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Christianizing the Roman Empire (A.D (A.D. 100-400)
Christianizing the Roman Empire (A.D (A.D. 100-400)
von Ramsay MacMullen
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 16,70

5.0 von 5 Sternen What "Conversion" to Christianity Meant, 100-400 A.D., 4. Dezember 1999
MacMullen's portraits of how people of the Empire became "Christians" are indelible -- and possibly, to some, disturbing. His account of how masses, crowds, throngs -- were "converted" to Christianity at the same time, on the same occasion, is riveting and thought-provoking. MacMullen describes too the very real, "everyday," yet typically, today, minimized, way miracles led to conversion and the Christianizing of the Roman Empire. Indeed, MacMullen's assessment (buttressed by his nearly exclusive reliance on primary sources) of what conversion meant in the first centuries after Christ is the heart of the book. MacMullen deploys indefatigable erudition (don't shrug off the footnotes: they contain some of the best writing in the book) and expresses himself with style, even grace, a thoughtful man writing authoritatively -- if at times iconoclastically -- about a crucial passage in the development of Christianity and rise of the West.


Cryptonomicon
Cryptonomicon
von Neal Stephenson
  Gebundene Ausgabe

3.0 von 5 Sternen Why Won't Anybody EDIT This Author?, 25. November 1999
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Cryptonomicon (Gebundene Ausgabe)
Why won't anybody EDIT Neal Stephenson? I slogged my way through Cryptonomicon, but great stretches reminded me of the unnatural and inspiration-sapping effort of walking on loose beach sand -- and in this case, it's a very, very long beach. Much of what writers do may indeed be -- as in Norman Mailer's famous and insightful phrase (based on alert vivisection of the the authorial ego) -- "advertisements for myself." But the advertisements do not have to be, as in this latest novel by Stephenson, so tiresome, tedious, and self-indulgent; so merely (but often barely) clever; so suffused with the feeling of family anecdotes; so LONG, LOOSE, AND LIMP.
None of these matters is fatal in itself. Thomas Wolfe (Look Homeward, Angel; Of Time and the River; You Can't Go Home Again) showed that even a great talent NEEDS A GOOD EDITOR -- to keep him from over-enchantment with himself; to keep him focused, moving forward, and polished; to tell him, time and time and time again, what to SKIP, SCRAP, OR JUST PLAIN "FERGIT ABOUT"!
Good as Stephenson's Snowcrash was, and later The Diamond Age (and before all of that, The Zodiac --probably the one single novel Stephenson, by himself, sans editeurs, might actually be said to "have in him" -- as we are all, dubiously, I think, said to "have" one in us, like a pregnancy), he clearly does not intend to rest his case as a novelist on the oeuvre of those novels. He is pushing on. But I suspect those earlier novels, being written by a man with less fame and clout than Stephenson today -- got the type and intensity of editorial attention that his sort of writing requires -- and deserves.
Given his newest achievement, the massive maundering work we have before us in Cryptonomicon, there is little doubt that Stephenson has indeed pushed on in at least one direction -- in having mastered the art of giving editors and their intrusive attentions the slip!
Cyptonomicon, for Stephenson, bears lamentable comparison to Tom Clancy's Patriot Games, also a "chatty," undisciplined, anecdotally self-absorbed book pursued to wearisome lengths. Clancy has since done better (but his earliest and best novel -- The Hunt for Red October -- was heavily edited; and slim). For Stephenson -- maybe next time, eh?


O is for Outlaw (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries)
O is for Outlaw (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries)
von Sue Grafton
  Gebundene Ausgabe

5.0 von 5 Sternen Her Best Yet -- A New Level for Grafton, 22. Oktober 1999
Grafton's best yet. Pulls Kinsey out of a slump. Never sags, shows real depth and interest; great period detail. But I wonder if Grafton isn't going to have to start inching her heroine forward in time a bit more rapidly with successive books. Eleven more books to go gets us to -- when?


Equine Color Genetics
Equine Color Genetics
von D. Phillip Sponenberg
  Gebundene Ausgabe

5.0 von 5 Sternen Stands out in morass of mis- and dysinformation and "lore", 29. September 1999
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Equine Color Genetics (Gebundene Ausgabe)
D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, is one of a mere handful of real authorities on the inheritance of horse coat color -- a topic fraught with inherent complexities and burdened down with massive amounts of "lore" that amounts all too often to nothing more than misinformation or dysinformation. Well illustrated with color plates. Covers latest trait linkage tests (as for lethal white foal) and results of the author's extensive and in some cases unprecedented studies of horse color genetics. Not a "popular" treatment (it's from Iowa State University Press, Ames, a place of high seriousness when it comes to livestock and creatures of any sort likely to be found around farms), it is, nonetheless, accessible and generally clear. A somewhat more recent book by Sponenberg and Beaver is shorter and perhaps less "academic" than Horse Color, which is a valuable book with few, if any (in its class), competitors.


