Saturday, June 09, 2007

There won't be any posts here this week. I'm off to volunteer at the California Bluegrass Association's Music Camp and to attend their Father's Day Bluegrass Festival afterwards.
This morning I finished Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett. This is one of the Discworld series of books.

Back in the late 70's/early 80's, humorous fantasy novels started to get popular. Some of the main authors in this sub-genre were Robert Lynn Asprin with the MythAdventures series and Terry Pratchett with the Discworld series. Since I was reading a lot of fantasy back then, I read a lot of these books as well. I'm not sure if it was my general dis-enchantment with fantasy or actual quality issues but it seemed that the quality of these series started to fall off rapidly as new titles came out. I quit reading them both around the fifth or sixth books in the series.

I was surprised a few years ago to realize that Pratchett was still around and had continued the series pretty much without pause. He had grown into one of the best selling fantasy authors. Even more surprising was that somewhere in the time between when I stopped reading them and when I started again, the quality had gone way up. I've been reading the new ones and going back and reading some of the old ones when I run into them at the library and I think the newer ones are even better than the first ones in the series. One of the reasons for this is that Pratchett uses multiple main characters and locations so he can switch things up when he has run out of ideas for one particular group.

If you're already a fan of this series, Carpe Jugulum is a little more serious than most and is quite good. TIt is centered around Lancre and the 3 witches - Agnes, Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax.

If you're interested in starting the series, I recommend reading the first few to get your feet wet and then picking them up as you find them. They are mostly independent stories, not heavily dependent on what happened in the previous books.

Amazon Link: Carpe Jugulum

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I just finished Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From The Beaten Track, a collection of letters written by Noble prize winner Richard Feynman and edited by his daughter, Michelle Feynman.

Feynman is one of the greatest, and one of the best known, scientists of the 20th century. I've been interested in him for many years, starting when I read his collection of anecdotes Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman and the follow-on, What Do You Care What Other People Think? If you are interested in reading his letters, I recommend reading the above two collections or one of his biographies first. The letter collection doesn't stand well on its own but it does provide some additional insight into his views.

Amazon Link: Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From The Beaten Track: The Letters Of Richard P. Feynman

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I just finished Burning Tower by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, the sequel to The Burning City.

Larry Niven was one of my favourite authors growing up and even though the quality of his work has dropped somewhat, I still try to read everything he puts out. This book was almost an exception because I did not like the previous book, The Burning City, very much. I found it a difficult book to get into and not clearly written at all.

Burning Tower is a much better book. It's clearly written, has some nice characters and a engaging plot, even if it is a little derivative.

Both books are set in a mythical pre-history California in a world Niven also wrote about in The Magic Goes Away. The basic premise of that world is that magic depends on a non-renewable resource. Burning City and Burning Tower take place in a time when that resource has started to run out and the characters have to deal with a world where magic is present but in variable amounts and can be very un-reliable.

Amazon Link: Burning Tower