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25. The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and in Life, Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot (hc)

A quick and breezy guide to better comprehension of numbers like "this project will cost $x billion" or "we measured y% improvement over the course of the year". Unfortunately, I suspect the people who really need to read it won't, and many of those who do read it will find the material familiar. (They do a good job on the bibliography, though, including classics such as John Allen Paulos's Innumeracy .)

The authors do a BBC Radio show (which led to the book), and many of the examples are still British even in the US edition; I consider this a feature rather than a bug, myself.

Recommended as a quick library read, or a gift for that family member who keeps saying "but that program is so expensive!" about things which equate to about $2/week/person benefitting.

26. Saturn's Children: A Space Opera, Charles Stross (ebook)

I was lucky to have switched to reading this just before upgrading my iPod touch to 3.0, since eReader broke and wouldn't go back to the book list (it's fixed now).

Another solid effort, this one mixes a post-human robolife solar system with Heinlein's Friday and Asimov's Three Laws. In some spots, it has a Galaxy Quest-flavored tone of "poking fun, but with love" but doesn't fall into the trap of becoming an inside-joke fest. (Admittedly, the "Scalzi Endowment Museum" was made funnier by knowing about this museum visit, but it's not a requirement.)

Definitely up with the other two 2009 Hugo nominees I've read (Little Brother and Zoe's Tale), it takes on questions of identity and the Meaning of Life while still doing the "romp through the solar system" well. Recommended.

RR41. Power, S.M. Stirling, Ed. (mmpb)

This mix of short SF and "science fact" articles reads like a theme issue of New Destinies edited by Stirling. The lead story (Poul Anderson's "Snowball", which I suspect inspired the Shipstones in Friday) is really the high point of the book; the articles on how coal-fired MHD should have Saved Us All, and if that didn't then fusion certainly would, are less so. Stirling's own story ("Roachstompers", which actually did debut in New Destinies) of how cold fusion power ruined the global economy, resulting in the US's southern border becoming a war zone (apparently Pemex was the only thing keeping the Mexican economy running) has his usual deft grasp of peaceful intercultural and interracial relations, as well known by those who've discussed the topics with him on USENET.

RR42. The War God's Own, David Weber (mmpb)

Second in his "Bahzell Bahnakson" fantasy series, which contrasts with his SF by having a protagonist who is actually generally distrusted by the rest of the universe (for historical/racial reasons) rather than having the Glow of Righteous Valor that causes even some of her enemies (the honorable ones, as opposed to the Eeeeeeevil Nasty ones) to respect her. Also, there are no huge broadsides of missiles.

A good light re-read, suitable for travel, which is why I brought it along.

RR43. Rude Astronauts, Allen Steele (mmpb)

Short story collection (with some nonfiction as well) of his near-future space and alt-hist space writing, plus a few other pieces. (I tend to like his short stories better than I like his novels.) The alt-hist in particular is enjoyable, with fun parallels as well as differences (in this case, WWII ended not with nuclear bombs, but with intercontinental suborbital rocketplane bombers...and the first moon landing was still in July 1969, but with a whole lot more than two people present).

Recommended along with his later All-American Alien Boy.
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(Currently in progress: Charles Stross's Saturn's Children: A Space Opera, since it's inspired by Friday which I recently re-read.)

24. The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life, Ben Sherwood

This seemed to be mostly about having a Survival Attitude (complete with an online quiz that lets you determine your Survival Style, though since this was a library copy I didn't dig the code out from under the dust cover to try it out). Sherwood refers to a few scientific papers on things like the "anniversary effect" (death rates going down before birthdays/holidays/etc and up afterwards), and it seemed like in every case there was also a throw-in of "and then this other group tried to replicate the results and couldn't". This doesn't inspire confidence in the rest of his conclusions. His focus on attitude and faith also seems to invite the failure mode of blaming victims for being insufficiently determined, which bugs me.

There were a few practical tips, though some of them are things I already do (air travel: count rows to the exits, wear pants and long-sleeved shirts made of natural fibers, and make sure your life vest really is under your seat) or knew (the rule of threes, though even there the formulation used adds "3 seconds without spirit and hope" and "3 months without companionship or love" to the usual air/shelter/water/food lines).

Not quite disrecommended, but I suggest a library pick-up rather than a purchase.

