.0 von 5 Sternen On the other hand..., 20. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Idoru (Taschenbuch)
As I scanned the other reviews of this book, I found that I couldn't agree less with many of them... but did agree with parts. Don't know what that says about different peoples' perceptions of this book.
I'll start by saying I liked all of Gibson's previous work and I liked Idoru, too. I was a little stunned to read some people who seemed to find it went on too long, as the hardback edition I read is under 300 pages (large print, breaks between chapters.) The plot is admittedly simple: rock star plans to marry a virtual reality character. When do computers become alive? --- recurring theme for Gibson.
Rather than tell it from the POV of these two lovebirds, he alternates chapters between the book's two main characters. One, Chia, is a teen fan. One, Laney, has the the strange talent of... to put it in contemporary terms, he can separate the signal from the noise when websurfing. (That >would< be a useful skill!)
Things I liked? While the plot is straightforward, I preferred it to more overarching books that start out well and have things crumble by the end. There have been plenty of those. Second, I found the charactrers all well defined and appealing, especially Laney, a sort of everyman who ends up in the middle of a lot of weird stuff.
And of course, there's Gibson's writing, powerful and at times even hypnotic. Each chapter reads like a story unto itself, but they do all move towards a clear resolution. Even the title seemed like a subtle commentary on the story. ("Idoru" = "I adore you", perhaps?)
I give it a big thumbs-up.


Atlas Shrugged
Atlas Shrugged
von Ayn Rand
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 6,70

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1.0 von 5 Sternen Meanwhile, back in the real world...., 15. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Atlas Shrugged (Taschenbuch)
Ayn Rand is very very angry. She's pissed off about the state of the world. Too bad that the state of affairs which angers her so bears no resemblance whatsoever to reality. In Rand-vision, for example, the most oppressed people in the world are the super-wealthy. Forget the philosophy and politics for a moment, and ask yourself whether the people you think have gotten really screwed by life resemble Warren Buffet.

Considering this as a novel, it's blessed awful. Droning prose (that goes on for FAR too long in MANY passages), and a plot that reads like a self-indulgent persecution fantasy. Not only do Rand's protagonists get to whine about how unfair they've been treated, they get to take over the world, form their own private club that owns everything, and crow - among other absurdities - about how much better they are in the sack than the idiots who disagree with them. Please.

From a political standpoiunt, if you want a novel that tears a new one for communism, read Orwell's "Animal Farm". It's much better written, and is much more in tune with the real world, even though it features talking animals... which says a lot about how out there Rand is.


Paris in the Twentieth Century
Paris in the Twentieth Century
von Jules Verne
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 10,20

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1.0 von 5 Sternen Just Plain Bad, 29. April 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Paris in the Twentieth Century (Taschenbuch)
When this novel was published a few years back, I was looking forward to it. After all, I loved Verne's classics like Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. We all do, right?

Then I read Paris in the 20th Century.... Well, it is indeed surprisingly prescient about future technology. But that's the only good thing to be said about it.

The plot is flimsy at best, the characters have no appeal and the overall tone is one of self-indulgent whining. Incessantly so. Oh, how awful a world would be if certain poets ever failed to be lionized! The same list of poets repeated ad nauseum.

In short, don't waste your time on this. If you want a well-written book that shows a dystopian future with a culture-technology clash, read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World or Ray Bradbury's Farrenheit 451.


Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco
Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco
von Bryan Burrough
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen Who'd Have Thought a <i>Business</i> Book Could Be So Good?, 29. April 2000
Picture characters with the massive egos and ruthlessness of a James Ellroy novel. (OK, take away most of the violence and add lots more money.) Add in the daffiness of Dave Barry. Then make it about a business deal.
That's what you've got here. I would never have believed a book about real-life financial maneuvers could be so fascinating. The whole wall streeters as twisted megalomaniacs thing --- that's just a cartoonish stereotype, right? Maybe not. I once worked as a court reporter, and during a break at an SEC deposition a lawyer from Skadden-Aarps noticed I was reading this book. "I did some work on the RJR case," he said.
"Is F. Ross Johnson as crazy as this book makes him sound?" I asked.
"Ross? Oh, yeah. He's a loon," the lawyer replied.
Instead of a snooze-inducing retelling of the business pages, you get a funny, shocking and intriguing book. 600 pages go by in a flash. It's a great read.


Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
von Carl Sagan
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 12,30

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Think About It, 23. April 2000
The ideas Sagan presents are enlightening and (as always) well-written. I especially enjoyed the parts where he convincingly argued against the charge that science somehow lessens beauty or wonder in life.... who said ignorance was wonderful? Sagan also comes right out and says that scientists can and have been wrong about ideas, fessing up to several mistakes he's made. If you can adequately prove or disprove something, science will acknowledge your ideas as correct. How many new-agers, "psychics" or religious fundamentalists can claim to be so open-minded? You may not agree with everything Sagan says (one reviewer disliked his politics; I noted with bemusement that Sagan bemoaned the lack of positively portrayed scientists on tv - yet he wasn't a big fan of Star Trek) but most of what he says cannot be ignored.


The Dain Curse (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
The Dain Curse (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
von Dashiell Hammett
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 10,20

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4.0 von 5 Sternen a little known gem, 7. April 2000
When you think of Hammett, you probably think only of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. The (great) movies probably play a role in that. But don't overlook The Dain Curse. It's fine reading for any crime novel fan.

And a note to those whose reviews described the plot as choppy: this novel was originally published in three separate parts in one of the pulp magazines (anyone know which one? I don't recall) so all three parts were written to be part of a bigger story, yet be complete and self-contained in their own way.


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