Apr 202013

Vadelmavenepakolainen coverVadelmavenepakolainen by Miikka Nousiainen had been on my “todo”-list for a long while. Finally got to reading it while nursing a slight flu back in January, and was quite impressed. After all, it was the author’s debut.

The novel is a tale about a finnish man who is not happy with his nationality – he wants to be a swede, no matter what the cost. Not just a swede by nationality, but a man fully converted into one.

And while such an identity crisis is easily described, it takes a whole book to resolve matters. After all, it is a tremendous change.

And a humorous change, the story of the protagonist veers between absurdism and obsession, and the pages flow fast while reading.

Unavoidably, there’s some repetition, but that only adds to the manic nature of the changing man.

Vadelmavenepakolainen was a pleasant surprise, I aim to tackle the author’s later books with a shorter interval from the publication dates.

Apr 182013

The Perfect Thing coverSteven Levy’s The Perfect Thing is yet another digital history book from the prolific author. The Perfect Thing chronicles the history of iPod (and leaves off with a short segue to the iPhone).

While the subject is far more common knowledge than that of his earlier “Hackers”, it’s nonetheless an interesting and enlightening book.

Desite its pedigree, The Perfect Thing is less about technology, and more about the people behind the device and its impact on society and habits.

But it’s not all about changes in music consumption – the first steps of the iPod’s history do contain interesting anecdotes about the technologies evaluated and especially about the comparison to competition.

The book has quite a personal perspective, the author talks about his own devices and music collection a lot, and a lot of the comments by industry players have not been gleaned from media, but from the interviews he conducted with them. The author regularly sounds more like a fanboy than an objective observer.

At least from my perspective (skewed very hard to pro-Apple camp) that’s but a minor fault.

The Perfect Thing is entertaining, I was sure of that. But it’s also rather shallow, and I kept expecting more.

Apr 162013

BostonMy favorite East Coast city was subject to a terrorist attack yesterday. At least three bombs were deployed downtown, and two of them exploded with great carnage.

Boston is resilient, it will bounce back.

But I still hope for a swift and merciless justice for the perpetrators.

This is one of my favorite photographs from Boston: the old Massachusetts Customs House – tiny and ancient amongst the skyscrapers.

And this is one of my favorite bands, Dropkick Murphys with For Boston, a very appropriate song for today.

Apr 072013

Fractal Prince coverHannu Rajaniemi’s Quantum Thief was an unexpected breakthrough – a finnish science fiction author actually storming the bookshelves and kindles of the world.

The story continues in Fractal Prince (see also the wikipedia entry).

The plot is told from multiple viewpoints with two clear protagonists. They, while initially independent, tangle towards the end of the book. Thus the narrative structure is a bit simpler than that of the first volume.

But that simplicity is an illusion. One of the many in this book. The Fractal Prince is packed to the brim with them. The plot is not that complex, but it is resolved in a very complex fashion. Multi-layered virtualities abound, and nothing is explained.

That complexity might actually be a concrete failure in the book. I’m not looking for a full walkthrough, but it would be nice to have a gallery of dramatis personae and a list of concepts spelled out. Preferably in an appendix so as not to clutter the rollercoaster pace of the adventure. Even if no such appendix exists in the book, I wasn’t too surprised to find one at the most probable location.

This book certainly is an adventure. The greatest thief of the solar system is on a mission, and any barriers, virtual, physical or psychological are just obstacles to be entertainingly overcome. But the tools and methods are at times bordering on the incomprehensible, and that sadly saps the entertainment value. There’s less science in the fiction, but that’s only to be expected since half of the storyline happens in a quasi-arabian-nights environment.

Fractal Prince is definitely more complex tale than its predecessor, and makes little sense without it (preferably re-read just before diving into this). The author has at least one more book planned in the series, and I certainly am looking forward to the conclusion. With the knowledge that I’ll have to re-read both earlier volumes before the conclusion to make the most out of it.