Posted by: GravatarWon'tDeleteMyAccount | August 18, 2009

Peter Watts — Blindsight

All I can really say is that Peter Watts is perhaps the best writer of hard science fiction alive today.

After the Rifters Trilogy it was hard to imagine how he could surpass himself. Then he resurrected vampires from the Pleistocene and sent one along with a ship of augmented humans to defend a rapidly approaching posthuman society from infinitely intelligent and completely self-ignorant alien starfish. I am at a loss for words.

I have not, since Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, read such innovative and creative science fiction.

The story focuses upon a young man who’s what’s called a “synthesist”: he can see into systems and interpret their outputs — a necessary go-between for parsing posthuman responses in a near-singularity world. He stands between mind-boggling intelligences and describes them to lesser ones. He’s also almost completely lacking in self-awareness: he doesn’t understand what he parses, he just translates. The story sends him with a team of augments and a lone vampire to intercept a completely alien civilization in the Oort cloud, in the hopes of avoiding an interstellar incident, and finds out how alien humanity is from the rest of the universe.

Like the Rifters trilogy, Blindsight shows a unique insight into the way people think, and the way in which evolution operates; and if that insight is accurate, it is no less unnerving.

Blidsight calls into question the function of consciousness and the very nature of human civilization. And it’s exciting while he does so.

You can download Blindsight here. It’s available under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 2.5 License: if you use it, let everyone know who wrote it; give it freely to your friends; and for heaven’s sake, don’t try to make money off of it (otherwise you will be the reason we can’t have nice things.)

Keep reading, keep writing.

Thom.

Posted by: GravatarWon'tDeleteMyAccount | August 14, 2009

Scott Westerfeld — Uglies

Right, so it’s been maybe six months since I last posted, I know. I’ve been busy. Also, trying to read Horror Story and Other Horror Stories has proven itself to be a task I am not up to. There aren’t enough unicorn chasers in the world to allow me to read that book in a year. So maybe some day I’ll finish it, but not today.

So instead I’ve read a YA book, by a Mr. Scott Westerfeld, entitled Uglies. It showed up on Boingboing and I thought, “Hey, I’ve written YA fiction before, I liked writing it, maybe I’ll like reading it.” So true. The fact of the matter is, that while many young adults read at a college level, I am a post-grad whose reading level is reverting back to when reading was fun. I loved this book.

It’s also not CC-licensed. It’s simply being offered for free download until September 5th (to do that, you should click here), as a kind of a marketing ploy. It’s a good one. As soon as I can convincingly deliver the line “it’s for my cousin” at the checkout counter, I’m going to buy the sequel.

Uglies is the story of a young woman named Tally, who lives in an odd dystopian world, entirely separated from nature. Everyone lives in self-contained cities, and they mock those who came before (yes, I’m afraid that would be us) for their terrible waste of resources. They call them “Rusties” — named for their terrible waste of metal, as well as for the hulking great ruins left of their cities and amusement parks. What’s more bizarre is the way they maintain equality in the cities: mandatory plastic surgery. By remaking everyone’s features into the most symmetrical, “beautiful” configuration they can be, “uglies” — children ten to sixteen — are made into “pretties”. There are further operations later in life, as well, to keep everyone on par. The theory is that everyone automatically treats more attractive people better, and so by making everyone look “perfect” they can make a truly egalitarian society.

Except, except.

Nothing’s ever perfect, and there are kids who know — but trying to escape can get you into a lot of trouble, as Tally finds out.

If I have only one criticism, it’s that the book ends with a cliffhanger, which means that now I need to get the next one, which isn’t free; if I have two, it’s that the cover art makes the book look a lot more juvenile than it reads, making it harder to get in person.

Maybe I’ll order it online.

Keep reading, keep writing.

Peace.