RR38. Zoe's Tale, John Scalzi (mmpb)

The fourth[1] "Old Man's War" book, this runs in parallel with The Last Colony but switches viewpoints to Zoë Boutin-Perry and brings in some new events that weren't seen in TLC. Despite the large amount of overlap in the events, the combination of the change in viewpoint, the newly seen events, and Scalzi's ability to create an emotionally engaging narrative makes it a very fine read. (It's good enough that I still teared up during my first reading, even though I already knew what was going to happen to one being expected didn't diminish the impact.)

It's much more YA-ish than the others in the series, which I don't consider a criticism; just as Old Man's War will remind the reader of Starship Troopers, this has the flavor of an updated/modernized take on the Heinlein juveniles. I don't know how it reads as an entry into the OMWverse, but it works very well within the larger context. Recommended.

[1] Leaving aside the chapbook "Questions for a Soldier" and the novelette "The Sagan Diary", both of which I also enjoyed (and which also take on different viewpoints).

RR39. Wizard's Bane, Rick Cook (mmpb)
RR40. The Wizardry Compiled, Rick Cook (mmpb)
(read as the omnibus The Wiz Biz)

Humorous "computer programmer pulled into a world of magic" fantasies, with the protagonist using algorithms and the ability to combine primitives to build spells that work like code. Light and fluffy, but fun. In the first, he arrives and defeats the Dark League; in the second, what's left of it goes after him and he gets some help from home. Later books in the series weren't as good, IMO. Both books are in the Baen Free Library, so if they sound interesting give 'em a look.
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Not much book reading lately. (Well, apart from looking stuff up in O'Reilly books for work; I don't count that as "reading" the books....)

RR34. The Aliens Among Us, James White (mmpb)

Not quite a Sector General book, though of the seven stories in the book one of them ("Countercharm") takes place at Sector General, another ("Tableau") predates it in the same universe (and eventually leads to the creation of Sector General), and a third ("Occupation: Warrior") was originally written as a Sector General-verse story but was de-linked by editorial request. (White later had the main character show up as a Monitor Corps officer anyway, in effect re-linking the story into Sector General continuity.)

The other four stories include two that are a bit too similar to really work well in the same collection ("The Scavengers" and "Red Alert"), the first contact story "To Kill or Cure" (which has a Sector General sensibility to it, what with the "injured aliens that need medical care" and all), and "The Conspirators" which reminds me most of Poul Anderson's Brain Wave.

I generally recommend White, though this is probably not the best starting point.

RR35. Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Gene Roddenberry (ebook)

The novelization of the less-than-stellar first movie, this is better than one might expect based on the movie. It fills in some badly-needed characterization (explaining, for example, just why Kirk ever let them pry him out of a captain's chair in the first place) and also includes this classic "Take That" to slashfic writers:
[S]ince Kirk's and Spock's friendship was unusually close, this has led to some speculation over whether they had actually indeed become lovers. At our request, Admiral Kirk supplied the following comment on this subject: "I was never aware of this lovers rumor, although I have been told that Spock encountered it several times. Apparently he had always dismissed it with his characteristic lifting of his right eyebrow which usually connoted some combination of surprise, disbelief, and/or annoyance. As for myself, although I have no moral or other objections to physical love in any of its many Earthly, alien, and mixed forms, I have always found my best gratification in that creature woman. Also, I would dislike being thought of as so foolish that I would select a love partner who came into sexual heat only once every seven years."
Vonda McIntyre's novelization of The Wrath of Khan is my favorite of the movie novelizations, but this isn't too far behind.
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I've probably forgotten something, since it's been a while since my last booklog post.

18. Rogue Bolo, Keith Laumer (mmpb)

Really two unlinked Bolo stories; the first is written in the same style as "Field Test" (short snippets from multiple points of view); the second a more traditional one. Neither was terribly interesting.

19. Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Groff Conklin, ed. (mmpb)

An old Conklin anthology, with several stories I haven't seen elsewhere.

20. The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, Leonard Mlodinow (ebook)

A pretty good overview of both randomness and the history of the study of randomness, with some great historical bits about the folks who developed the science (Thomas Bayes, various members of the Bernoulli family, Blaise Pascal, and so on). Fairly short. Recommended.

21. Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average, Joseph Hallinan (hc)

This overlapped both in reading time and subject with The Drunkard's Walk, since one of the areas in which humans are prone to mistakes is estimating probabilities. The descriptions of some of the psychological experiments (like the "door test") are great. Recommended, especially if you liked Freakonomics.

22. Nation, Terry Pratchett (ebook)

A great non-Discworld book. The setup naturally brings the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to mind, and for me it was also hard not to think of Sir Terry's "embuggerance" while reading it.

