the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘computers

Pirate Cinema, by Cory Doctorow

published October, 2012

where I got it: borrowed ARC from a friend

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Cory Doctorow is mean. he likes to hit his readers where it hurts, to show us where our world is going if we’re not careful. If China Mieville’s Railsea is a YA retelling of Moby Dick (complete with similar literary mannerisms), then Pirate Cinema is a YA introduction to political manifestos such as Atlas Shrugged (complete with speeches at the end).  This isn’t the first time I’ve compared Doctorow’s fiction to that of Ayn Rand, and if you know my history with Rand’s fiction, you know I mean that comparison as the highest compliment.

The story follows Trent McCauley, a British teen who does all the normal teen things, like hating school, being awkward around girls, and downloading tons and tons of video clips of his favorite actor, and mashing them up into new and funny videos, a la Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, and then uploading his vids for his fans and friends to watch.

Thanks to a new draconian law regarding copyright infringement, Trent’s family loses their internet access for one year due to his constant downloading of films and clips. His little sister can’t do her homework at home anymore and her grades plummet. His mother can’t get her prescriptions refilled online. His father loses his phone-bank job.  Trent’s family is ostracized by their being kicked off internet access. Full of shame, Trent runs away to London.

This may sound like it’s a story for an about people who remix videos and remix music, and if you’re not one of those folks it’s easy to think this politically charged story doesn’t apply to you. Ever recaptioned a photo or submitted something to Lolcats? Ever shared a deviantart image on Facebook simply because you liked it?  ever taken a photo you found online and photoshopped it into something you liked better, if only to show off your photoshop skills? If you’ve ever done any of those things, you’re in the same boat as Trent – you’ve shared someone else’s intellectual property,  changed it, made it into something new, and claimed that new thing as your own unique creation. And you’ve broken the law.  We’re all just as guilty as Trent, we just haven’t been caught yet.

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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlien

published in 1966

where I got it: own a very well loved copy

why I read it: tanstaafl

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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is my absolute favorite Heinlein. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it. So this review will surely jump the shark into fangirl gushing eventually. Or at least into in-joke territory.  The quick version of this review is “go read this book”.

In this near future story, the Moon has become a penal colony – Earth’s dumping ground for it’s undesirebles. Referred to as Luna by it’s “guests”, it’s residents are known as Loonies. It’s been about a hundred years since prisoners were first sent up, and although all children born on Luna are born free, few of them can ever hope to return to Earth due to irreversible physiological changes that occur in humans that spend too much time in low gravity.  Luna is managed by the prison Authority, who have placed their Warden in charge of all Loonies. With a population of over three million, and most of them “free”, the population of Luna is still required to do business through Authority: sell their hydroponic crops, buy water and ice, buy air to breathe. Is only game in town.

As Manuel Garcia’s grandfather liked to say “Luna was only open prison in history. No bars, no guards, no rules – and no need for them”. The moon isn’t any place for bravado or machismo. You learn how to use your p-suit and live civilly with others or you have an accident.

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Published August 2011

Where I got it: Library

Why I read it: Heard it was nerd heaven!

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In the future, everything is online, in the OASIS. What exactly is the OASIS? Think Second Life meets World of Warcraft meets Star Wars Force Unleashed meets The Sims, meets any other online sim or MMORPG you can possibly think of. OASIS isn’t just a game, and it isn’t just a sim. It’s an online space where everything happens: schooling, gaming, business transactions, and of course all the fun stuff that gaming is all about: PvP, leveling up, space travel, planet creation, armor, character design, and awesome weaponry. In OASIS, your avatar can fly the Serenity, land on Gallifrey, and listen to Klingon Opera all afternoon, or do any one of a billion other activities.

In the year 2044, humanity is happy to live their lives online, as the Earth is pretty much a mined-out shithole anyways.  Wade Watts lives online just like everyone else. He’s orphaned, desperately trying to finish high school, and hasn’t a penny to his name. But he has got a free internet connection thanks to his online OASIS based high school.

James Halliday, the creator of OASIS left nothing to chance.  He may have had the social skills of an unplugged toaster oven, but he was a brilliant programmer, and designed his online world to be free, accessible, and open source. An online playground where everyone was welcome and everything was possible. He wanted to make sure people like Wade had hope that life could be better than living with an abusive Aunt in the world’s worst trailer park.