Posted by: GravatarWon'tDeleteMyAccount | March 7, 2009

Richard Kadrey — Butcher Bird / Blind Shrike



Okay, so I downloaded this one for free from Night Shade Books, a small but impressive publisher of interesting novels and things. But as I was reading it occurred to me that it sounded familiar: I had read some of this before! Butcher Bird, by Night Shade Books, is Blind Shrike, an e-book released under a creative commons attribution-noncommerical-noderivs license in 2005, which I have sitting on my hard drive. It had a home online at The Infinite Matrix with some of Kadrey’s other works, but, while most of the rest are still there, this one’s gone.

The new version is prettier: Butcher Bird has nice cover art (by Dan dos Santos
// with jacket design by Claudia Noble) and miraculous things like proper leading and kerning, page numbers, a layout — proper design (which we can attribute to Jeremy Lassen). This is good. I’ve e-mailed the publisher to see in which domain the rights lie, as the prettier one just has one of those little c’s in a circle and says nothing about creative commons.

Wherever the rights now lie, you should download and read this one if you like inventive fantasy fiction that doesn’t just sit in someone else’s dream world. I’ve always been a little turned off by authors who write substantial quantities of fiction in the run-of-the-mill, elves and dwarves, dragons and wizards fantasy world. I suppose there’s always been a place for it, and there probably always will be, but if you, too, are turned off by that, it’s not something you need to worry about with Butcher Bird. If you like stories about angels and demons, old gods and other worlds, about life and death and the awkward places in between, this is a good read for you.

I actually first read one of Richard Kadrey’s stories in a free online zine of science fiction, called Flurb. Kadrey has a great short story in Flurb #7 called Trembling Blue Stars, and I suggest you check it out too🙂

I’ll keep you posted on whether or not the new version is cc-licensed, and on whether or not I can post up a link to the cc-licensed version if not (or, hell, a link to the new one — it is being offered as a free download). And you can always head over to Night Shade Books and download it for yourself. It’s worth it, I promise.

Cheers,

Thom.

Posted by: GravatarWon'tDeleteMyAccount | February 24, 2009

Jim Munroe and Salgood Sam: Therefore Repent

So I know it’s been a while.

I was trying to read Robert Boyczuk’s Horror Story and Other Horror Stories, and trust me, I still am — but each story is so finely written, and so thought provoking, that I wind up putting the book down after each story. Consequently, though I’ve picked it up at least half a dozen times, I’ve also put it down and done something else for a while just as many times. It’s a bedside book for the disturbed, and I’m still reading it, so the post exclusively about it will have to wait.

But, ladies and gentlemen, we are in luck, because today Jim Munroe (writer of Everyone In Silico and Angry Young Spaceman) and Salgood Sam (a notoriously talented illustrator who I really need to do more research about) have released their critically acclaimed graphic novel Therefore Repent under a creative commons license, and it’s available for download right here, right now.

I remember when I first read this, I thought it was a brilliant read, and I loved the artwork. I loved it enough to risk giving it to a friend of mine with pretty high standards about these things. Now I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the “sequel” (there will be six, to be eventually grouped together into a single work in 2010) so I can send them to him as a series of awfully late Christmas gifts.

Therefore Repent tries to answer the question “what if the religious right were actually right?” — meaning what if the rapture actually took place, and hundreds of thousands of people drifted into the skies, never to be heard from again? What would become of the rest of us? It’s an interesting question and the answers provided don’t disappoint. I certainly recommend this one. In paper copy if you can at all afford it. Jim Munroe may prefer you buy it from him through his site, No Media Kings, so check that out first if you’re going to buy it.

The first of the new series will come out in May (so they will make awfully late Christmas gifts, I know. If by some chance you read this — yes you, the engineer in BC — I haven’t forgotten, I’m just slow), will be titled Sword of my Mouth, and they won’t actually be sequels, per se. Rather they take place in the same “post-rapture” world as the first. The artwork will be done by another artist as well, and although I would have certainly welcomed more of Salgood Sam’s work, the new artist, Shannon Gerard, looks to be mighty talented as well.

So I’ll keep reading Horror Story, but in the meantime I’m going to recommend this.