Mau and Daphne are strong protagonists, the usual Pratchett "funny with deep philosophical underpinnings" is in full form, and like several other recent books it's both a good YA book and a just plain good book. Highly recommended.

RR33. The Cold Cash War, Robert Asprin (mmpb)

One of his older books, with none of the "Myth/Phule's" humor, this involves corporate conflict that becomes actual conflict (with electronic tagging instead of real bullets, at least most of the time). Some parts have aged really badly; salary offers that were pretty high in 1977 don't sound like too much in 2009. Not bad, but nothing special.
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14. Carrier, Tom Clancy (ebook)

A nonfiction book about carrier operations, the training and doctrine needed, strategic implications of carrier-based air power, and so forth. Naturally, the editorial bias is in favor of the whole thing (Tom Clancy: Definitely Not a Pacifist), though there are certainly criticisms leveled at the Navy and particularly Navy aviation for becoming too insular; this led to both Tailhook and problems during the first Gulf War when the Navy's aircraft couldn't participate in the common air tasking orders and were therefore much less useful than they should have been (both in the general sense and in the "justify our budget" sense).

The book's about 10 years old, so it's out of date in various ways but the general content holds up pretty well overall. Recommended if you like mil-techy infodumps, since it's basically a book-length collection of such.

15. How Would You Move Mount Fuji?: Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle, William Poundstone (ebook)

Much shorter and lighter than Carrier. I was interested in both the puzzle aspects and Poundstone's take on the history that led to the whole "puzzle interview" process.

I'm generally a fan of Poundstone's nonfiction, and this was as good as I expected. Some of the puzzles were familiar (like the "four people, one flashlight" bridge-crossing test; here, the four are Adam, Larry, Bono and Edge); others weren't. (Some aren't even puzzles, but rather ways to figure out what questions you'd ask about the situation as given.) Recommended, along with his other nonfiction (with the exception of the Big Secrets series; they're not as good, and at this point badly out of date).

16. The Mystery of Flight 427, Bill Adair (hc)

This is more of a narrative than Gerry Byrne's book on the same topic; it starts in media res with the crash of 427 (rather than UA585), goes into slightly less technical detail, and concentrates more on the people involved (including the husband of one victim). It appears that Adair was writing newspaper articles throughout the process, so he had significantly better access to the investigators and other parties than Byrne did (in particularly, Byrne says that Boeing was unwilling to talk to him; OTOH, Adair is much easier on Boeing than Byrne is).

Recommended over Byrne's Flight 427 for readers who might be less interested in the technical aspects; people interested in the technical details of this and other crashes should read Byrne, and look for Macarthur Job's Air Disaster series as well.

17. The John Varley Reader: Thirty Years of Short Fiction, John Varley (ebook)

In the "air disaster/investigation" vein, Varley's Millennium is a pretty good novel (though he'd probably be the first to say "ignore the movie!") with good old SF time travel thrown into the mix. "Air Raid", one of the stories included here, was the original for the whole story, and is still my favorite of his short fiction.

As with Worlds of George O., the real gems here are the autobiographical segments between the stories.

RR30. Engaging the Enemy, Elizabeth Moon (mmpb)
RR31. Command Decision, Elizabeth Moon (mmpb)
RR32. Victory Conditions, Elizabeth Moon (mmpb)

The last three Vatta's War books. Any real discussion would get into spoilers; suffice it to say that I highly recommend the series to fans of military SF and/or Miles Vorkosigan. Ky Vatta's not Miles (she's her own person) and the mercenaries are rather more peripheral here than the Dendarii, but "smart Academy dropout goes into space, makes mistakes, learns lessons, and so on" works as a quick description.
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10. Far Frontiers, Vol. VI: Fall 1986, Jerry Pournelle & Jim Baen, eds. (mmpb)

Another in this bookazine series. my thoughts, mostly about the nonfiction content )
11. Bolo!, David Weber (mmpb)

Self-sacrifice? Room for huge technical infodumps? Yeah, the Bolo universe was practically made for David Weber, or he for it. This is a set of Weber's stories from the sharecropped Bolo follow-ons, and they're pretty good, comparable to the better ones from Laumer's own work. If you like the Bolo stories, give these a shot. (Additional feature for folks who've given up on some of Weber's other series work: the Bolos don't have to go through all the angst and whatnot that Honor Harrington does. They just shoot stuff.)

