Saturday, April 19, 2008

I just finished Tim Powers latest novel, Three Days to Never.

Powers broke out of the science fiction ghetto with his last book, Declare, which combined straight forward thriller elements with his trademark secret societies and hidden mystical events tied into real people and events, in this case to do with the cold war against the Soviets.

In Three Days to Never, there are still secret societies that act like spies, and ties to real people and events, this time built around Einstein's life, but it doesn't have the grand arc that Declare had and feels more similar to the books that preceded it - the semi-series of Last Call, Expiration Date and Earthquake Weather.

I first read Tim Powers work back in 1988, starting with On Stranger Tides. I discovered him about the same time I discovered James Blaylock, who it turned out is a friend of Powers and you can see the similarities in their styles back then. Both authors are highly recommended, particularly their early works, even though Blaylock has produced many fewer books, and had less success, than Powers in the last few years.

I don't post many links here, but this is particularly interesting to anyone who was into computer games back when Infocom dominated the adventure game market, before graphics became king.

It goes into some detail of a sequel to Infocom's most famous game, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, that never appeared even though the company struggled with it for years. More than just a discussion of the history, the article has actual emails and documents from the game development and an early build of the start of the game itself.

Unlike most, the comments are also very informative as a number of Infocom luminaries and other participants actually appear and comment on the article.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Last night, we saw Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea and Jack DeJohnette as part of the SF Jazz spring season.

As you might expect from a show that combined an a cappella vocalist, a pianist and a drummer, it was a little different from most jazz shows. There was more audience participation than in any jazz show I've seen before - Bobby did some call and repeat things with the audience and even went out into the audience at one point to incorporate some audience members vocalizations into the show.

It was a very enjoyable show and all three artists mixed things up very well. Chick played some percussion instruments at times, Jack played a little keyboard and some kind of synth, Bobby sat down and played a little piano beside Chick at one point and all three of them shared some scatting on a few tunes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Yesterday I finished Old Man's War by John Scalzi, his first novel.

Old Man's War is a deliberate throwback that draws obvious comparisons to books like Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Haldeman's Forever War. The main difference is that the soldiers in those books are externally enhanced (power armor, weapons) while the ones in Old Man's War are internally enhanced (modified clone bodies with enhancements).

It's a good back, well written with appealing characters, but thinking back to the other two novels I mentioned, I'm not sure what it adds to this genre. It's variations on the themes are slight and it's point of view seems not dissimilar. But based on this book, I will probably read others from Scalzi.