Speaker for the Dead

11. February, 2013

How would you feel if you had wiped out an entire civilization? Luckily, this is an academic question for most of us. For Ender, the Xenocide, it’s a very real problem and Orson Scott Card again does a wonderful job of letting us share a few years with Andrew Wiggins, his doubts and decisions, his dedication. moral dilemmas and brilliant mind.

Speaker for the Dead” is the sequel to “Ender’s Game” and as captivating as the first book. As usual, every character is driven by a deep motivation and it’s great fun to try to fit the pieces of the many puzzles before Card reveals the solution.

I found scenes like the signing of the Covenant between humans and piggies incredibly moving.

Recommendation: Must buy.

Leviathan Wakes: Book One of the Expanse Series

17. September, 2012

Leviathan Wakes (Amazon) is the first book of the Expanse series.

First of all, a warning: Buy this book on a Friday evening. You might not get much sleep after starting reading.

I admit that I felt uneasy after reading the first scene in the “Look Inside” sample chapter. Julie’s fate made me wonder whether this was going to become splatter & gore later. That didn’t happen. The author does use violence when it makes sense at that point in the story. It’s still repugnant but it makes sense.

Which is the strong point: Everyone in the book is smart. There aren’t any stereotype evil guys. Everyone – protagonists and side characters – has a clear plan, a goal, means and will to achieve that goal – even if someone else is getting in the way. If something goes wrong, it goes wrong for a reason. If people make mistakes, they make them because it seemed a really good idea at the time. Shit happens. A lot of shit. The hard-boiled cop and the righteous ex-military, scraping off each other. Each absolutely sure that their course of action isn’t the best but only viable solution. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about cop vs. military. This is the struggle of two completely different characters that need to achieve the same goal and who actually get along pretty well. If one of them isn’t broadcasting information that might kill thousands of people in riots. And the other isn’t shooting people in the head in cold blood because he believes them dangerous sociopaths that might get away with their crimes.

The story takes many twists and turns, never losing enough speed to get boring, but with slower sections to allow the reader to put down the book. To handle the most pressing human urges. Eating. Drinking. Restroom. Reading on to know what happens next.

Characters: Great individuals. Most of them seem to be the usual stereotypes but cracks appear pretty quickly. People get away and people die. I cared. Well done.

World: He doesn’t go into much physics and cuts a few corners (distances are probably not quite right and flight times are probably not accurate) but the world as a whole makes sense. After reading the book, you have a feeling how Ceres and Eros look on the in- and outside, and how they work. Medicine is advanced but not almighty. If your bones break, you’re mobile again after a few minutes but it still takes the bone some weeks to heal.

I have only two minor points of criticism: When Julie comes out of her locker after four days without water, she passes a lot of ship but doesn’t stop to find something to drink. I could imagine that she’s too frightened to stop and get killed but there is no hint either way in her thoughts.

And there is no trace of information how everyone makes sure they don’t get contaminated with the “virus” as they enter and leave infected areas. A few sentences about medical checkups and decontamination would have worked wonders.

Apart from that, I loved the many details.

Q: What’s the most important part of a military ship?

A: A coffee machine that spits out good stuff no matter free fall or 5 g acceleration.

Little Brother

15. December, 2010
Little Brother (Cory Doctorow novel)

Little Brother (Cory Doctorow novel)

When I Write Like told me, I wrote like Cory Doctorow, I had to get one of his works: Little Brother.

Hm … no, I doubt that this was some clever marketing fad — there aren’t enough writers to make this worthwhile. Plus you can download the book.

Marcus is a teenager, going about his life, when he’s “caught up in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco.” What follows is funny, revolting, unsettling, witted, sometimes too realistic not to worry about. And it explains some of the more obscure and ever more relevant concepts of computer security. In a way even a non-geek can understand. And relate.

So if you want to read a few good arguments why it’s not safe to trust politicians and security experts with your security and safety, go get the book.

Recommendation: Buy.

Pratchett: Unseen Academicals

9. August, 2010

Just finished the book. One of the amazing things about Pratchett is that he keeps getting better. Other authors eventually level out but Terry keeps on trying new things. This time it’s football and, how a friend of mine once said, a “dramödie” (from drama and Kömodie – comedy) revolving around Mr. Nutt. So like in “Nation”, the story has some depth and not only laughs. Well done.

Recommendation: Buy.

Jazoon 2010, day 1, part 2

7. June, 2010

Here is the rest of day 1 (cont’d from previous post):

Construction Techniques for Domain Specific Languages by Neal Ford

I’ve seen this talk before. Maybe in 2008?

Slides aren’t on Neal’s homepage nor on his github.

Do you really get class loaders? by Jevgeni Kabanov

Nice talk with lots of exceptions you’ve never seen before. It’s a good, real-world example how something simple (like class loading which is basically just loading streams of bytes from a list of places) can turn into a nightmare if you just add one single, innocent rule (like the web guys did back then with JSP 1.0 when they decided to reverse the order of lookups).

97 Things Every Programmer Should Know by Kevlin Henney

Kevlin has been busy with a new book: 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know (link goes to a page with the ToC which links to the content which is CC’d).

Some examples:

Best of all: Many of these rules date back to the 1960’s! Time to apply some of these rules 🙂

That was day 1. On to day 2!