Archives: M.A.R. Barker

Currently in the Book Chute

I am usually reading three or four books at any given point, all at varying points of completion. Call it the book chute. There are books upstream, queuing up to enter the chute, and there are others just emerging from the chute, freshly read. So here’s a snapshot of the book chute now, and it is fairly representative.

I finished Robert Sheckley’s “Immortality, Inc.” recently. And I’m about a quarter into Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash.” Yes, I’m late to the party on both of those. “Snow Crash” I’ve meant to read for years, but I wanted to buy a copy instead of checking it out from the library. I’m also cheap, so I wanted to buy a used copy, but have never been able to find anything other than new. Birthday gift card to the rescue! Actually my intent was to pick up the latest of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos novels, but Barnes & Noble didn’t have a copy in stock (odd, since they’d been pushing it in the inescapable online advertisements that accompany my web browsing.)

I mention “Immortality, Inc.” and “Snow Crash” together because I find it interesting to read almost side by side two visions of the future written about fifty years apart. Both still hold up despite missing certain developments. Sheckley didn’t forecast the computer revolution. And it is disconcerting to read so much about telephone operators and pay calls. The nineteen-fifties permeate the book, but it is still an inventive take on the future. Stephenson stuck with the cyberpunk conception of the internet as an immersive, virtual world, navigated on foot by avatars, interfacing with programs on an almost physical basis instead of through the intermediation of a keyboard. And he didn’t take wi-fi far enough, not envisioning the speed and data capacity we now take for granted. But I’m digging the book to this point.

I’m also reading M.A.R. Barker’s “Flamesong.” I finished the first of his Tékumel novels, “The Man of Gold,” a couple of months ago, and moved on to “Flamesong.” The world-building is first rate, and hyper-detailed. Perhaps overly so. I almost worry there will be a test once I’ve finished the book.

I’m reading “The Thousand” by Kevin Guilefoile. Think Dan Brown, but with more originality and a bit of a sci-fi component. And, so far, better writing.

Then there’s the collection of Sherlock Holmes stories sitting on the upstairs toilet tank, “The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.” One must have a bathroom book, right?

In line I’ve got a couple of Violette Malan’s Dhulyn and Parno novels, conveniently combined in a single volume, and a John Ringo novel, “Live Free or Die.”

So long as I keep the chute fed, I’m content.

Manzanita

It is possible to pack in a lot of fun over a weekend, especially when you cut out early on Friday.  (It’s OK, I requested the time off officially.)  It’s important to break routine, to get away from our usual haunts and activities.  If not, we stagnate, even if our usual haunts and activities are pretty damn keen to begin with.

The Oregon coast, for those of you not familiar with it, does not provide that So-Cal bikini and surfer dude vibe.  Yes there are surfers out catching waves but they are few – and wearing wetsuits.  The August beach goers along the Oregon coast are tossing tennis balls to romping dogs, flying kites, carving three-wheel tracks in the sand on rented tricycles, setting out a picnic, piling up wood for evening bonfires.  And toting a sweater, just in case.

Now it wasn’t all vacation.  I did get some writing done in the hotel.  And I spent some time searching for sasquatch, though I never did catch a glimpse.

But I was primarily interested in recreation, recharging my batteries.  I got in nine-holes of golf, tossed the frisbee on the beach, and sampled some beer.  I chanced upon a copy of M.A.R. Baker’s “Flamesong” for three dollars at a used book store.  And I was able to hear your favorite band http://www.redelvises.com/ play in a small venue.  There is a certain increased immediacy to the music when the musicians perform in a small pub without a stage or any sort of barrier between them and the audience.

So with the batteries recharged, bring on the work week.  I’m ready.