Saturday, March 20, 2010

Last night I finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

This is probably the grimmest book I have ever read.  Set in a post-apocalyptic world, and featuring two nameless characters referred to as simple "the man" and "the boy", it's never made clear what happened to the world, just that almost everything, including plants and animals, was killed.

This adds a little bit of a fresh spin, if a gruesome one, to the post-apocalyptic genre since, if there are no animals, the only food is leftover stored food or other people, and the book takes place in a time when most old stores of food have already been looted.

The protagonists are trying to make it to the coast, and head south on the road, to avoid the effects of a coming winter.  What they did in the previous winters is never made clear.  Also never made clear is how they got enough stored food to survive the last few years, or how old the boy is, since he was born after the apocalypse. 

The book is a compelling read, but left me with little afterwords.  

Friday, March 19, 2010

Yesterday I finished Jhegaala by Steven Brust.

Jhegaala is the eleventh book in the Vlad Taltos series.  Sadly, this seems to be a series that I appreciate less as I grow older.

The book are heavily on internal dialogue and ruminations, and therefore tend to cover very little ground in terms of plot.  Jhegaala is basically a noir mystery, like Hammett's Red Harvest.  Vlad comes to a town in the East, accidentally starting a series of deaths as the locals take him to be more than he is.  By the end, he unravels what happened and defeats the locals who run things.

The book depend heavily on the flavour given in the dialogues and ruminations, and it is those that are not aging well for me.  Where I found the first books very amusing and enjoyable, the later ones mainly feel repetitive and whiny. 

I'll keep reading, as the books do vary in quality and I can hope for the best, and to see where the series as a whole ends up.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I just finished Grass by Sheri S. Tepper.

I read Tepper's True Game series when I was very young - 13 or 14 - and really liked it.  After that series, her books drifted from what I was looking for and I haven't really gone back until now.  I had picked up another book, Sideshow,  but stopped reading it right away when I realized it was actually the third book in a series.  I went back to start with the first book, Grass.

Grass tells the story of the humans who live on a planet covered by plains, and where there is a symbiotic, and not entirely healthy, relationship going on between the humans and the aliens who live there, mainly expressed through a regular "Hunt".  At the same time, humans elsewhere are starting to be effected by a form of plague for which no cure can be found.  The people on Grass seem to be immune, which draws the attention of a the theocratic government that dominates most of humanity.

It's an interesting book, and I look forward to the sequels.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I just finished a blacksmithing class at the Crucible.  Previously, I'd taken a welding overview course there, but this was a more focused, and detailed course.

It was project based - over the five week course, we made a hook, knife, spoon and fork.  I didn't quite get done the fork, so only the other three are shown below.

Overall, the class was really good.  The art of "heating up metal and then hitting it with a hammer" is interesting to learn, and to try on actual projects. The project based nature of the class has good and bad points.  The good part is that it gives you a completed piece to look at at the end of each class. The bad part was that it makes a lot of the learning implicit, i.e. you have to think about what you are doing and try to draw the lessons, rather than having them pointed out to you.  This was made a little worse by the fact that the teachers weren't very focused on giving feedback.  They demonstrated the project, and then were available if you had specific questions.  I think it would have been better if they spent more time checking up on each student in a more rigorous fashion.

I'm going to do the next level class, which is a supposed to be a little less project oriented and have more theoretical information.