Steal this review!

emergence.jpg(OK, so I’m mixing… but I think this review of one of my favorite books is worth passing on… in its entirety.)
Emergence, by David R. Palmer
It was originally found here… www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/0-553-24501-5.html

First encountered as short story, same title, January 1981, Analog, reprinted in Analog’s Children of the Future. Anthology unlikely inclusion in tiny SF section, Yuba College library, discovered while bored.

Fell in love — utterly, completely. Read repeatedly. Sparked first interest in journal, spawned experiment with personal journal written in clipped style, minimal words, echoing story. (Said journal now lost to operating system shift — correction: location still known, contents difficult to recover without extensive work, condition unchecked. Multiple impeding factors: ancient disk size, use of obsolete software, stupid encryption decision. Moral for future: plain text always best choice, standard markup format acceptable, use of proprietary format bad decision for any reason.) Lost access to story with move to unversity. Never forgot.

Heard of novel years later, discussion with friends. Asked if read short story, informed of novel expansion. Immediately decided must acquire despite mixed reports of value. (Knew novelization frequent source of degredation of short story, didn’t care. Affection for story borders on obsession, must read in all available forms.)

Have finally acquired novel as loan from friend (thank you!), settled in eager to read further adventures of heroine. Had been waiting thirteen years for continuation of story!

Have beem rambling on about me, not about story. Perhaps makes for interesting soliloquy — horrible review. Must focus, start over, give faithful (and patient!) reader reason to care.

Emergence told as personal journal, one Candy Smith-Foster. All available review sources (not this one!) start similarly to previous line, proceed to immediately spoil short story (present as first 50 pages of book). Not this reviewer — read short story cold, no expectations, no prior information, will treasure initial discovery process forever. Cling to faint but stubborn hope future reader will skip back cover, skip introductory blurb, go immediately to story, find similar joy. Chance of intersection between set of careful readers, readers of review small. Refuse to spoil nonetheless.

Sufficient to state basics: narrator is brilliant beyond human pale — resourceful, intelligent, determinedly self-analytical. Narrative deeply personal beneath unusual style, thoughtful analysis. Emotions poured into journal as catharsis — connection with reader startlingly intimate, gripping, memorable. Despite savant brilliance, broad-based extreme competence, idealized capabilities narrator incredibly real.

Multiple reviewers compare story to Heinlein, cannot disagree. Similar approach to competence, similar broad-ranging resourcefulness, similar glorification of intelligence verging on self-indulgent. Feel of story reminiscent of adventure yarns, hero bravely coping with unknown, finding solution to problem in nick of time, single-handedly saving self, friends, civilization, world. Etc. Perhaps overdone — doesn’t matter. Narrative voice so utterly present, captivating, present!

Style of review flawed attempt to echo style of story, give glimpse, provide taste. (Also prompted by desire to recapture earlier experiments of reviewer. [Inclusion of personal details part of narrative style — deeply nested parentheses also.])

Short story remains simply brilliant, best science fiction short story reviewer has ever read. Book worth high price for first fifty pages alone. Expansion not train wreck feared — faithful expansion of subject material, readable, interesting, engrossing, maintains original tone. Beauty and force of initial narrative not quite sustained, dulled slightly by additional material, words, events, but effective variety also introduced. Expanded story exposes far-fetched background more thoroughly, gives reader additional time to analyze, suspension of disbelief to suffer. (World background requires excellent suspension — strong cables, tight fastenings, powerful winch, disbelief pulled firmly into air. Narrative style helps considerably — too busy admiring language, identifying with emotions, caring about narrator to bother disecting details.)

Still brilliant. Novel revived complete love of style, language, story, main character. Very tempted to give perfect score despite flaws — love of story that strong. Will refrain. Short story absolutely receives perfect score, novel very close. Refraining only because suspect love of material partly idiosyncratic, related to reviewer’s background, personality, identification with aspects of character. Will have to keep self firmly in grasp, not overuse language style, not write next ten reviews like this.

