The Book Stack

This page is to reflect what I am currently reading, and what I have already perused. My memory is lousy; I often forget names of authors and titles of books. Strangely, I often remember the contents, or abstruse details. If everything works well, this page will be my extended memory¹ in matters written. (I hope that the combination of a hard disk and "grep" will prove more reliable than my memory.)

One might ask why I do this. The answer is quite simple: after I have invested many hours into reading a book (i am no speed reader), writing down a few lines about the most important points is no big investment into the future. Also, writing down things clears the mind: often, after reading a book, i feel somewhat uneasy. It's a "what's now?" feeling. Writing down a short review is a good way to turn this feeling into something productive.

Other people have had the same idea:

The language in this list is mixed. German books are reviewed in german, english books in english. Beware of the spoilers!

(03.03.95) There is now also a list of books (or other things) which i am interested in, i.e. which i would buy if i encountered them in a used book store. Some of them even new. Beware! This is yet another trash page, albeit without links.

Brian Stableford: Carnival of Destruction
The last part of the "Werevolves" story, set in 1918 (and continuing up to the third millenium, if the last part is not to be interpreted as a dream). The end is conclusive, if mysterious. Elements of current SF (nanotechnology, spaceships) are mixed into the end, and utterly destroy the charming Victorian atmosphere. Lost characters from the first part are recycled. Eventually, everything is shown to be an alternate Universe that splitted from ours long ago (the Order of St Amycus doesn's seem to exist, or at least brother Mallory isn't a member of it), or that splits in the very beginning of the egyptian narrative (how does Mandorla get into the alternate -- our -- Universe?), or that exists during another "cycle". I am utterly confused (the ending is somewhat pointless, and the Final Oracle doesn't show much except its own impotence, or that of Its creators), and I gather that this confusion is intended -- after all, reality-that-is-not-reality is one of the main themes of the narration.

My recommendation: read the first book -- it is solid victorian/gothic fantasy with a nicely innovative background myth --, and ignore the (i hesitate to name them so, because the books were planned as one) sequels.

Crowley: Aegypt
For me, a slow, intense reading experience (i.e., not at all the kind of book I usually like to read). The initial idea of the book might have been similar to Stableford's "Werevolves" (what if the True History of the World was different than we imagine...), but the delevopment of the story is utterly different. I haven't yet found the energy to read "Love & Sleep", the second part.

Steven Pinker: The Language Instinct
(27.04.96) My copy arrived circa five month after I ordered it. An interesting book: mostly fun to read, and with a lot of examples and anecdote. Danny Yee calls it "simply the best popular work on linguistics around", and Jutta sez it's "the best, simplest, most concise, most fluent technical writing about language I've ever read". To me, a lot was already well-known, but I've been told that not everyone learns All About Chomsky in school.

(27.04.96 haven't added things to this list for almost a month 'cause I didn't spend much time in the TUB)

Connie Willis: The Doomsday book
(02.03.96) Starts off as a reasonably fast and enticing read.

Brian Stableford: The Angel Of Pain
Continues 20 years after the "Werevolves of London". Not nearly as good, mainly because the setting and the ideas are now well known. It is to be hoped that the third (and last) volume is sufficiently different.

Ursula K Leguin: Tehanu
The last "Earthsea" book. In tone and content, a strange mix: a very adult story in a language and setting fitting for a children's tale. A fitting ending.

Anthony Burgess: A Mouthful of Air: Langauge, Languages... Especially English
Long ago, Burgess aquired an education as English Lit teacher. Later, he got around in the world, teaching English both as a first and second language, to much varying audiences. As a result, he became very interested in comparative linguistics. This book covers most aspects of language, but really concentrates on the phonetical aspects.

Salman Rushdie: Imaginary Homelands : Essays and Criticism, 1981-1991
Chief amongst the essays are those that go into the creation of and reactions to Midnight's Children. The reviews are a mixed bag, containing some surprises -- I actually knew three of the reviewed books, and I didn't know that Rushdie values Grass so highly.