12. It Looked Good on Paper: Bizarre Inventions, Design Disasters, and Engineering Follies, Bill Fawcett, ed. (tpb)

A collection of short essays on various notable failures, though not as limited in breadth as the subtitle implies; the XFL might be a "bizarre invention" (and that's stretching things a bit) but kudzu? Each essay is very short (67 of them in a 380-ish page book will do that) and none goes into any real depth. A useful book to keep handy for times when you want something short and reasonably funny to read, making it the perfect thing to leave in one particular room of the house IYKWIM. Not deep; buy cheap.

13. Flight 427: Anatomy of an Air Disaster, Gerry Byrne (hc)

This was very good on the technical details of the investigations of both United 585 (a 737-200 that crashed on approach to Colorado Springs in 1991) as well as USAir 427 (a 737-300 crash near Pittsburgh in 1994), though some illustrations would have helped the book significantly. UA585's investigation was originally closed after nearly 1¾ years of work with one of the NTSB's few "unable to determine a probable cause" findings; US427's investigation took over 4½ years and finally came up with a cause for both accidents.

It desperately needed a better copyeditor, though! Some examples: on one page the author refers to the crash of an "Air Austria" 767 in Thailand (though there's no such airline); 100 pages later he gets it right as Lauda Air. A mention is made of "Dallas-Forth Worth" [sic]. Within two sentences, a reporter's name is spelled in two different ways. There's at least one "hanger" that contains airplanes instead of suspending clothing. There are more.

RR26. Hospital Station, James White (ebook)
RR27. Star Surgeon, James White (ebook)
RR28. Major Operation, James White (ebook)

These are the three books included in the omnibus Beginning Operations, containing the earliest of the Sector General stories. These are fix-ups of short stories, so they're a bit more episodic than the later novels in the series and also suffer from a bit of repetitiveness. The first sets the stage beginning with the construction of Sector Twelve General Hospital; the second and third have somewhat more continuous plot arcs.

The Sector General books are among my favorite comfort reads. Recommended.

RR29. Bolo, Keith Laumer (mmpb)

I wanted to go back to the original stories after reading Weber's contributions to the mythos. They still hold up pretty well. The Retief/Bolo crossover is enjoyable, but my favorites are still "Field Test" and "The Last Command".

Coming up: Laumer's Rogue Bolo, which I've never actually read despite having the Baen omnibus that includes it.
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8. The Jennifer Morgue, Charles Stross (ebook)

Most of my new-to-me reading has been on the iPod lately. I have loaded the Kindle app on it, but the interface is terrible and the typography isn't wowing me either; I'm sticking with eReader. Unfortunately, while Ace and Del Rey and HarperCollins are all fairly good about getting their books onto Fictionwise in eReader format (and Baen, of course, has no DRM on their ebooks), my options for current[1] Tor books are either to buy Kindle editions and read them in the (IMO unusable) iPhone app, or to do without except for the freebies and just read other publishers' books. (There's also the not-really-an-option option of buying either the Kindle or Secure Mobipocket editions and stripping the DRM.) I'm just going to do without, and spend the money elsewhere.

This is the second "Laundry" book, with Bob Howard once again facing supernatural threats; this time, it's a James Bond mode complete with goofy gadgets. Like The Atrocity Archives, the book also contains a shorter story following the main title; this time, Bob gets a new intern. Hijinks ensue.

The combination of geekery, bureaucratic nonsense, spy spoof, and general humor is more than worthwhile. Recommended, though if you haven't read The Atrocity Archives you should probably read that first.

9. Far Frontiers, Vol. III: Fall, 1985, Jim Baen & Jerry Pournelle, eds. (mmpb)

One of the various iterations of the Permanent Floating Jim Baen Bookazine, Far Frontiers fell between Destinies and New Destinies (and pretty much morphed into the latter, as far as I can tell). This volume/"issue" starts strong with Vernor Vinge's "The Ungoverned", which I skipped since I just re-read it recently. The rest is hit or miss, with Alexander Jablokov's "A Wink in the Eye of the Wolf" the best of the batch and Rivka Jacobs's "Morning on Venus" totally lost on me; Thomas Wylde's "Space Shuttle Crashes!" reminded me of Allen Steele's short "Mudzilla's Last Stand" in tone, and was similarly enjoyable.

