Word Wrangler * Digital Nomad

Monday, June 03, 2002
Otherland 4
Tad Williams
Finished! Much that I had guessed was true, but the day new maw contained a lot of surprises, too. It's neat to learn that I put the clues together - like all that emotional investment was for a reason. And the surprises ran deeper than I had suspected. Certainly not a predictable ending, not exactly.

I wish the book had been tighter, but overall, a wonderful experience. However, now that it's done, I am finally free of it ... just in time to start another 1000-pager, but that's legit, because it's for SF Site, and that's work. Hehehe. Meanwhile, work proceeds, with SiE and Intel and the book proposals for AWADILA, EON, and HTGADW(A)A.Tomorrow must be another productive day like today AND include plenty of fruits & veggies & exercise.

Sunday, June 02, 2002
Otherland Vol. 4
Tad Williams
I can't believe how busy I've been - in a good way! But I'm *still* slogging through this series. These books became successively darker, and I think I'm mostly hanging on now because I care so deeply for the characters, but it's been a brutal experience from page 1. I'm ready to shake Williams and tell him yes, we KNOW john wulgaru is bad, STOP MAKING US EXPERIENCE IT. I mean, our villian skinned the men of a royal family alive, sewed the skins into hot air balloons, attached bottomless baskets, and forced the men's families to cling to the baskets while the balloons launched and flew. I can't even remember how the families were killed after that - I probably stopped reading deeply and flitted over the words until the description was over.

An ethical delimma: we learn a lot about what's really going on when Paul Jonas can finally access his wiped memories. Yet he remembers because he's being tortured. Is it ok to use data gained by the severe cruelties? It must be, if only to give meaning to his suffering, but still...

It's dragging on too long. Like the second volume that bogged down in Williams' leading all the characters through the simulated worlds, this volume wallows too long in despair and evil and pain. I'm starting to feel like putting it down and moving on - not because I can't take the horror (although I have needed to "rest" now and then) but because I'm becoming bored. Something needs to happen soon. OTOH, I'm only 300 pages from the end, so it won't be long.

Kushiel's Chosen is next because I owe the review to SF Site. Thanks again to Rodger for saving the copy for me!

Oh, I started Sandra Brockman's Out of Control when I first got back from northern California, but have set it aside, probably permanently.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002
I changed my blog template today so now the tease off my home page is wrong but I don't have time to fix it right now. Trying to catch up with work, and with family & friends, AND with the stack of unread books on the dresser that is even bigger than what I listed last time.

Working my way through the 4th volume of Otherland right now, between Intel research and Silicon Energy quick reference guides. Ever since Grandma died I have been at a slower pace, I think. Perhaps it's remembering her favorite response to hurrying - "I'm not Flash Gordon, y'know!" - and perhaps it's just being flung out of the computer and into the real world for a week ... but I finally slept (probably 50% of the hours this last weekend) and I feel less frenzied about everything, whether work or reading or organizing or *gasp* attempting to maintain a social life.

I swept my floor three days in a row, too. Jedi's shedding like ... well, like a dog.

But I digress! Otherland continues to build and Williams has brought the myriad characters together in surprising ways. I'm sick of Renie's father Joseph - I'm sure he was fun to develop and write, this crotchety, selfish man - but he's so annoying I don't want to spend any more time with him at all. I'm surprised Jeremiah - and Del Ray - haven't locked Joseph in a room somewhere. He'll probably make some huge heroic sacrifice before the end but I doubt I'll be moved ... Occasionally I get tired of the sheer number of words it's taking to describe yet more simulations, actions, thoughts, deeds, and whatnot, but Williams also comes up with incredible metaphor, and turns of phrase that show you exactly what something looks or feels like or a Great Human Insight. Ways of describing that have never been used before and yet after you read the line or two you can't think of any better way to have said it.

Thursday, May 23, 2002
I have been away - and on dialup *delicate shudder* for two weeks. What with onsite days for two clients, one wedding, and my grandma's death, I haven't had time to blog. I hardly had time to read. I did manage to acquire a bunch of new books though. Here's the rundown of what I remember reading in past 2 weeks, and what I have on my nightstand for the next month.

Sandra Brown
Can't remember the title, but took a time-out on Tuesday after the funeral to read a Sandra Brown romance/mystery thriller. Come to think of it, I've read two in the past week ...

Woe Is I
What's her name
Fun grammar book, mostly skimmed the last chapters (I've read it before).

Curious George Goes to the Zoo
What's his name
A classic!

Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Robert Kiyosaki & Sharon Lechter
Interesting perspective on how the low/middle class think about money vs. how the wealthy think about money. Many of the ideas made me uncomfortable, despite my strong materialistic streak. Kelli recommended this to me a couple of years ago and I'm glad I read it. Not sure whether I'll ever follow the steps - but it's nice to know they exist.

Prince of Time
Glenna Macreynolds
Sequel to a romance/celtic fantasy, set 10,000 years in the future so it's a romance/sci-fi/fantasy. She's a fun writer.