Salman Rushdie: Midnight's Children
It took me two weeks to work my way through this one (most of it in on the daily 40-minute underground ride). A huge book, not so much wrt the page count, but wrt the number of stories, characters, and details. My knowledge of post-war India being nearly non-existent, the text didn't so much (mis-)fit into existing historic knowledge, but instead offered a chronological view into an unknown country.

Salman Rushdie: Haroun and the Sea of Stories
A great little book. Wonderful language, pervasively satirical humour. I don't know what the neighbours were thinking as I sat on the loo, reading passages to myself.

Stephenson, Neil: Snow Crash
(Don't know when I read it, at least a month ago. Simply forgot to write about it then.) A rather good cyberspace novel, with a few fascinating details ("cheap" grainy black&white avatars! - reminded me of some aspects of Walter Jon William's "Aristoi").

Vernor Vinge: Threats and other Promises

(21.01.96)This short-story collection is the companion volume to the almost-legendary "True Names". The foreword claims that it concentrates more on human and social issues than technical ones (as True Names did), and the first story Apartness does show.

Terry Pratchett: Sourcery

(21.01.96) This was the first Discworld book I ever read (they are pretty scarce in the used-book stores), and it might be that last one for some time. I mean, this is supposed to be fun? Well, yeah, in a way it is (and I read the whole thing in one rush), but it gets repetitious after a while. Fast food.

Victor Klemperer: LTI (Reclam Leipzig, 1946/57/75)

(03.01.96) Untertitelt "Notizbuch eines Philologen". Klemperer beschreibt die Lingua Tertii Imperii, wie er die Eigentümlichkeiten der offiziellen und inoffiziellen Nazi-Sprache nennt, aus einer sehr persönlichen Perspektive, die dennoch stets den wissenschaftichen Taxonomiewunsch durchscheinen läßt.

Ein lehrreiches Buch: Teile dieser Sprache haben sich bis ins heutige Deutschland hinübergerettet, so der Pathos der "historischen" Ereignisse und "Staatsakte". Wenn ich mir früher alte Wochenschauen ansah, war mir nie klar, das bestimmte zentrale Begriffe, die ich für selbst-entlarvend hielt (etwa "fanatisch") in der Sprachauffassung des dritten Reiches eine völlige Umkehr ihrer "natürlichen" (vorher und nachher bestehenden) Konnotationen erfahren hatten.

Das einzige, was mich an Klemperer stört, sind seine Naivität gegenüber den sowjetischen Verhältnissen (siehe den Abschnitt über "Europa"), und seine teilweise vorhandene Tendenz, Änderungen des Sprachgebrauchs mit (m.E.) unfalsifizierbaren Bedeutungsnuancen zu belegen. Ersteres ist vermutlich eine Folge inverser Propaganda, letzteres ein generelles Problem der Linguistik.

(06.01.96) Ich habe gerade zufällig im Radio gehört, daß Klemperers Tagebücher (sozusagen das Rohmaterial des LTI) jetzt veröffentlicht worden sind, 1600 (?) Seiten stark.

Anthony Burgess: Earthly Powers (1980)

(12.12.95) Just started that one two days ago. When I started to read this book (in German translation, my English wasn't up to par back then) about twelve or thirteen years ago, I didn't dig it. That is, it bored me to death, and I didn't manage to read more than 15 pages. Today, I got too late out of home because I read 15 pages during breakfast (I had only intended to finish up a chapter). Must be maturity or something.

(19.12.95) Finished it up this morning. Like in "Any Old Iron", Burgess depicts an entire life, but this time only those episodes concerned with the thematic complex {morality/religion/free will} are shown, to create something of a morale. Bugger me if I know what.

Peter Hoeg: Miss Smillas Feeling for Snow (1992 danish orig./1993 english tr.)

(12.12.95) What starts as a somewhat strangely setted investigation story slowly changes into something different. There is a certain Banks-like atmosphere to the character of Miss Smilla (the comparison to Isis offers itself when one has read Whit previously).

(01.01.96) Habe meiner Mutter die deutsche Ausgabe geschenkt (sie hatte noch nie davon gehört, Hoeg ist offenbar im englischsprachigen Raum bekannter als bei uns), und sie war sehr zufrieden.