RR24. Marque and Reprisal, Elizabeth Moon (mmpb)

Second in the "Vatta's War" series. After surviving a more than usually eventful first cruise as a merchant captain, Ky Vatta gets some really bad news. Soon she and her cousin Stella are dealing with some particularly nasty characters as the implications start to build up.

I highly recommend this and the rest of the series; start with Trading in Danger.

RR25. The Atrocity Archives, Charles Stross (ebook)

Re-read in preparation for The Jennifer Morgue. Bob Howard, IT support drone for Britain's secret anti-occult agency, winds up on active service...but still has to deal with his bureaucratic boss as well as an ancient evil entity from another universe; it's not always clear which is harder to deal with. Enjoyable and recommended.

RR26. Flare, Roger Zelazny and Thomas T. Thomas (mmpb)

It's a disaster novel... IIIIN SPAAAAACE!! The Sun's been really quiet for decades, so nobody's bothered rad-hardening their space gear; as you can easily guess, this turns out to have been a really bad idea. I don't know how much of this was Zelazny; it reads similarly to the other Thomas I've read.

Not bad, but nothing you should spend a whole lot of time or money seeking out either.

[1] There are some eReader format Tor ebooks which date from around 2002 and are still priced at the "hardcover" level, including [ profile] papersky's The King's Name and Michael Flynn's Falling Stars, but none of the previous books in either series are available....
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Not much reading lately.

7. The Presidential Book of Lists, Ian Randal Strock (ebook)

This worked nicely as an ebook, since each list is fairly self-contained and short; quick snippets are no problem. Generally interesting, though it suffers from being written before January 20th and therefore has to include things like (in the list of youngest Presidents) "In order to join this list (and knock Cleveland off), the President who wins the election of 2008 will have to have been born after January 6, 1961. (Barack Obama is therefore now the fifth youngest President.)

RR22. Smart Dragons, Foolish Elves, Alan Dean Foster and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. (mmpb)

18 "funny" fantasy short stories, though including Avram Davidson's "And the Grasses Grow" stretches the definition a bit (as recognized in the editorial intro which says "Of course there are all kinds of smiles, and not all humor is light"). It's a heavy hitting lineup of authors, with Davidson joined by Harlan Ellison, Roger Zelazny, Robert Sheckley, and other big names, with a few lesser-known folks mixed in as well. Generally good, though not all the stories click with me; Ron Goulart's "Please Stand By" is my favorite of the set.

RR23. Trading in Danger, Elizabeth Moon (mmpb)

I'd planned on re-reading the "Vatta's War" books because [ profile] mjlayman had started going through them last month and posted her review of this book. With her in the hospital with a stroke it's turned into a very bittersweet re-read. (Good thoughts and energy sent her way would be appreciated.)
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I want to get this posted before sundown, because the timing's too good to miss. (Also, posting my last booklog post late on Saturday night probably had something to do with the dearth of comments it received.)

6. I Remember the Future, Michael A. Burstein (ebook)[1]

Happy birthday, Michael!

I'll freely admit that I'm biased in favor of both this book and its author. There are authors whose work I enjoy, and authors whose work doesn't really click with me; there are authors I like as people, and authors who I would have a hard time getting along with. Michael is in the best quadrant of the truth table: an author whose work I like, and a person I would enjoy spending time with whether or not his work met my taste.

I enjoyed reading both the stories I had previously read as well as those I hadn't; I enjoyed the afterwords to each story even more, though. (Despite (or because of) my non-writerness, I really like hearing about how stories came about or how writers approach their work.)

[1] I have this in hardcover as well, but I'm much more likely to read an ebook than a hardcover when I'm reading in snippets, and short story collections are great for that.

RR20. Microcosmic Tales, Asimov/Greenberg/Olander, Eds. (mmpb)

100 short-short SF stories. Suffers a bit from Asimov's lead-in sentences, which are often both punny and spoilery, but still a good choice for extremely quick reads.

RR21. Ambulance Ship, James White (mmpb)

One of the mid-series Sector General fixups, from the timeframe where the stories within a given book were more closely linked than in the earliest books but before the point at which each book was a true novel rather than a fixup. Notable also for the "Secret History of Sector General" forematter, later included in NESFA Press's The White Papers IIRC.
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5. The Vondish Ambassador, Lawrence Watt-Evans (e-book)

I have a soft spot for the Ethshar books, even though (or because) they tend to run to a formula of "clever young person winds up in a situation where their cleverness is useful, and then rewarded". In this case the CYP is not the titular ambassador but an itinerant dockworker who winds up being hired as his aide, and who then proceeds to be clever as necessary. Light and enjoyable.