Peace and love to all.

Keep reading, keep writing.

Thom. x.

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And in case you missed the embedded links:

Therefore Repent is available in download from here, and in print from here, and info on Sword of my Mouth is available from here. And again, Jim Munroe may prefer you buy it from him through his site, No Media Kings, so check that out first if you’re going to buy it. And do buy it. It’s worth it, it really is. Peace. xx.

Posted by: GravatarWon'tDeleteMyAccount | January 29, 2009

Cheeseburger Brown: The Bikes of New York



Note: This was supposed to go up last week, but somehow it never made it up while I was away. Sorry about that.😛

Over the Christmas holidays I have to admit, I’ve been slacking off. I read Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy instead of reading something cc-licensed, like I should have been. Now, of course, I’m kicking myself for not having read this earlier. I’m also falling asleep in a weird retro boarding gate (D6-K) at Schiphol after a sleepless crowded and noisy flight from Toronto to Amsterdam. I’m trying to get to the UK.

But in all seriousness, it is rare to find a piece of science fiction writing this impressive.

It’s not long. Coming in at under 25,000 words, it wouldn’t even qualify as a NaNoWriMo novel — but I’d wager a great deal of money (if, that is, I had any) that he says more in these 25,000 words than I could say in a book equal in length to Shogun, or The Count of Monte Cristo. Maybe The Stand. In terms of quality I would honestly put this up with Ender’s Game. Just shorter. And not about a boy fighting a war. Yeah.

Taking place in a world where a global economic collapse has left America struggling to generate enough power to sustain itself, city-dwellers have turned to piezoelectric pavements and fleets of bicycles turning great flywheels beneath the streets. The struggle to survive for the poor in such a world is tough, and the reader experiences it firsthand through the struggles of the protagonist.

Things you will find in this book that you won’t find many places else:

  • The independent country of Quebec.
  • A well-written brief introspective speculation on the future of energy use in our society.
  • A great deal of second-person writing not in the form of a choose-your-own-adventure.
  • People singing La Marseilleuse while riding stationary bikes.
  • Other things I’m too jet-lagged to remeber.


With Mr. Brown’s (Mr. Cheeseburger’s?) permission, I’ve made a bare bones .pdf of the book, which I’ll send to you if you e-mail me at blackhatcadillac at gmail dot com. You can also find it in html form at his website here. As I may have mentioned in an earlier post, he’s planning on making the switch to Creative Commons licenses for his work soon enough, but until then, make sure you ask him nicely when you do strange things like posting his stuff up on your blog. Just to be nice.🙂

And also, READ THIS BOOK. It’s short; it’s sweet; it’s amazingly well written, and it’s the most original thing I’ll probably read all year. Yeah. It’s January. Way to ruin the rest of the year for me, Cheeseburger. ^__^

Oh, and keep reading, and keep writing.

Thom.

xo.

p.s. — I promise to start posting more often again. Really.

Posted by: GravatarWon'tDeleteMyAccount | December 19, 2008

Cheeseburger Brown: The Christmas Robots



So John Sundman, author of Acts of the Apostles (blogged about here) has recently released an HTML version of his next work, The Pains, a collaborative work with Cheeseburger Brown, but I’m waiting until the pdf version comes out, just because I’m not a big fan of reading out of my browser. But in the meantime, I was scouting out Brown’s website and stumbled across his Christmas story for this year, a brief novella in twelve chapters called The Christmas Robots.

It doesn’t take too long to read, now that it’s fully posted to the net. It was serialized, one chapter a day (though not the twelve days of Christmas, otherwise we wouldn’t have it yet. Obviously.). It’s not complicated, but it is innovative. It’s imaginative, and fun, and a great introduction to Cheeseburger Brown’s many, many other stories on there.

Now strictly speaking, they aren’t released under a creative commons license. But given that you can read the stories for free on his website, I contacted him to ask his opinion on the whole licensing issue was for this story. Long story short, he’s been meaning to cc-license them for two years now, and will try to get to it in the spring. In the meantime, feel free to disseminate the links to the stories, and if you repost them, do it with attribution, which I think is only decent. But then, if everyone were decent, we wouldn’t need laws at all, would we?