PJ Farmer: More than Fire (1993)

(12.12.95) Purported to be that last of the "Word of Tiers" books, this is the story of Kickaha and Ananana, set 15 years past the original set of stories. Just the same, only more so.

Charles Sheffield: Godspeed (1993)

(12.12.95) Here Sheffield tries something new, a juvenile in the classic Heinlein mood, but with an interesting extra-terrestrian setting. Totally unbelievable physics, but what the heck.

Charles Sheffield: Cold as Ice (1992)

(12.12.95 / I have been away from this computer for nearly two weeks, so the next few reviews are bunched up and quite tiny) Typical Sheffield setting and yarn. Good read, nothing really surprising.

Jan Tschichold: The Form of the Book (1937-74, ed 75, trans 91)

(03.12.95) Originally in German (``Ausgewählte Aufsätze über Fragen der Gestalt des Buches und der Typographie''), I only got hold of this translation of a bunch of Tschichold's essays. I will be reading them over the next week.

Iain Banks: Whit (1995)

(03.12.95) Bought this one in London last weekend (it is so new that it is only available as a hardcover now). As usual, a nice read. (In the midst, I got a Friday-ish feeling of alienation, but that passed.) In general tone, a mixture of "Crow Road" (Family history un-earthed) and "Wasp Factory" (somewhat unusual viewpoint character). Neither real shock effects nor "paradigm changes" as found in most of his earlier works. I have a feeling that Banks becomes more sedated over time (positively speaking, more mature, I guess).

Nathanial S. Borenstein: Programming as if People Mattered (1991)

(27.11.95) I got the creepy impression that Borenstein tried to write a "mythical man-month" for user interface designers. Of course, he didn't quite succeed, but the book is still quite readable. A general air of laxity is maintained by dozens of quotable asides ("This term [egoless programming] [...] may seem like a contradiction in terms to anyone who has ever met a programmer, but [...]".) and examples of actual UI design errors.

Iain Banks: The Crow Road (1992)

(25-28.11.95) Overall, a nice story. Most other "mainstream" Banks' books have their horrible or shocking moments; these are nearly total absent from TCR, substituted by humour (or, rather, sarcasm) and a general air of strangeness. The viewpoint character is quite likeable, and the reader sighs in relief at the moment Prentice realizes what woman he really loves (quite obvious to me from the start on).

C.J. Cherryh: Chanur's Legacy (1992)

(24-25.11.95) This is the fifth Chanur book, a kind of postscript to the middle three books. A nice read, really; it shows how life goes one after the (maybe too) good ending of "Chanur's Homecoming".

Flann O'Brien: At Swim-To-Birds

(10-17.11.95) Dozens of times I heard his name mentioned, and finally I obtained one of his books. Still not through it; I read it in fits of 10-30 pages. The style reminds me a lot of Ulysses; the surface story is hard to understand, and I often have the creepy feeling that something has slipped by (e.g, the place where Finn's feathers are first mentioned: I looked back for the exact wording of the curse, and only then understood what it was all about). I also continually mix up the figures in my head (the fact that direct speech is not marked as such, and the identity of the speaker usually has to be derived by context and guesswork, doesn't help). The four stories are utterly mixed up, and a sense of reality is missing from all of them. The only scene that I found distinctly funny (in the sense of, made me laugh aloud in the subway in the midst of the night) was the "why your wife is not a kangaroo" discussion. Most others were obnoxious (I don't judge drunken talk to be funny, it tends to depress me) or just weird.

Kim Stanley Robinson: Escape from Kathmandu

(13-17.11.95) Nice reading matter for disturbeded night in which I can't get sleep. I like happy-ends, and EfK is possibly the best light prose Robinson has written yet (I am not too impressed by most of his other work, too heavy and a bit wannabe-litterture-ish).