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About the size of the 4th Harry Potter book, but w/about 300 more pages.

Last weekend I got Neal Stephenson’s Reamde out of the library.  It’s been a busy week, so I’m only maybe 300 pages into this 1000+ page monster, but so far? I am LOVING it.   A book this long and involved deserves more than just a “review” post.

The gist of the plot so far is Richard owns a software company that runs the biggest MMORPG to hit the interwebs since WoW. His neice, Zula, does some work for his company as well. When Zula’s boyfriend does something incredibly stupid,  Zula and stupid (ex)boyfriend find themselves “guests” of the Russian mafia, and “invited” to China. And when I say guest I mean hostage and when I say invited I really mean abducted.  You see, a virus has broken out in Richard’s MMO, T’Rain.  This is a bad thing because it has compromised some sensitive info belonging to the Russians. They wanna find the hacker who started the virus and kill him.  Richard wants to find the hacker and hire him.

All that in only the first 150 pages.  I feel like I’m reading the incredible end bit of Cryptonomicon (if you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about) with the breakneck pace of Zodiac.

Because this is a Stephenson, it is jam packed with detail.  And not those boring details about what color someone’s hair or clothing is, but the good kind of details, like how Richard and his buddies built the back story of T’Rain, of how his programmers are geologists who literally built the world up from planetary accretion disks, plate technonics and where volcanoes and gold and ore deposits would naturally occur on an Earth sized planets.  How they hired fantasy writers (one of Tolkien-esque quality and the other of well, not) to create their own mythologies and histories  of elves and dwarves and such.

And that’s just the beginning of the glorious infodumps.

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The Restoration Game, by Ken MacLeod

Published Sept 2011

Where I got it:  rec’d review copy from the friendly folks at PYR

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This is one of those books that spoils the ending right away.  But as new blogger friend Alison said,when you know the ending, the author has to work that much harder to surprise you along the way.  And there were some great surprises here.

Gamer geek girl Lucy was born in Krassnia, raised in America, and now resides in the UK. The homeland of her mother and grandmother, a disputed area of southern Russia, is Krassnia part of Russia? part of Georgia?  Doesn’t really matter, since Krassnia and it’s sacred mountain aren’t on any map, and the Krassnians would prefer to keep it that way.  But gamer geek Lucy is too busy worrying about her company’s newest MMORPG release, Dark Brittania, to care about Georgian / Russian border towns.

That is, until she gets a call from her mother, who practically begs her to make a video game about Krassnia, based on The Krassniad, a collection of Krassnian folklore.  A few tweaks to Dark Brittania, some changes to the script, a new voice-over, and poof, the Krassnian version is complete and ready to go. Doesn’t matter that it’s a complete rip-off of Dark Brittania, as only a few hundred people in Krassnia are going to have access to it.

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Eastern Standard Tribe, by Cory Doctorow

Published in 2004

where I got it: library

why I read it: I like all things Doctorow

 

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Meet Art.  he’s smart, he’s loyal, he’s naive, and he’s sitting on the roof of a mental institution thinking really hard about suicide.

Let’s back up a bit, and find out how he got there, shall we?  In this near future, the time zone in which you live defines your friends and your employers. Business never stops, and who wants to be doing conference calls at 5am because that’s when your employer is up? it’s so much easier to just work with the hundreds of millions of people who already populate your time zone and whose circadians already match yours.

An Industrial saboteur of sorts, Art spends his days offering bad advice to Western Europe, while at night developing software to be used for the benefit of his home tribe, the Eastern Standard Tribe.  To Art, his Tribe is more than just employer. To him, they are motherland and family. If only everyone was so loyal.
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Infoquake, by David Louis Edelman

Published in 2006

where I got it: Library

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“trust me”. . . “what could possibly go wrong?”  I love it when a story starts out with phrases like that. Means I’m in for a fun ride, because having characters utter phrases like that is akin to leaving a gun on the table.  You know everything that could possibly go wrong will, in ways you could never imagine.