For my next post I’ll be reading his book The Bikes of New York, which he provides online at his website in HTML form, and he has given me the green light to disseminate a pdf of the same, which I’ll link to next post. Hopefully I’ll get that up before Christmas, but if not, a Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it, and a Merry Day Off to everyone who just doesn’t have to go to work. And a I’m Very Sorry To Hear That to anyone who has to work on that day, too.

Keep reading, keep writing.

x.

p.s. — He drew the ‘cover’ image above too, which, like everything else he’s made, is copyrighted to the author (though he gives you permission to use them non-commerically if you ask). Visit his website at CheeseburgerBrown.com.

Posted by: GravatarWon'tDeleteMyAccount | December 12, 2008

Peter Watts: Maelstrom and βehemoth



Today’s post is about two books, both by Peter Watts, author of the previously mentioned Starfish, the first book in what became the Rifter Trilogy. I have to say that I am so impressed by the size of this man’s brain that I’m nearly beyond words. I’m not a scientist (indeed far from it, I’m a medieval linguist) but given his detailed explanations of the science behind each of the major ideas in these books, I’m inclined to believe it when he says that a lot of what goes on in the science of these books is possible, even plausible.

I started reading βehemoth first, because I’m a dunce. I got about halfway through (a remarkable feat in itself, I suppose, which suggests to me that each of these books could stand alone) before kicking myself for reading the books out of order. The website at rifters.com gives you a lovely little timeline of his books, and I apparently missed that.

So without giving any of the plot away, partially because I would feel a little ridiculous trying to Coles-Notes a book with so many ideas in it, here are some of the incredibly cool concepts found in these two books:

– A sub-cellular organism, long dormant at the bottom of the ocean, that goes by the name of βehemoth, which, because of its unique attributes, has the ability to out-compete every other living thing on earth for the nutrients it needs. This, of course, is bad.

– Hard-vacuum-filled airships. Blimps are always cool.

– A very complicated and evolving computer program that begins its life as a computer porn spam bot, and has a love-hate relationship with a certain rifter.

– A cocktail of alterations to brain chemistry that makes you serve The Greater Good, and another one to make you feel better after you’ve done all the horrible things that requires.

– Sudbury as a cool place to live. And a place called Toromilton.

There’s plenty more, but you’ll get bored if I keep going.

So here’s a better idea: read them yourself. If you like hard sci-fi, or hell, even if you don’t, read these books. Start with Starfish and then you’ll have to read the other two. You won’t have the option of not reading them. That’s how good they are. Do it. Now. >__<

I also recommend paying the author and feeding the cat! ^___^

They’re released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license.

Keep reading, Keeep writing.

x.

Posted by: GravatarWon'tDeleteMyAccount | December 4, 2008

Jim Munroe: Everyone in Silico

Welcome, one and.. um. Well maybe two. All would probably be stretching it.

You may have noticed some changes around here. Now that NaNoWriMo is over, and I’m back to reading, it occurs to me that I don’t like reviewing books. I like reading them, sure. I like telling people about them. I love trying to convince people to read more books licensed under Creative Commons licenses. But critiquing? Not so much. So because I do this for pleasure, I’ve changed the blog.

This is the new Thomas Eaves: A Creative Commons Reader’s Blog. I hope you enjoy it. I’m not going to update with any specific regularity, but whenever I read a new book I’ll put it on here. Maybe you’ll see something you like.🙂

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So I took a month off reading fiction while I wrote a novel of my own. It was my first NaNo, and it probably won’t be my last. Now some of my good friends are playing the game called “figure out what’s wrong with this book” while I take a week off and apply to PhD programs. Joy!