RAH: Glory Road (1963)

(07.11.95) Didn't feel too well yesterday night; the Barker is still sitting beside my bed, but I can't stomach more than a dozen pages per day. So I remembered a discussion on Heinlein I read the previous day (on the dialogue of the Cyrano construct), and unearthed Glory Road from the archive. Last time I read it was many years ago, and my understanding has changed somewhat. It now looks like an early study for "The Number of the Beast", with Oscar being a naive proto-Zebadiah, and Star a strange mix of Deety and Hilda. The "dominance game" subplot is there; the Multiverse is there, the sex & morality theme is there, even the world-as-myth is hinted at ("I have fallen into a book. I hope the author will let me have a long live"). The one major theme that is unique is the "heroes alienation", and Heinlein gets very cynical about American culture in describing it.

Clive Barker: Everville

(16.10-26.10.95) Barker writes compent-to-excellent horror fantasy that is best read in one afternoon, a task not made simpler by the fact that his books are usually on the larger side. "Everville" builts atop an earlier book (the great and secret show?) that I don't have read, so I am somewhat at a disadvantage. Also, I currently don't have a lot of time for reading. As a result, I manage a snail's pace of between 2 and 20 pages per day, most of it on the loo. Luckily, Everville is structured in miniscule episodes, told from three of four major viewpoints (also known as Standard Technique Number One To Fill Up Those Pages), so the thread doesn't get lost too easily.(17.11.95) Still not through, its getting older on the stack.

Vernor Vinge: True Names and Other Dangers

(25.10.95, ex libris Fabian Hahn) Great early cyberspace story, uses a very advanced imagery and some concepts (e.g., the link-up technology) that are totally foreign to today's "mainstream" cyberstuff. The other stories are also interesting. All revolve, directly or indirectly, around the "singularity" concept that haunts Vinge. A must-read, if you can get the book.

A.E. Van Vogt: The Voyage of the Space Beagle & The War Against the Rull

(25.09.95) Bought these, true Golden-Age classics both, cheap a few days ago and read them in the subway (a location for which they are well suited). Both books are assemblages of short stories, and the seams show. But that doesn't bother me at all; the juvenile freshness still carries the reader along, even half a century after these stories were written. True, the inner logic lacks, and the near omni-potent heroes are utterly unbelievable, but so what?

Umberto Eco: Im Labyrinth der Vernunft (Texte über Kunst und Zeichen), herausgegeben von Michael Franz und Stefan Richter; Reclam Leipzig, 1989

(22.09.95 - nach dem enttäuschenden Besuch der Cy Twombly-Retrospektive habe ich den Sonntag gerettet, indem ich mir im Buchladen der Nationalgalerie zwei Ecos gegönnt habe: das hier und die "Ästhetik des Mittelalters") Dies ist ein "Eco Reader", der verschiedenste Aufsätze und Kapitelauszüge zusammenstellt. Die Lesbarkeit der Kapitel ist inhomogen; ich werde kaum alles Stück lesen (glücklicherweise gibt es keinen narrativ-didaktischen roten Faden, den man beim Springen zerstückeln kann).

James Morrow: Towing Jehovah (1994)

(21.09.95) This is a really strange book. Its premise is utterly bizarre and guaranteed novel (not an easy thing, even in SF). The execution oscillates between satire, absurd catholic SF (you know Blish?), and morality play with hefty symbolism. The satirical elements were good enough to make me laugh out loudly a few times; the theological problems weren't handled too well. Some scenes got downright nasty -- especially all those teophagic details (I don't think I can even think about a Cheeseburger for the next few days).

Don Sakers: The Leaves of October (1988)

(20.09.95) A rare treat. Scope (in space, time, and philosophy), some very unusual viewpoints, and a lot of empathy. (I usually hate books that bring me half to tears). The Hlutr are surely amongst the most majestic aliens ever dreamt up.