All of the Ethshar books (except for the two that wound up at Tor[1]) are available from Fictionwise, which is great for me; they're just about perfect comfort re-read material, and this will fit right in to the rotation.

[1] (Insert obligatory rant about Holtzbrinck's handling of e-book editions here.)
Rereads: Science Fictional Olympics, Heinlein, Wrede, Vinge, Scalzi )
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I've been sick, so falling back on lots of comfort reading that is both short and familiar.

4.1. "Damned If You Don't", Randall Garrett (free ebook derived from the Project Gutenberg version)

(Just a short story, so I don't want to count it as new read #5.)

I read this one, finally, through a concatenation of events. First, eReader 2.0 was released for iPhone OS, with my feature wishlist items included. After upgrading, I found that eReader/Fictionwise had reworked some of the ebooks with better metadata, so I wanted to re-download them; the easiest solution was to uninstall eReader, then reinstall and use "download entire bookshelf" to avoid duplication.

One of the books in my collection is The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, and I wanted to check to see if they'd fixed a typo. (There looks like a badly-done search and replace that's replaced "gu" with "Gu", probably while doing some editing of Fast Times at Fairmont High, but which results in things like "AuGust" appearing elsewhere. Not fixed but hardly a real issue.) I got to the intro to "Bookworm, Run!" and was reminded that I'd never tracked down the Garrett story that Vinge refers to.

After a quick Google search I spotted it on eReader helpfully has a shortcut to, right in the app. Soon thereafter I had the story ready to read. This is so much better than the usual process: check ISFDB, see if it's in an anthology, find the anthology somewhere in the various library systems I have access to, request the book, wait a few days, pick up the book, read the story (in 10 minutes), then have to return the book. In this case, a lapsed copyright renewal made it free, but I'd certainly pay for this kind of stuff. (Fictionwise sells a fair number of short stories by various authors. This is a good thing.)

As for the story itself? I've always liked Randall Garrett's short fiction, and this is no exception, even if the "surprise" was muted by having already read "Bookworm, Run!" Still, it's so unbelievable. The very idea that removing huge amounts of value from one sector of the economy would cause a widespread financial crisis! Who'd believe that one?
Rereads: Brust, Resnick, more Heinlein, George O. Smith )
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Between Arisia and Vericon, I've been shorter than usual on reading time (as well as on book-blogging time). Time to catch up!

Identity theft, popcorn prices, vampyres, AK-47s, lovable rogues, and the Sons of the Bird lurk within )
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John Siracusa's recent Ars Technica article on e-books gives me a convenient jumping-off point for some of my own experiences with (and random thoughts about) e-books.

I bought my first book from Peanut Press, as it then was, just over nine years ago. (2000-01-30, according to the bookshelf.) I bought my most recent ones from Fictionwise (who now own eReader, formerly Palm Digital Media, formerly Peanut Press) just a few minutes ago. I've generally stuck with the Peanut/Palm/eReader format, mostly because I like their reader software's better than other options (Mobipocket Reader on Palm OS or Stanza on the iPod). I've read them on everything from a Palm V (with a whole 2MB of memory and a zippy 16MHz processor) to an iPod touch, and even my oldest book is still usable on the newest hardware without needing anything more than a copy of the eReader software and the name/credit card used to lock the file. (Mobipocket's DRM requires you to reauthorize each file for each new device. Lame.)

Why do I read e-books on such a small screen? (The Palm V: 160x160 grayscale. The TX and iPod: 320x480 color.) Simply put, because it's always there. (I was amused by Siracusa's description of how he realized he'd switched, since the first advantage he lists is "I was more likely to have my Palm with me than a book. When I had an opportunity to read during the day, my Palm was there, and a paper book, had I been in the middle of one, would not have been." Yeah, that.) Sure, the Kindle has a bigger screen. Sure, a physical book never needs recharging. Neither of them is small enough to hang off of my belt, and the paper book is not guaranteed to be the one I've just decided I want to re-read; in fact, it's almost certainly not going to be.

