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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Very Cyberpunk Christmas

This Christmas, I asked for something I haven't asked for in a long time: books! Since I began college, my time has been taken up by coding, friends, and other unusual projects, and my reading dropped like 3rd period French. Blogs, news, and the occasional IM thread were all I consumed in the written languages. This year, I wanted to change that - to get back to some of the epic levels of knowledge-consumption and idea-decoding I managed back in high school. Reading was a form of escapism back in high school - this year I wanted to indulge it as an independent pleasure.

To that end, I asked for books for Christmas, and boy did I get 'em. And now they're done. Here's a quick list:
They were all good reads. You may notice a theme (or have picked up on it from the title of this post) - cyberpunk and sci-fi stuff. Most of these are books I read highly endorsing reviews of from Boing Boing - the directory of wonderful things of which Mr. Doctorow is a blogger. Nightmares & Dreamscapes was a recommendation from a friend, and a darn good one at that. The Zombie Survival Guide was something I had been meaning to read.

Overclocked, Neuromancer, Mona Lisa, and Snow Crash were incredible. Real epics of sci-fi, I would say. Full of wonderful and downright crazy ideas that shake one's vision of humanity, consciousness, and the future. Snow Crash in particular makes one reconsider society, humanity, and the nature of thought. Overclocked does some crazy things with sentience and post-scarcity ideas. The William Gibson novels are written in an amazing staccato which I have only seen in the likes of Hemmingway, and Gibson's ability to tie together hundreds of seemingly unrelated plot threads is awe-inspiring. Nightmares and Dreamscapes had a few terrifying tales, and many interesting and engrossing stories full of well-written characters.

The Survival Guide, I was a little disappointed in, if only for the wasted opportunity. It is apparent from reading that very little to no research was put into its writing, and they chose one explanation and modus operandi of zombies from a swath of science fantasy creations. If the book had done honest research on survivalist strategies, the psychology of small groups, guerrillas, and weapons, it would have been much improved. The same for if it had described ways of dealing with different types of zombies, rather than a cheesy journal of fictional "outbreaks" throughout history.

Overall, I'm glad to say my reading quotient for this year is up about 500% from the previous three. I hope to keep going - reading is a valuable and entertaining hobby, and I really think it helps keep my brain tinkering along and learning. Feel free to post any book suggestions, arguments or discussions in the comments!


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