Friday, June 20, 2008

I just finished The Pixar Touch by David A. Price, a book about the hardware/software/movie company.

It's quite a good book, well written, with a good amount of background and inside knowledge of the company. Before reading it, I had known that Pixar had failed as a hardware company, had some success as a software company and hit the big time with the first complete computer graphic animated movies but I didn't know that the animated movies were the goal the whole way; the hardware and software were just ways to make money off their computer graphics expertise until they could get someone to give them the chance to make animated features, and until the technology was ready.

The book also gives a lot of details about the ties between Pixar and Disney - a partnership that always made sense since a number of key players were ex-Disney employees and/or were inspired by the way Disney did animation.

Also, like other books like Insanely Great (about the creation of the Apple MacIntosh) or iWoz that feature him, this book makes it clear that working with or for Steve Jobs is basically a nightmare. He comes across as petulant, childish, a horrible manager and someone who is excellent at taking advantage of creative talent around him. From this book, he clearly didn't have a lot to do with Pixar's success other than funding them, even though he gets a lot of credit in the media.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I just finished The Hidden Family by Charles Stross, the 2nd book in his Merchant Princes series.

I liked this one better than the first book in the series, The Family Trade. If you've read that one, but found it only marginally interesting, try this one. If, on the other hand, you're interested in this one, read the other one first. They are short books and they are really one continuing story.

The first book felt like a lot of setup with little payoff, which is probably why I liked this one better. There is still some setup, as Stross complicates the story, but the book is focused on resolving some of the mysteries raised in the first book and advancing the characters.

The first book mixes a modern day world and a medieval one, and this book introduces some steampunk elements as well. I've liked other books by Stross (see here and here), but I had mixed feelings about this series until now. Based on this latest book, I will keep reading.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Yesterday I finished The Armies of Memory by John Barnes.

It turns out this is part of a series, but I don't think I've read any of the other books in the series but I might look for them now.

The setting for this book is very complicated, too complicated to summarize here, but it has some interesting new twists on standard science fiction settings. The book also has some well drawn characters and a plot that is deeper and more interesting than most.

For me, John Barnes is a difficult writer to judge. I really like some of his books, like this one, and really dislike some of his books, like Kaleidoscope Century.