Christopher Rowley: The Black Ship (1985)

(19.09.95) Rowley is one of the better "B-authors". This one is his second novel, and it shows the distinctive elements that will be developed in his later Vang books: a combination of military SF with interesting (and often very creepy) aliens. TBS suffers from "featurism": too many interesting ideas are cramped into one book (partial absolution: Rowley's first novel laid some groundwork). Some of the elements are recognizable golden-age standards (the giant robot slaving away in his laboratory, trying to escape a dying universe? the compressed psionic message that turns an ordinary human into a pre-programmed psionic wonderboy able to enter a new universe? Reminded me of Kim Kinnison and that spider...), but others have some freshness: the Chitin colonies are executed nicely, and the Fein are competently modelled near-humanoid warriers. All the fighting gets boring, but it serves to explain why the military-SF sub-genre is so popular: it provides a well-understood base context and standard plot-line reservoir onto which just about everything can be grafted.

Michael Barkun: Religion and the Racist Right - The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement (1994)

My first WWW-ordered book bag has arrived, bringing with it some strange things, amongst them a Robert A. Wilson two-act-(opera? drama?), and this documentation on bizarre American religions. The first section of the book describes the precedents of Identity ("British-Isrealism", active in the 19th century, and all but dead today) and the mutations they underwent after crossing the Atlantic. I am currently (09.09.95) on page 90, where the theological part starts, i.e. a catalogue of Identity's relevant beliefs and the theories from which they evolved. Guaranteed to give bad dreams. I'll write down a few excerpts on a separate page. (12.09.95) Nearly through it, and it is still quite disquieting. Thank the Goddess that I don't have to live in a land where such loonies are running around freely. (Of course, here in Germany, we have our own local brand of loons; sigh ;-) (16.09.95) Finished. On the last few dozen pages, it gets somewhat repetitive, with not much really new material. The "cultic milieu" observations are interesting, though; and its conclusions are a bit depressing. ((24.09.95) Cosma recommends Norman Cohn, e.g. "The Pursuit of the Millennium", and "Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith", "Waiting for the Apocalypse")

It could be funny if you didn't know that there are people in the Real World (so-called) who actually believe these absurdities! (If you read newsgroups like misc.activism.militia, you might recognize the name Randy Weaver. He was a believer in Identity.) Somehow Identity is scarier than cults like Scientology, since Scientology's "theoretical foundations" look like utter crackpotness to any normal human being who gets to see them (which is why they are "copyrighted trade-secrets", I guess), while it only takes a few modification to the basic tenets of protestantism to arrive at Identity - a much shorter way for most people, and a very rewarding one, as at the end it promises a belief system that supports your prejudices and tells you you are of the chosen people!

Iain Banks: Complicity (1993)

(05.09.95) ``A bit like The Wasp Factory, except without the happy ending and redeeming air of cheerfulness'', sez Iain himself, and is misleads the reader who wants to buy another masterpiece of gloomy psychotic introversion. The irony is much more explicit than in TWF, and the whole air of the book is not at all depressing. Which is, in a way, worse, since Complicity describes the very common and very un-horror-like behavioural patterns of greed and corruption. Sprinkle with murder scenes written in the second person, a bit of sex, and computer games. (15.09.95, 22:50) Just finished it (and writing this rest-review from my mother's home (were I have to keep the cats happy while she is in Köln on a seminar) via my cranky old Atari ST and a cheap modem -- a definite first!), and I feel a bit cheated. The ``Banks moment'' was missing this time (or at least very faint), and I guessed who the murderer was from early on (though I considered Cameron for quite a while). I am still unsure about the second-person view scenes; I guess they are included to convey the impression that the book is written by the viewpoint character with the murderer as the intended audience. What is the symbolism of the video games? Of the drugs? Of the cancer? I don't know. I'll surely re-read this book in a few months, there are enough details left that only a second reading can unveil.

Roger Zelazny: This Immortal (1966, expanded version of ... and call me Conrad, 1965)

(04.09.95) Now that Zelazny is dead, I try to find all his classics. This is one of it, for sure. Rather short for a novel (216 pages with a large typeface), it introduces a most interesting character in a strange, half-mythical, long-post-apocalyptic world. The happy ending is almost sappy, but then, Zelazny didn't write a dozen sequels to this one, so "and they lived happily ever after" is fine with me. The book is also distinctly funny.

