September 14th, 2004



Have been in Devon for 4 days, visiting la famille in their new holiday home/proto-retirement home. Today we travelled back to Kent, where there is the most precious of all things - broadband.

I put all the people I have to know the comings and goings of for social reasons into a single friends group so that I could wade through them - around 120 entries later I feel vaguely enlightened and glad that all you people have to do when I'm not around is tease the cat, argue about body hair and look for places to live.

Today I'm catching up, Wednesday I'm at a funeral. Thursday morning I fly to Scotland. Thursday afternoon I'm in work. Thursday evening I die. Friday is more work and then I'll be spending the weekend actually doing my own thing. If anyone else fancies the occasional walk up Arthiur's Seat and loads of C# then now would be the time to say.

Sex and Death

I finished Stephen Baxter's Evolution, which octopoid_horror recommended to me a while back. It didn't tell me an awful lot I didn't already know, but it did have quite an emotional impact.

It's not really a novel - what 'plot' there is is largely a framing device for massive infodumps about the various ages of mammals. There's a short opening framing sequence set in the near-future before we jump back 65 million years. We then move forward in jumps to take in the evolution of mankind.

The first section opens shortly before a big comet takes out most of the dinosaurs, watching the 'action' largely from the viewpoint of Purga, a small mammal (although obviously she herself has no concept of what a name is). Her various 'adventures' bring her into contact with a variety of different dinosaurs and environments, allowing the author to showcase his dino-knowledge nicely before killing them all off. Purga eventually dies, but her children live on, thereby ensuring that eventually mankind will come into existence.

This cycle then repeats 4 or 5 times, covering the major periods mammals move through until monkeys start to appear. At this point things slow down slightly and we observe the rise of the pre-sapient primates as they slowly pick social habits, up a word or two, agriculture, etc. Eventually we hit ancient Rome, then back to the modern day and finally a look forward at a possible future, leading up to the end of life on earth.

If you like social bases to your plots then you won't like the opening third of the book - the animals are largely loners. It's only later on that there is much society at all, and just when things are starting to look good for people agriculture causes complex heirarchical societies to evolve and people's lives get more miserable again.

The whole book, in fact, highlighted the futility of life to me - each one a scramble for survival while producing a successor so that something of you outlasts the fleeting moments of your existence. It's a fascinating book, and one I can highly recommend. Just don't expect to find it uplifting.
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