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Journal of No. 118

October 6th, 2014

Halting State / The Friday Book @ 05:15 pm


Halting State (spoiler alert) is a novel by Charlie Stross. Sort of a technothriller, there are a number of nice conceits in their -- my favorite being the idea that ARGs could be used by intelligence services to get idiots like you and me to carry out low-level operations, thinking that we were only playing a game. A popular ARG could have a gajillion people signed up, some of them right where you need them. Go make this delivery. Follow this car and report where it goes. Nominated for the Hugo, I can't quite rate it quite *that* highly. Just because it gets so complicated that it's like The Big Sleep, doesn't mean it's as good as The Big Sleep.

The Friday Book is a collection of nonfiction by John Barth. Many of them are introductory remarks he gave before readings, so they tend to dwell on what's on his mind as he's writing various works. And his mind is full of a lot of miscellaneous things. And many of the usual things for Barth... the Arabian Nights, myth, Maryland crabs, and boating. And as a professor of creative writing, he often gets very academic with his presentation, too abstruse for an ill-educated wannabe scribbler like me to fully appreciate. I love Borges and the Arabian Nights almost as much as Barth does, and enjoy his discussions of these topics, but several essaylets and introductions split hairs between modernist, premodernist, and postmodernist novels. Barth gleefully admits that other experts have informed him that his definition of postmodernism is entirely wrong. I gleefully confess I don't care. Another favorite bit was his defense of 'dippy verses' (the very phrase of a critic of one of his novels). Having composed a few dippy verses of my own, I sympathize. I'm not sure why the piece also includes a long discourse on osprey nests, but I'm glad it does. Alas, on the whole, I felt there were not enough enjoyable nuggets in this Cracker Jack box of miscellanea.
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Journal of No. 118