Sunday, April 14, 2013

Books I've Read This Week

Red Planet Blues by is the latest novel by Canadian sci-fi author Robert J Sawyer. The elevator pitch for this book is simply "noir on Mars". It follows the typical tropes of a noir detective story with the additional twist that it takes place on Mars. We follow our hard luck hero Alex Lomax as he attempts to solve a case that involves the legendary mother lode of Martian fossils. You see in the future where nanotechnology makes it possible to manufacture anything like gold or diamonds the only thing that is of any value are things that are truly unique. In this case the fossils of the previous life forms of Mars.

Sawyer was through Ottawa last week and gave a reading at the Clock Tower Brew Pub in Westborough. The place was just jammed packed with fans of the author and he gave a talk and a brief reading from the book. Hearing Sawyer read from one of his own books is always entertaining. I did get a chance to ask him why he doesn't narrate his own books. To wit his answer was it would take way too much time which is understandable. 
I still remember when George Papandreou put Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson in my hands. I absolutely devoured this book and it became one of my favourites and Stephenson one of my favourite authors.

In this book our main character, Hiro Protagonist (best name ever), is one of the 10 best swords men in the world and a top notch computer programer who delivers pizza for a living. In it Hiro discovers a new computer virus called Snow Crash that can not only take down your computer but also the brain of the person who views it.

Stephenson has always been a big idea writer and I just love the idea of a computer virus that is tied into the Sumerian myth and the Tower of Babel. You see before the Tower of Babel fell we all spoke the same language and the Snow Crash virus takes advantage of this by dropping down to the level of our brain stem that still can recognize sumerian and uses it to over write our behaviours. Analogies are drawn to the brain stem and the BIOS in your computer.

Anyway, great book. Lots of amazing ideas. He talks about burbclaves (gated communities), the Metaverse (Second Life) and the corportization of America long before these ideas floated to the top of our collective understanding.

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