On the nightstand:
Lord of Emporers - Guy Gavriel Kay - one of the best writers of our day
Kushiel's Chosen - Jacqueline Carey - gotta do this soon and review for SF Site - just feeling so vulnerable this week I'm not sure I can handle it for another few days
Mine to Take - Dara Joy - naughty bodice-ripper
Animal Dreams - Barbara Kingslover
Otherland Vols 3 & 4 - Tad Williams - 2100 pages in total! yay! cyberfantasy! man, those folks at Intel should read this series and develop processors that could power Otherland/VR as Williams draws it
the Knight and the Rose - Isolde Martyn - literary romance, hopefully not as high falutin' or boring as A.S. Byatt
The silver coin - Andrea Kane - more bodice-ripping, but i think this one isn't historical
Complete beginner's guide to programming - yup, still at it - forgot to take it with me on the trip - but here it is, with bookmark intact

How am I going to do this while writing more quick reference guides, installation manuals, .NET articles, and the three book proposals my agent wants this summer? And the novel manuscripts languishing on various hard drives? I guess we'll find out, won't we!

Saturday, May 11, 2002
Otherland Volume 2
Tad Williams
I've been traveling and working so much I haven't read more than 20 pages a day since Tuesday - you can imagine the withdrawal symptoms. This morning I managed about 45 minutes though. I hate when this happens, but this 2nd volume isn't as good as the 1st. The characters are all traveling through Otherland now, a series of realer-than-real simulation worlds. It feels like the author is having a lot of fun describing the sick-and-twisted Emerald City, the cartoony Kitchen, and other hauntingly familiar scenes out of the 20th century, and therefore the story bogs down. With our companions split (involuntarily) into three groups, plus Paul Jonas the wildcard running around somewhere, there's plenty of time to spend romping through simulations - but we lose the sense that we're being led to something. Every so often I get that ah-ha! that I've learned a new piece of the puzzle, but not enough to justify the length of time or the number of words invested. I'm not explaining this very well, am I? I need to feel more of the Purpose. I want my suspicions of what the bad guys are doing with the children confirmed or dismissed (a clue, anyway). Even romantic tension would help hold my interest until the next epiphany. Perhaps the author wasn't sure where the story was going, and that's fine - but once you figure it out, edit down the parts where you're just writing in place. Some of the chapters feel like a treadmill instead of a hike.

When something important does happen, I get all caught up again, as into it as I was the first novel. Orlando just had a revelation so maybe Tad is about to regain control of the story. I hope so!

The Complete Beginner's Guide to Programming
I can't believe I forgot to pack this, but right before I left, I got through a few more chapters. Interesting stuff! Perhaps I'll write a program this summer ....

The Guide to Getting It On
An elephantine tome, hilarious and practical. I actually learned some things I didn't already know.

Sunday, May 05, 2002
Tad Williams
Finished it this morning and thankfully I'd picked up the 2nd volume at Todd W.'s the other day 'cause it doesn't end, it just ... stops. In the intro of book 2, Williams explains that he's really writing one book, but that he has to release it every 1000 pages or so to keep his family and pets fed and his publishers happy. Besides, who wants to lug around a 4,000-page volume, even if they could bind it?

It's absorbing, to say the least. And I love how the end feels like a beginning. I finally see how almost all the characters I know and love - or hate - tie together, even as a few new folks arrive. Throughout, the story stays on the cyber side rather than the punk side, so it feels more like a hybrid fantasy/sci-fi than actual cyberpunk. Oh, it has all the elements -a few characters speak in almost incomprehensible techie dialects, the net is so pervasive it's not even capitalized, lots of virtual realities, futuristic Earth, etc etc - but it lacks the jaded, morose, why-are-you-reading-this-we-can't-even-care-about-our-own-story mentality that keeps me from enjoying most cyberpunk.

One other great thing about it - I feel like I've finally taken some time off, even if it's only 7 or 8 hours over the past few days. Really, does anyone else feel like if they're awake, they must be working, particularly if they live and work in a treehouse/loft with ethernet cables run everywhere (somewhat ingeniously, if I do say so myself, but oh man, I've added wireless networking to my Greed List *drooling*).

Also SF Site told me that they have Carey's book, KUSHIEL'S CHOSEN, reserved for me. I anticipate it will be waiting for me when I return from Spring 2002 Northern California Tour Part Deux near the end of May. Rockin. :)

Friday, May 03, 2002
Tad Williams
I did as promised and tore myself out of the book around page 300. (And to my weight watchers buddies - Hi Mary and Lisa - I want to note that I didn't finish the bag of tortilla chips or drink the entire bottle of "wine," and when I made cookies, I ate two cookies' worth of dough but that's it.)

OTHERLAND is almost a cyberpunk novel. I don't like cyberpunk, but I'm digging this one big time. For a plot summary and review, see Victoria Strauss's take at SF Site. I gotta get back to work. :)