Harlan Ellison: Shatterday (Anthology)
Harlan Ellison (ed.): Dangerous Visions 2 (Anthology)

(29.08.95) I am not a great fan of Ellison, his writing is at times hard to understand (what he calls "subtlety" can be hard on people who don't get the hints, due to problems of language oder cultural bias), and what he hopes to be "shocking" often isn't any more (many of his stories are from the 60ies and early 70ies, and I guess it was easier to shock a US audience at that time). I just read "Jeffty is Five", and while I believe to have understood what happened to Jeffty in the end, I am by no means sure. And the central mystery of Jeffty stays unexplained, anyway (something I hate in all kinds of fiction, not just SF&F).

Gene Wolfe: The Shadow of the Torturer (1980)

(27.08.95) A recent thread on rec.arts.sf.written reminded me of all the half-read tomes of Wolfe that have accumulated in the book stack during the last years. I still haven't managed to work myself beyond the first chapter of Free Live Free!, for example. I have read the first two or three volumes of the Book of the New Sun; enough to appreciate some details on a re-reading that I ignored the first time through. (17.11.95) tSotT stays half-read.

Josephus: The Jewish War (translated by G.A. Williamson, 1959)

(25.08.95) Reading the strange and distorted stories told by Josephus, I get the impression that the current political situation in the Near East is comparatively peaceful. I mean, really. Back then, kings and emperors changed about all five years and permanently warred against neighbors, throne pretendends, and their own brothers and mothers. The killing or enslavement of armies of ten thousand, and the pillaging and burning of whole cities, was more or less ordinary -- as was the re-settelement of said cities by eager colonists. Compared to this, one car bomb per week is almost peaceful -- and today's population is probably one or two orders of magnitude bigger!

I hope I have the stamina to work myself through all of the book; this task is not made easier by the fact that a lot of characters have the same (or very similar ;-) names, and that events are only sparingly dated with year numbers.

Harry Kemelmann: Am Freitag schlief der Rabbi lang / Am Samstag ass der Rabbi nichts / Am Sonntag blieb der Rabbi weg (Originale und Übersetzungen 1966/67/70, Sammelband 1995, rororo 3186, 12.-)
Manchmal ergreift mich die Nostalgie, insbesondere bei 20er-Jahre-Krimis (Christie, Sayers), aber auch bei Kemelmanns mitt-60er Geschichten. Es sind dies klassische Krimis, mit unbekannten Mördern, in einer mir als Deutschem ziemlich fremdartigen Umgebung. Die Bürgerrechtsbewegung hat es im Süden noch schwer, die Sprache ist von PC ungetrübt, und viele der Personen sind noch vom Krieg geprägt. Die Lerninhalte sind nicht so stark vertreten wie in "Conversations with Rabbit Small" (Kemelmanns Judaistik 101 ;-), aber sie schimmern immer mal wieder durch. Am Ende eines jeden Buches gibt es eine befriedigende Auflösung (wenn ich auch gern mehr über Raphael Carter erfahren hätte). Die Art von Buch, die ich gerne lese, wenn ich krank im Bett liege.

Leigh Brackett (ed): The Best of Edmond Hamilton (1977)
(11.08.95) While on the subject of short stories, I took a look at the "Best of Edmund Hamilton" that I have sitting around for an eternity. Read two stories. Blown away. I mean, really. Take In the World's Dusk. The author has an idea and writes it down in a style that doesn't get in the way of the reader, creating a tight little story that you won't forget. What more do you want? (14.08.95) A story such as Alien Earth can't be reduced much more, and the five-page vignette Exile has the feel of one of the better Niven stories (you know, the kind of stuff he doesn't write anymore, that can be found in "All the Myriad Ways"). I have the impression that modern writers shy away from the big ideas, or those stories that don't have sexy elements like cyberspace, nano-technology, or at least genetics.

Dorothy L. Sayers: Lord Peter Views the Body (1928)
(06.08.95) I like turn-of-the-century settings, and I like mystery stories (in the old, Sherlock-Holmesian style, i.e. stories in which a mystery is unraveled). Amongst the short stories of this collection are some real mysteries (one even features a crossword puzzle!), while others are mere atmosphere pieces ("The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag"). (10.08.95) Just finished the last one (Ali Baba and the 40 thieves). I have problems believing that Wimsey would spend years to find some gang of burglars! Otherwise, the stories are quite nice, even if the surprises are often not very surprising.