On this future Earth, “bio-logics”, biological software, similar to nanobots, runs through your blood, through your brain, through your guts,  allowing humanity to work smarter. Governments are organizations you sign up for, not live under.   Thanks to  bio-logics programming and the Multi Network, business transactions and personal meetings are done virtually.  This isn’t quite a Neuromancer future, but it’s a stop on the way. Most certainly not a world I ever want to wake up in, but it sure is a blast to read about!

The bio-logics industry is massive.  A million little fiefcorps write programming all day long, hoping to make it big, make it to number one on Primo’s (sort of a cross between a stock exchange, Consumer Reports, and an uncorruptable search engine). Natch, the charming and brilliant master of the Natch Personal Programming Fiefcorp has a plan to make it to number one.  He could become very rich very fast, or he could crash the entire system.  If only he trusted his employees enough to tell them what the hell he’s up to.

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With a Little Help, by Cory Doctorow

published in 2011

where I got it: received review copy from the author

why I read it: I is a Doctorow Fangirl.

Cory Doctorow is my favorite kind of futurenaut, one who is only a few years ahead of his time. His ideas are easily possible with existing technology, or nearly so.  And that is equally wonderful and terrifying.

If you’ve been following Doctorow on Boingboing, twitter, or his posts on Publishers Weekly, you know he’s been experimenting with Self Publishing.  Selfpub/epub/newpub is looking more and more to be the way of the future, and what better way to figure out how it all works than to dive in, head first? Alright, maybe not head first, as Doctorow has been publishing his writings under creative commons with everything downloadable on his website for years now.

What better way to experiment with self publishing, twitter marketing, print on demand, skipping the bookstore all together than by doing a short story volume with stories that involve the future of bookstores and publishing, arguements over systems transparencies, spam, 3D printing, gold farming, rogue AIs, and how google really works and then self publish it?   I told you my word for 2011 was going to be meta. Reading With a Little Help was a blast, as was reading about the situations the stories had originally been written for and how this lovely little volume came to exist in the first place.

at first blush, this looks like a book for nerds. It is, and it isn’t.  There’s plenty of old school tech jokes and plenty of new abbreviations that I couldn’t figure out.  Instead of cyberpunk-esque technobabble or Neal Stephenson infodumps, Doctorow keeps everything easy to understand, inviting even. I think if my Mom read this she’d feel confident enough to hop on Twitter or Facebook tomorrow. I should never let my Mom read this.

Some of these stories made me chuckle. Many of them caused my jaw to drop and my eyes to get all big and a thin whisper of “Holy Fuck” to escape my mouth. All of them made me think. And that, I believe, is the point. Read the rest of this entry »

I wrote this review quite a while ago, but the book came out quite a while ago as well. So everything might be a little dated.

What images would we choose to define our lives? Or a moment in our life? A couple embracing? A bird flying? The face of a parent, or of a child?  An empty plastic bag floating on the wind, just grazing the ground?

As the only Gibson book that I’ve come across to take place unmistakably now, Gibson works his usual ubersleek cyberpunk magic, however in a somewhat tempered manner. Missing is the plethora of Often dripping with amusing similes, this is a sleek and polished piece of intellectual science fiction.

Has Gibson (gulp), gone. . . . normal?? Read the rest of this entry »

I’ll give Sawyer one thing, he knows how to grab you with some good opening chapters. He excels at moving the plot along and keeping readers interested. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have zipped through the first 200 pages of http://www.Wake in one day!

Caitlin, aged 15 is a blind math genius. She obsessively reads about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan while surfing the internet in braille and using voice recognition software to post on her livejournal. Other than that, Caitlin is your pretty average high schooler. She wants to go to college, is desperate for her father’s approval, thinks boys might be interesting, and can’t live without the internet.

When she received a communication from a Japanese doctor that technology might exist to help restore her vision, they fly to Tokyo for the operation. Dr Kuroda installs an implant behind Caitlin’s eyeball, which sends signals to a computer, which processes the signals into some thing recognizable, and the signals get sent back to the implant in the hope that Caitlin’s brain will be able to read them correctly. After a few hits and misses, they achieve success. Along with some else, something unexpected. Read the rest of this entry »


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.