I tend to read e-books as a supplement to (rather than a substitute for) paper books. (I own several books in mass-market and e-book, or even the three-fer of hardcover, mass-market, and e-book.) Because it's always handy, I can easily read a few pages while waiting for (or riding on) a bus or train, or in line at a store; I can read longer stretches over a meal or while relaxing on the futon. Because of the often interrupted nature of the read, this is particularly suited for re-reading certain types of books: episodic novels, short story or essay collections, or books I've previously read are all easier to "keep state" for in my head between times. Even so, I can and have read full novels first as e-books before even touching paper editions; I've also sometimes alternated between the two. (I read Victory Conditions, the final book in Elizabeth Moon's "Vatta's War" series, partially from the library hardcover and partially from the e-book; I'd usually read up to a chapter break to make the switch easier, but not always.)

One issue with different reader programs on the iPod is the scroll/page dilemma. eReader is very much a page-flip oriented program, and that's the paradigm I'm used to. (I also use the -c option to less.) Other programs like Stanza or Bookshelf can scroll in page increments, but it's still scrolling, and for memory management both of them need to "chunk" the book leading to either delays at chapter breaks (Stanza) or ugly seams at semi-random intervals (Bookshelf). Because eReader's doing the chunking by page, it's never an issue except for the first time I open a book (or change the font size/layout/etc) which will force the program to repaginate. Since it can do that faster than I can read, if I'm at the beginning of the book it's mostly unnoticeable; if I'm farther in, I just have to wait a bit for it to catch up. This was also the case on the Palm, but the faster processor on the iPod seems to help shorten the time. (I haven't done a side-by-side comparison or anything.)

I still need to get back to work on the toolchain I started work on that would convert non-DRMed Baen e-books from HTML to "PML" (originally Peanut Markup Language) and then stuff them into an eReader format PDB file.

Some wishlist items for the iPhone/iPod touch version of eReader:

More font choices. I bought both of the font packs for the Palm version, and I'd love to be able to use something other than Georgia (reasonable), Helvetica (not bad), or Marker Felt (WTF?) and have more size choices as well. Some of my gripe is with Apple; why didn't they put Gill Sans on there? Even so, having Verdana (which is on the iPod) as an additional option would be nice.

Smarter download behavior. Why doesn't it say "hey, you have a book by this title already, do you really want to download it again?" Even being smart enough to say "this seems to be a duplicate, keep or delete?" after the download would be useful, and easier to implement.

Metadata editing. The oldest e-books don't have the proper metadata fields, so they don't show the author's name; other books have mistakes (like "Evans, Lawrence Watt" instead of "Watt-Evans, Lawrence"). I might be able to fix the files if they're not DRMed, but many of them are. The app should at least let me override the file's own data.

Bigger targets for small links. Hitting the hotlink for one of Pratchett's footnotes is a frustrating exercise in fingerpoking. The Palm's stylus worked much better for this sort of thing. The app could have a minimum target area, or even just add a "follow link" button to the pop-up for "find in dictionary" etc if there's a hotlink within the selection.
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2. You're Stepping on My Cloak and Dagger, Roger Hall (tpb)

I originally requested this from the library in July, after Hall's death led to a number of blog posts and obituaries that mentioned the book. It finally arrived at the end of December. (There are still 17 holds on the book, with only five copies in the Minuteman system.) It was worth the wait, however.

This is nothing more, and nothing less, than his memoir of his days in the OSS during WW II; it starts with him transferring to the OSS, and ends with the OSS disappearing around him. The book was very funny, though not quite what I'd expected; I'd been thinking it likely to be more like Eric Frank Russell's Wasp with derring-do behind enemy lines, but in fact his adventures were generally in training facilities and the like. (His various visits to the British parachute training were quite amusing, for example.)

Naturally, his one big mission (a drop into occupied France to work with the Resistance) resulted in him winding up well behind the lines...the Allied lines. (Oops.) It was just his luck that the drop was made just after there'd been a rapid advance in that area that wasn't reported through to OSS HQ quickly enough to abort the mission.

RR3. A Matter of Metalaw, Lee Correy (mmpb)

Not one of my favorites of "Correy"'s work (G. Harry Stine's pseudonym for his fiction), this suffers badly from repeated "but if he'd only realized that he was missing the vital clue" asides and doesn't really ever gel for me. The far-future setting also seems to be weaker than his usual near-future SF (some of which is now not-so-near-past SF; Star Driver has a minor plot point hinge on the protagonist not being able to get time on the one available minicomputer!).

