Archiv vom Januar 6th, 2009

Frankly, there is nothing borrowed I could write about, but I do have a new and an old book; or at least one I have just finished, and one I have started a few days ago. The former is Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. I have been a bit disappointed with Making Money, but the little blue men made up for that: this is Pratchett at his best. It is not quite as harshly criticising society as the later adult Discworld books are -- but I would not expect that from a children's book. The wee free men are simply loveable characters with their naïve, rash ways, and their Scottish dialect is great.
Apart from that, the book is just like Pratchett. It is a quick and funny read; and if I just said not as harshly criticizing, I do not mean there is no criticism. It is, however, not the main issue, and it is put forth in a somewhat gentler way.

The new book is by Neal Stephenson, one of my favourite authors. I believe I could rather do without Pratchett than without Stephenson: he does not write as many books, but they are much more diverse. Cryptonomicon, my first, is set both in World War II and in the near future (by now, that should probably read the present). It is -- more or less -- about cryptography. Its successor, The Baroque Cycle, shows how Science and modern finance came into being during the Age of Reason. Both books show Stephenson's calm writing, which I am very fond of: he mostly dispenses with classic rising action/falling action and tells a story instead. Often, he includes details that only appeals to geeks: take the dependence of mathematical skills on sexual fulfillment (with equations and diagrams!); or the small day-to-day tasks that were in the seventeenth century quite different than in the twenty-first.

Stephenson's latest book, Anathem, is not set on the Earth at all, but in a strange parallel world: scientist are living like monks and nuns (fraas and suurs) in convents (maths), their life ordered by a huge mechanical clock. Some of them interact with the sæcular world but once a decade, century or even millennium.

This story is being told in a very appropriate language that makes the monastic setting real. I have been enthused from the first page, but I have to admit that Anathem is hard to read because of that language (including quite a few terms invented by Stephenson). However, it promises to be worth it.

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