Tricks and Treats

Flu and rainstorms turned my Halloween break into the perfect opportunity for another of my reading sprees and I had no trouble tearing through my queue.

Beautiful Data ★★

A nice, but ultimately unsatisfactory collection of standalone pieces on many diverse approaches at dealing with data in various forms. The bits I was most interested in (such as social network analysis) turned out to be the most anecdotal and shallow, whereas I did earn a lot more respect for the folk doing embedded development for space probes. Your mileage may vary, but I suggest digging for academic papers on your topics of interest instead of getting this book.

Year Zero ★★★★★

A delightful romp through the legal insanity that pervades the music industry, and most likely a tad too real for a science fiction book. The footnotes are hilarious, and you’ll never think of copyright the same way again. Toss in a few last-chapter twists on how human civilization has been stealthily software-sabotaged throughout the past few decades, and you have a little bundle of literary fun.

The Hydrogen Sonata ★★★

Banks sticking to his polished standards and crafting his usual grand and engrossing multi-level plots, only let down by his failing to surprise me with a memorable plot twist or by any new insights into the Culture. I expected more, somehow.

The Great North Road ★★★★

A gripping mix of detective story, science fiction and wilderness trek that turned out to be quite enjoyable indeed. I’m a fan of Hamilton’s writing and the way he spins a good yarn out of the interactions of memorable characters, and this book did not disappoint.

The Thousand Emperors ★★★

Another detective story of sorts in a future dystopia that also started well enough but lost me somewhere along the middle. I still have no real idea why.

Bowl of Heaven ★★★

Another angle on the Ringworld series and its “explorers traipsing about in a massive worldscape without making much logical progress” plot, basically, but with a bowl. OK, there’s a bit more than that to it, but somehow it lacked the depth I craved - either that or I was a bit miffed that the book ended mid-plot.