Saturday, May 17, 2008

Yesterday I finished Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer.

Sawyer is probably the most prominent current Canadian SF author and he likes to use Canadian locations in his books to add colour. He also has a very laid back, casual style that is quite different from most other authors in the field.

Usually I like his approach, and I've liked most of his books a lot, but it doesn't work as well in his latest novel. The little touches of local colour seem more of a distraction from the main story. Also, the main story itself is less engaging than most of his novels. The main characters undergoes a rejuvenation procedure along with his wife, but it succeeds for him and fails for her. There is also a background story of first contact with an alien species going on at the same time, but the two plots don't integrate well and the novel seems to meander along before wrapping up where most novels would begin.

It's an interesting effort to address the effects of aging, and how a person would react to returning to their youth, but ultimately failed to move me.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I just finished The Born Queen by Greg Keyes, the last book in his latest fantasy series called The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone.

I wrote about the last two books in the series here, and was glad that this book wrapped up the series, instead of diluting their impact by adding more and more installments like the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series, or the George R.R. Martin Game of Thrones series.

Keyes did an excellent job of creating a very fresh dark fantasy series, with interesting and believable characters and I'll definitely check out whatever his next book is.
Before I left for Yosemite, I finished The Difference Engine by Doron Swade, a curator at the Science Museum in London and head of a team that built a version of the Difference Engine #2 in the 90's.

There are two parts of the book - the main section of the book details Babbage's quest to build the Difference Engine and design of the Analytical Engine. The second, smaller section, is about the quest to build a version of the Engine in time for Babbage's bicentennial. Both parts are quite interesting. I had read about Babbage and his engines before but learned a few new things from this book. For example, I didn't know that a Swedish printer named Georg Scheutz was inspired by Babbage's design and succeeded where Babbage failed and built a version of a difference engine of his own design within Babbage's lifetime. Sadly, it was a commercial failure and didn't lead to anything more than Babbage's work.