Will find, purchase personal copy. Must own. Perhaps two — frequent re-reading likely.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Reviewed: 2004-04-26 Russ Allbery > Reviews

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REVIEW: PSP:Loco Roco

Loco RocoEver since the PSP came out, I have looked at the cover to this game and have always wanted to try it.
I am not a big gamer.
I can be amused for hours by Tetris and the board games on my GameBoy, but most other games where you do a variation of racing cars/try to go through levels/shoot things bores me.
There are very few exceptions to this (Gumby, Earthworm Jim … well, those are the only two I can think of off the top of my head.)
The other day we got a PSP (there’s a new version coming out and we are swooping in to take advantage of the deep discounts) so Tex bought the unit and I bought us a few games.
I got him Lego Star Wars II because he is constantly amused by it and I figure it would hold up well and I bought me Loco Roco. (I also ordered the Mercury game that uses the controls to allow you to tilt the game world around and move the ball of mercury around a maze, but it hasn’t arrived yet.) and when I finally pried the game out of Tex’s hands I started playing Loco Roco.
IT. IS. SO. CUTE.
Cute little noises, cute little anime-esque music, fantastic controls and I even managed to get through it without feeling like I was an old fart who is kidding herself about having a PSP.
Great game so far, though I haven’t gotten all the way through it. I tend to feel a bit guilty for downtime since things are so stupid busy for me lately. I did manage a few minutes the other night when I was sick, and it makes a great happy place.

I’m really pleased that this game is as charming as it is.

Solio Solar Charger

SolioIn the boonies? Need a bit of extra juice on the plane? Use this solar charger/spare battery to charge almost anything with a USB charger or use any of the custom tips that they have available for cell phones etc. This is good for not having to haul around 20 different AC adapters.
Not only does this recharge in the sunlight it can also be a charge though-device for anything it can charge normally. Its built in battery will hold extra charge for when you aren’t in the sun or near an outlet.
I tested this out with a video iPod and I got an extra 3.5 hours of play on the iPod.

SOFTWARE:PortableApps

When they first came out with this idea, my mom was the one who really needed a laptop without a laptop solution. Basically, this installs a set of standalone apps that don’t have tendrils into Windows System files. Not to mention that you can install it on a memory stick as small as 256k (I have it running now – I’m blogging in Firefox on a 512 memory stick – this is the one I got for 4 bucks after rebate. I know it isn’t totally necessary, but it amuses me.)
I do have a small laptop, but frankly, its getting older and the battery lasts about 2 hours but not much more. Its better suited for staying at home and sitting on a comfy chair somewhere other than my desk when I’m not at the setup in the kitchen.
I’m not complaining, i bought the little guy in 2002 so its had a pretty good run and it still is my main machine for all my websites and design. But this next model I’ll be getting is a bit far off (saving up now, but I got the carry case already for xmoose from Ralphie (thanks Ralphie!)…).
So, when I do travel, I either use my Treo to do all my email, but now I have the option of using PortableApps to manage all the heftier bookmarks, a small amount of photo editing and possibly web dev… but I don’t know if my server exactly likes NVU. I’ll have to figure out the quirks.
They do have standard email apps (but I’m so online with Gmail and Treo-ized, its not totally necessary) and the calendar app, but again, like I said, I’m Treo-ized and I haven’t looked into the possibility of syncing my Treo with it, I doubt it since when I looked on their forums, they were discussing the limitations of having the drivers local.
Anyhoo, back in the stone ages (approximately 4 months ago) the installation and set up process was a bit monkey-ish. Now they have an interface, the load problems are cleaned up and installing new apps (not to mention removing apps) is dead easy. FANTASTIC interface… I’ve seen a lot of crap and this is brilliant. They even added a backup utility for exporting either your settings only or the entire drive contents to a zip folder wherever you deem suitable.
So, I’ve taken to just connecting it to whatever machine I’m on and treating it like my desktop so that all my history, linkies and quirky setups will be there no matter where I am.
Its also TINY so I can just stick it in my purse and not have to worry about schlepping even a tiny laptop when I leave for 3 day jaunts.
Get one now and have it ready for emergencies or just handy. Here’s the drive I got the other day at Fry’s on Amazon if you want a decent deal.