But in my time out this week, I’ve been reading Jim Munroe’s novel “Everyone in Silico.” Loved it. It takes place in a cusp-singularity society run by corporations, and features some very likable characters, all of whose lives intertwine in very interesting ways. One of the things I remembered, while reading it, was the old P. T. Barnum maxim: “Make ’em laugh; make ’em cry; make ’em wait.” Well, I laughed, and although I didn’t cry, I did find myself reading on, because Munroe refuses to just hand you the answers. When writing my novel, I found that one of the hardest things to do was not just tell the reader everything at the first opportunity. Munroe gives you little hints, but just enough to keep you reading until the very end. I have a dead-tree copy of another one of his books, “Angry Young Spaceman,” sitting on my shelf back home, and now I have the urge to go pick it up. Being an eight hour drive, I guess that’ll have to wait for Christmas.

Jim Munroe has a website, No Media Kings, which is great for anyone interested in learning about alternative publishing methods. He’s working on the second of his “post-rapture” graphic novels, the first of which, a collaborative effort with Salgood Sam called “Therefore Repent!” is another book I highly recommend.

“Everyone in Silico” is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License , and is available for download at No Media Kings. If you like it, tell him. I did. Jim at NoMediaKings dot Org. Or better, buy a copy while you’re there! He’ll ship it to you himself🙂

Peace out everyone. Keep reading, keep writing.
x

Posted by: GravatarWon'tDeleteMyAccount | November 1, 2008

NaNoWriMo

Okay, so it’s National Novel Writing Month, so for the next four weeks, things are going to be sporadic at best here. But feel free to e-mail me if you’re desperate for a creative commons licensed book review, and I’ll get one up here.🙂 In the meantime, I’m reading Jim Munroe’s “Everyone in Silico,” and loving it so far. Back with a review of it when I’m done.

Cheers!

Posted by: GravatarWon'tDeleteMyAccount | October 19, 2008

David R. Perry: Dr. Lewis B. Turndevelt’s Big Book of Forewords



Welcome back! As some of you may know, last weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada, and seeing as that’s where I am, and seeing as how the three or four of you who read this blog are my close friends and unlikely to hold it against me, I took the week off.

But now that I’m back, I’ve got a review of an unconventional work of fiction, or literature, or… well it’s a work of forewords, really. Dr. Lewis B. Turndevelt’s Big Book of Forewords, to be precise. David R. Perry, writing in the guise of one Dr. Turndevelt, has decided to be groundbreaking in his approach to subject matter: he has written an entire book devoted to forewords.

Well. Forewords and Book excerpts. And a Preface. And a letter in response to the Preface. And a Preamble, an About the Author, an Interjection by the editor, and an Intermission. But mostly about half-ish devoted to forewords.

It would normally strike me as a terrible idea to write an entire book of forewords to non-existent books, given that even the most gifted of foreword writers wouldn’t bother. But, seeing as how Perry has decided not to bother either, I must assume that he thought the same. Dr. Lewis B. Turndevelt’s Big Book of Forewords isn’t so much a book of forewords as it is the written record of Dr. Turndevelt’s birth, adolescence, authorial “career” if one could call it such, and eventual slide into prescription drug abuse and nonsensical babbling. But there are some forewords in there too.

There’s a wonderful tone to the book, the character of Turndevelt being a somewhat professorial buffoon, but I warn anyone who feels like reading this book to take it in small doses. This is not a book to be read over the course of a weekend. Otherwise you may start thinking in a tone of voice that’s very reminiscent of a certain foreword writer. On the plus side, it appears that Perry/Turndevelt keeps a blog, and if you would like more measured doses you can check it out at www.davidrperry.com.

The only real downside I can see to this book is its ending, by which I mean the sudden fade out at the end of an excerpt from a fictional book about freezer food. It wanted a little something to tie it all up. In my humble opinion, this big book of forewords could have benefited, I think, from an afterword. But hey, half the fun is in the journey anyway.

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Dr. Lewis B. Turndevelt’s Big Book of Forewords is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license. David R. Perry keeps a blog at www.davidrperry.com. You can find his book at this link.

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