Saturday, February 16, 2008

Last night I finished Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. Gibson is best known for his cyberpunk trilogy, Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive but in recent years he has moved away from science fiction. Pattern Recognition is set in a the modern world, but at the same time feels fantastical.

The plot is a little difficult to describe but the main character is a consultant and "cool hunter" who gets involved in investigating some mysterious footage that is posted to the web. After his early novels, I felt that Gibson lost his way somewhat while trying to recapture some of cutting edge feeling of his early books and then in trying to get away from the cyberpunk genre he had created. In his newer books, he is finally successful at creating something separate and also interesting.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I just finished Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner, an interesting, but depressing, history of the CIA.

Before reading this book, I expected to read about a lot of illegal, and probably immoral, things the CIA had done. What I didn't expect was the incompetence that existed right from the start of the CIA. Right from the start, the CIA ignored it's mandate to deliver quality intelligence for the president to focus on covert operations of little strategic value. On top of that, president after president, both Democrat and Republican, has abused the CIA in order to further their own political ends.

I'd be curious to see how the CIA's string of failures and lapses compares with other intelligence agencies, like the UK's MI6 or the Soviet KGB, to see if some of these problems are endemic to the intelligence community or if they are uniquely American.