AUDIBLE: Angels and Demons

Angels and Demons (Unabridged)
Author: Dan Brown
Narrator: Richard Poe
Unabridged fiction – abridged edition available here
Audio Length: 18 hours and 15 min.

This is a prequel to the Da Vinci Code (I listened to this unabridged as well, though it had a different narrarator – I don’t blame him if he didn’t want to spend another block of his life doing another unabridged book. That’s a lot of reading.)
Dan Brown is a mass market author, it is evident in his editing, in his hyping of points that are incindiary within our society – frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he started out as a journalist for a tabloid. Buzz words he throws into the mix right after he finishes giving a rational explanation for something pissed me off. In this particular case, he had just finished explaining the origin of the judeo-christian concept of ‘Satan’ as a derivation of the Arabic word ‘shitan’, meaning adversary. So saying this he immediately describe a certain organization as a “satanic cult”, which has a different connotation than what he just finished explaining in what I can only assume is a vehicle for inciting hysteria for the story line which lacks the proper amount of drama anyway.
Cheap tricks like this are what disgust me about the media – but that’s another essay altogether (a curse on you William Randolph Hearst.)
Lame and trite devices like this aside, I do like the fact that Brown really does his homework. (the christians really hate it when you do that… they’ve already come out with a rebuttal of the DaVinci Code. Its mostly fiction y’all. His goddess facts are right, as are a great deal of the history of the church, but the whole other plotline thing has not been substantiated. I didn’t want to put spoilers for those who haven’t read this yet.)
The story isn’t really what I have a problem with… I see definite archetypes in the two books of Brown’s that I have read; and that distracts me from losing myself in the book.
Langdon is the accidental hero. Sure, he’s smart, but he’s painfully naive for someone who has studied extensively the world’s religions in their own setting… and for a guy who it is alluded to that women fling themselves at him regularly, he comes across as a vaguely prudish guy.
Vittoria, the girly protagonist of the book, also is purported to be a wily and brilliant scientist, and yet makes errors in judgement and does things painfully alien to the female species (of which I am well acquainted… ’cause I am one.) Its one of the obvious things that Dan Brown does not do well…he’s not a woman and doesn’t know how they think.
A few more archetypes round out the story: serious bad guy (black and white thinking), questionable law enforcement type who you can’t decide is good or bad – but he invariably is arrogant about his ability to know all and the rich and wordly (almost unbelievably so) older patriarch figure and the bait and switch of what I can only assume he means to be a clever ruse.
These are the same complaints I had in Da Vince Code. At least he is consistent.
I could take all of this with a grain of salt, but when they add the narration to the mix, I start laughing. I’m sure Richard Poe has done voice work for cartoons. The evil bad guy became even more of a caricature, when Langdon speaks, his inner monologue is overly innocent and the women’s voice?… nope… I couldn’t get past that.
Mostly what it reminds me of is the old Speed Racer cartoons. In fact, at times in traffic, I would yell out “No! Trixie! No!” or “Oh, Speed!” then laugh so hard I had to go back and hear what happened in the narrative again. (sometimes I involuntarily got the porn re-mix of the Speed Racer theme in my head… but that is another matter. =;) )
…and of course, I am completely cynical, so I see conspiracies everywhere…
You can read the paperback version of this book or buy the Audible.com version if you just don’t have time to read. (or listen to it if you just really need the comic relief or don’t have a strong sense of snarkiness.)

