February 27th, 2005



I recently re-read two SF novels: Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle and Clifford D Simak's City. Both of them were very good (in their own, very different ways), but also staggeringly downbeat. Not, it has to be said, in their treatment of any particular character, nor in a cyberpunk/dystopian way, but in their view of humanity - to wit that humanity is seriously psychologically flawed, it's all going to end in tears and there's nothing to be done about it.

Cat's Cradle has a sense of humour about it, treating life as a big joke, played upon humanity, and blowing up the events of life to a scale where they are obviously ludicrous and parodic. It mixes the novel itself with chunks of a fictional religion from within it, a religion which was deliberately created within the novel when religion's creator realised that truth didn't make people happy - but giving them something to believe in would.

City has much less of an overt sense of humour about it, although it's also very playful. The structure is a collection of stories (each of which was originally published as a short story), each of which is prefaced by a scholar's interpretation of the origin of the story, what we are are supposed to learn from it, and the differing opinions as to the truth of it. The twist being that the scholars and tale-tellers are dogs and the stories talk about a mythical mankind that only a few believe in. Some take mankind seriously, others see them as part of a parable, illustrating the qualities that dogs are to warned off of. The humans are generally shown to be unhappy, trapped and unable to break free of their limitations - always trying to improve things, never happy with the results. The only humans who achieve happiness are the ones who either become non-human or otherwise retreat from humanity as a whole.

Both books are well worth reading (although City starts off clumsily and takes three stories to really get going), but I recommend against pivking them up if you're already in a melancholy mood.

After Simon Bisson's review I decided to order The Golden Age and its two sequels, as being exactly the kind of SF I could do with. This wasn't a problem, sadly, ordering the other two books I fancied _was_.

I recently re-read Hyperion, which was still fantastic, so now I want to read the sequel. Amazingly, the sequel isn't in print any more, the pair of books now only being available as a great big collected volume which (a) I already own half of and (b) is far too large to slip into a pocket or wander about with. So I'm going to track it down second-hand instead.

The other one is Small Gods, which I want as a present for someone. However, when wandering into Waterstones yesterday I saw that there are new printings of the Discworld novels, with very cool covers. Sadly, the reprints are only up to book 5 (or so) and Small Gods isn't due for the new cover until June. So I won't be buying _that_ this week either.


Am just back from The Life Aquatic, which was good, if not great, and almost certainly better if you've ever seen any Jack Cousteau movies. The cut-away ship and the stop-motion creatures were touches of genius.

A quick google has sadly shown me that Cate Blanchett is married.


I hate those meeses to pieces

The disadvantage of a cordless mouse is that it needs to be recharged. Which is, y'know, fine, as it comes with a handy holster thing.

But if you forget to put it _back_ in its holster repeatedly for two days, then it starts to fail.

At which point you end up putting it back in for thirty seconds, then taking it out to click on something, then puttign it back in again to get a few more seconds of power.

Fortunately I'm largely keyboard-oriented, and mostly coding at the moment (exploring how new, virtual and override affect inheritance in C#), so I don't need the mouse too much...