How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies In Cybernetics, Literature, And Informatics
How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies In Cybernetics, Literature, And Informatics
von N. Katherine Hayles
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 19,90

5.0 von 5 Sternen Brief review in AMERICAN SCIENTIST, Mar-Apr 1999, p.178, 18. Februar 1999
HOW WE BECAME POSTHUMAN by N. Katherine Hayles (Chicago, $18, paper) explores the relation between the computer revolution and our changing ideas of what it means to be a human being. Her pet theme: how information became an entity in itself, divorced from the material that carries it, in both science and literature. Norbert Wiener meets P.K. Dick. (p. 178)


Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman
Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman
von James Gleick
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 14,70

5.0 von 5 Sternen A Tremendously Fine Book on Feynman...., 22. August 1998
A wonderful book on a towering and enigmatic figure in American science. Particularly interesting to me: Glieck's account of Feynman's formative years, his education, his self-education. Though Glieck does not use the term, Feynman's life in science illustrates time and again Harold Bloom's notion of "The Anxiety of Influence" in the development of genius in literature. (Bloom's idea clearly has greater generality.) Highly recommended. Occasional overlong disquisitions -- e.g., on the "nature of genius" (Feynman's life SHOWS us, Glieck doesn't need to tell us, or not at such length). All in all, a terrific book.


Red Mars (Mars Trilogy)
Red Mars (Mars Trilogy)
von Kim Stanley Robinson
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 6,86

5.0 von 5 Sternen The Alluvial Fan of Narrative Flow : Mars as MOBY DICK?, 1. September 1997
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Red Mars (Mars Trilogy) (Taschenbuch)
"Information" is vital in the novel. Recall the vast quantities of whaling lore in MOBY DICK. The alluvial fan of information both guides the novel's narrative flow and is its residuum, one of its enabling and defining traits. (Thus fantasy, say, is heavily handicapped in the quest for true novelistic distinction.) RED MARS's narrative is marked by facts, factoids, and abstruse technical vocabulary; by disquisitions on Martian geology (or rather, Robinson insists, "areology"), climate, terrain, and what threatens to become a simple surfeit of Mars-as-planet detail (or faux detail). The threat, however, finally fails, because it is in writing about rheology, lichen, agriculture, weather, rocks, metallurgy, that Robinson shows, against all expectation, the capability to ascend into a lyric empyrean, lofted solely by the hot-air balloon of prose. Of course there are problems -- the degree of discursiveness and the extent of Martian "nature writing" (John Muir in a spacesuit), isn't everyone's idea of a good read. And the ending of RED MARS is not so much weak as provisional, a rabbet joint between RED MARS and its sequels GREEN MARS and BLUE MARS. But the characters are memorable: Quirky, obsessed, burdened with the agendas that typify and stigmatize highly intelligent persons. "The First Hundred" colonists, whose saga this nominally is, are characterized with a deftness that barely acknowledges the venerable (if still vigorous) "2-D" tradition of SciFi characterization. Robinson's POLITICS is -- well, certainly NOT conservative. In The Mars Trilogy, as well as in his short stories, AND in his wonderful California Trilogy (set in a near-future California just north of San Diego, after a "nuclear truck attack" has pitted its survivors against the ancient ways of land and sea for subsistence), Robinson explores THE LIMITS OF LIBERTARIANISM -- and there is a tinge of sorrow, I think, in his contemplation of the losses of renouncing it. The premise of a Soviet-style communism (the Russians are partners in Martian discovery and colonization) is now anachhronistic, of course -- but we should recall that "socialism," even "communism," is not, in fact, dead; and in any case Robinson NEEDS it to set up and enliven the novel's "meta-plot": The dilemmas of how to manage self-government in a setting without precedent in its harshness, while pursuing life, liberty, and happiness under the scrutiny of an Earth reminiscent of the England of George III. Remarkable in its minutiae, RED MARS, in its bigger themes, attains a sweep, grandeur, and meaning that are rare. It is "hard" SciFi with a "soft" heart and transcendent preoccupations. (And sequels!


Galatea 2.2, English edition
Galatea 2.2, English edition
von Richard Powers
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen Erudite virtually non-translatable literary SciFi, 23. August 1997
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Galatea 2.2, English edition (Taschenbuch)
Intense (even at times claustrophobic), verbally spectacular, virtually (I would think; indeed, bet) untranslatable book about the nature of language, culture, recursiveness, human-ness. "Galatea 2.2" is the instantiation of a computer program produced, as a lark of sorts, by an itinerant humanist, plunked down on the campus of a megaversity, in (as it unfolds) productive proximity to computer and artificial intelligence specialists. The allusions -- the ALLUSIONS! -- to literature and culture, often (frequently) given a twist (then a twist within a twist, to produce the verbal simulacrum of a Mobius strip), tussle with the tale of the protagonist, "Richard Powers," who, with the tempter Lentz, a specialist in cognitive science and computers (a knock-off of Marvin Minsky crossed -- and how -- with Roger Schank), essays to create a program with the sole (so it begins, at least) purpose of passing the university English department's "comps" exam, as "Powers" once knew it and feared it. But this Galatea, too, in a tale that is almost mythic in its variations, takes on a life of its own. Or does it? The narrative power,
though hobbled at points by what (my apologies to the real Powers, but...) is an extraneous (or at least overworked) effort to work out a personal relationship conundrum of the author's very own, presumably in the author's own "real time," is sharp, driving, and, in the end, heartbreaking. Who woulda thunk it? A terrific book.
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