Publisher’s Summary: An ancient secret brotherhood. A devastating new weapon of destruction. An unthinkable target…
World-renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to a Swiss research facility to analyze a cryptic symbol seared into the chest of a murdered physicist. What he discovers is unimaginable: a deadly vendetta against the Catholic Church by a centuries-old underground organization – the Illuminati. Desperate to save the Vatican from a powerful time bomb, Langdon joins forces in Rome with the beautiful and mysterious scientist Vittoria Vetra. Together they embark on a frantic hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and the most secretive vault on earth…the long-forgotten Illuminati lair.
©2003 Dan Brown; (P)2003 Simon & Schuster Inc. All Rights Reserved. AUDIOWORKS is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster Inc.

AUDIBLE: Pattern Recognition

Pattern Recognition (Unabridged)
Author: William Gibson
Narrator: Shelly Frasier
Unabridged Fiction
Audio Length: 10 hours and 7 min.

I actually read this book before I got it on Audible (and I still have it on my bookshelf in hardback).
I’ve read a bunch of good and bad reviews (they seem to be polarized-its either really good or really bad) and I can identify with most of their points. Yes, there are plot holes, yes there are issues that normally wouldn’t magically work themselves out like they do here and some splintering of the story takes place with characters that normally would have been more important… normally, I say, because your average novelist follows an established framework.
Gibson does not.
His splinter characters do contribute to the mood, and to the aura of Cayce and her unreal labors. It worked for me.
But, continuing in its defense, there are also avalanches of words that are beautifully written (the first paragraph knocked my sock off); their reading hypnotic. On a personal level, there were so many references that trigger things which instantly made me sympathetic to this book and Cayce.
The whole discussion of jetlag resonates with me and my own travels. Cayce continues to deal with her father’s disappearance in the Sept. 11 attacks, and while I am far removed from New York, I have special people in New York City who’s loss would have simply devastated me. So many little coalescences that make me sympathetic to this character.

Publisher’s Summary: Cayce Pollard is an expensive, spookily intuitive market-research consultant. In London on a job, she is offered a secret assignment: to investigate some intriguing snippets of video that have been appearing on the Internet. An entire subculture of people is obsessed with these bits of footage, and anybody who can create that kind of brand loyalty would be a gold mine for Cayce’s client. But when her borrowed apartment is burgled and her computer hacked, she realizes there’s more to this project than she had expected.
Still, Cayce is her father’s daughter, and the danger makes her stubborn. Win Pollard, ex-security expert, probably ex-CIA, took a taxi in the direction of the World Trade Center on September 11 one year ago, and is presumed dead. Win taught Cayce a bit about the way agents work. She is still numb at his loss, and, as much for him as for any other reason, she refuses to give up this newly weird job, which will take her to Tokyo and on to Russia. With help and betrayal from equally unlikely quarters, Cayce will follow the trail of the mysterious film to its source, and in the process will learn something about her father’s life and death.
2003 William Gibson; (P)2004 Tantor Media, Inc.

MOVIES: Jaws

Jaws
Stephen Speilberg

Yes, this is the movie that kept me out of the deep end of the swimming pool as a child and out of the surf as an adult. I probably shouldn’t have watched it over 400 times, but its morbidly fascinating and Richard Dreyfuss just cracks me up in this movie…he reminds me of my dad.

Amazon review: The story of a Long Island town whose summer tourist business is suddenly threatened by great-white-shark attacks on humans bypasses the potboiler trappings of Benchley’s book and goes straight for the jugular with beautifully crafted, crowd-pleasing sequences of action and suspense supported by a trio of terrific performances by Roy Scheider (as the local sheriff), Richard Dreyfuss (as a shark specialist), and particularly Robert Shaw (as the old fisherman who offers to hunt the shark down). The sequences on Shaw’s boat–as the three of them realize that in fact the shark is hunting them–are what entertaining moviemaking is all about. –Marshall Fine”