Of his other work, Shuttle Down (alt-hist after the decision was made not to launch the Shuttle into polar orbits from Vandenberg AFB) is probably my favorite, and gets a bit of a shout-out in David Brin's Earth. Star Driver and Space Doctor are both stereotypical Analog stories: the former portraying the invention of the Dean Drive a reactionless thruster; the latter a fairly standard (but well done) "life IIIIIN SPAAAAACE" story of medicine at an under-construction space station. Manna is what today I'd probably call Prometheus Award bait[1]; it's better done than The Probability Broach since it doesn't require a complete alternate universe, but the wonderfulness of the Republic of Mary-Sue United Mitanni Commonwealth is hard to suspend disbelief for.

Upcoming: Why Does Popcorn Cost So Much at the Movies?, as well as a re-read of Carpe Jugulum. The post may be delayed by Arisia and post-con recovery time, though. (I may get a boardgame post in about BSG before the weekend, if I'm lucky. [ profile] yendi, we absolutely have to play this. It's made for your namesake House.)

[1] Looking it up, it was nominated in 1985 and lost to Vinge's The Peace War.
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1. Concorde (Frédéric Beniada, Michel Fraile) is a giant coffee table book (the sort that could be used as a coffee table); it's both heavy on the photos and just plain heavy.

The text content is fairly good, though for folks who've already read other books on Concorde there's little new in it. (There's also not too much of the text; maybe the equivalent of a handful of Neal Stephenson infodumps, if you don't count the photo captions.) Since the book's a translation from the French, it focuses more on the French contributions to the aircraft's design, construction, and operation than English-language books on the subject often do. (It still doesn't go in the direction of Donald Pevsner's speculation about Concorde's retirement, which I find rather believable.)

The photos are plentiful, large, and very impressive. This isn't necessarily a book to own, but if you're interested in Concorde and have it available in your local library system it's worth reading.

Rereads (which I'll keep in a separate numbering sequence):
RR1: The Phoenix Guards, Steven Brust (mmpb)
First in the Khaavren Romance series, set in the same world as the Vlad Taltos books. I suspect a large proportion, possibly even a majority, of my flist already reads Brust.

RR2: Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson (eReader)
The mere existence of this book (even without considering the Baroque Cycle) is one of the best arguments for e-books I've seen. Big huge tree-killer that you almost need a wheelbarrow to move around, or a set of bits that fit inside your 115g iPod touch? The words are the same....

Upcoming: You're Stepping on My Cloak and Dagger and Why Does Popcorn Cost So Much at the Movies?
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Final score: MITP $50, [ profile] ckd 8 books.

I think [ profile] buymeaclue was right to decide to stay away and avoid temptation.
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Books. Booooooooooooks. If I were a zombie, I wouldn't eat brains. Just books.

chomp, chomp )
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When tagged by [ profile] fluffcthulhu, a proper Minion must respond.

free meme inside )
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So, as I walked through the SF&F section of the store, I was amused to see how many of the folks whose blogs and/or LJs I read are not only represented, but have one or more "staff recommendation" shelf tags. The list includes [ profile] autopope, [ profile] papersky, and [ profile] scalzi, as well as Lois McMaster Bujold and Steven Brust WANOLJ.

(Yes, I am currently much closer to Safeco Field than Fenway Park.)
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(from about half my friends list)

Grab the nearest book.
Open the book to page 23.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the text of the sentence in your journal...
...along with these instructions.

(said instructions having the problem that they don't specify whether the partial sentence at the start of the page is to be counted; I'm counting it just because I like the result)

An 1818 proposal for a bridge between Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey, was unusual in that the span did not go all the way across the river.
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(acquired via [ profile] topaz_munro)

A book you own that no one on your friends list does: Sysadmin/technical books are likely to be out there (unless I go back to Beneath Apple DOS, and I wouldn't be too surprised if that showed up). SF&F? Yeah, right. Aviation or other transport related books? I'd worry about [ profile] feorag there, if nobody else.

I'll have to go for Town on the Sound: Stories of Steilacoom on the grounds that nobody on my friends list is from there, as far as I know.

A CD you own that no one on your friends list does: I can think of several candidates for this one, since my iTunes library is particularly rich in the bizarre. The Stairways to Heaven collection from "The Money or the Gun" is my first thought, though Brent Spiner's Ol' Yellow Eyes Is Back is another possibility, or When Pigs Fly: Music You Never Thought You'd Hear. (That last includes Don Ho's cover of "Shock The Monkey".) Picking one, I'll say Stairways.

A DVD/VHS tape you own that no one on your friends list does: The Return of Captain Invincible.

A place you've been that no one on your friends list has been: the cockpit of Concorde, in flight, at Mach 2. (I suspect [ profile] feorag will be irritated to hear that.)
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