Mike Resnick (ed): Alternate Kennedys (1992)
(05.08.95) Urgh. Bought that one for the "oh no!" factor, just like the "Carmen Miranda" collection. Some of the authors are famous for their short stories, so the book can't be a total fluke. We'll see. (10.08.95) Had three of the stories for breakfast. Two of them not bad, but forgettable, one with a horrible joke ending.

Michael Moorcock: Ein Unbekanntes Feuer (Dancers of the End of Time, Buch 1, 1972, übersetzt von Thomas Ziegler, 1983)
(04.08.95) Es ist wieder passiert! Nachdem ich die ersten hundert Seiten überstanden habe, bin ich auf Seite 114 (und im London von 1896) gestrandet, weil ein interessanteres Buch meine Aufmerksamkeit an sich gerissen hat. (Ich hasse es, ein halbangefangenes Buch im Hinterkopf mit mir herumzutragen; ich muß es diese Tage fertiglesen.)

Michael Moorcock: The Hollow Lands (Dancers of the End of Time, Book 2, 1974)
(02.08.95) Moorcock's oevre ranges from the astonishingly bad, repetitious, hackneyed, written-on-a-weekend (some of his Elric stuff) to the nigh-sublime. The "Dancers" books are at the latter end of the spectrum. Indeed, I never managed to get through their German translations, as those were boring, lacking in internal logic, and devoid of useful viewpoint characters. Of course, this criticism also applies to the originals, but the details make up for it, and the setting - a civilization consisting of a few dozen near-omnipotent bored individuals that collect time travelers and aliens in menageries, recreate ancient cities in edible substances, and know about the impeding end of the universe and don't care about it - is one of the most fascinating I've ever encountered. (04.08.95) The 19th-century scenes are strange, as ever, and it is totally unbelievable how naive the protagonist acts. The grand finale in the Cafe is just about unbelievable; the end looks a bit like "lets park the characters at some end of time where there can't do any harm". Of course, this is the second part of an (eek!) trilogy, so that's exactly what happens.

E.R. Burroughs: The Mad King (1914)
(01.08.95) From the true master of the pulp action story. The setting might be borrowed from one of the more obscure Karl May tomes, the story is a classic, the execution is just about as one might expect. No further comments necessary. (At the start, I had hoped ERB would go for an identity-switch, as he kept the option open, but then he went for the easy way out. Sigh) (02.08.95) So it was really two stories, and the hero gets the girl and the villains their just deserts at the end of the second one. Interestingly, the second story has a real date and location, it happens at the start of the War, i.e. in 1914, between the borders of Austria and Serbia (the Austrians help the villains). Reminds you that ERB was pre-golden age, kind of the missing link between Verne (died '05) and Asimov (born ?), contemporary with Wells!. In that light, his stories are astonishing modern.

Mike Resnick: Ivory (1988)
(31.07.95) Grabbed the first unread one from the bookstack, and came up with this 'un. Resnick has a tendency to recapitulate African history in a space-opera setting, and it shows. The first setting is almost Vance-ish (when have you last witnessed the classic galactic-cutthroat-gambles-his-ship poker game scene, complete with grotesque aliens and a cyborg lady?). The composition of the book (a set of episodes stringed together by a frame story) resemembles a short story-goes-novella collection. Lets see whether a common theme develops. (01.08.95) IMHO, there doesn't. Apart from some really unnecessary mysticism that crops up then and now, the episodes are just episodes, and the attached flashbacks have to real relation to them. The end is rather tragic, and there is no real resolution for the viewpoint character. Oh well, next book.

Iain M. Banks: Feersum Endjinn
(18.07.95: In a fit if madness, I bought the two Banksen for the regular price. Banks' books are very scarce in the used-book-shops hereabouts.) (24.07.95) Ok, started it yesterday. Second-order sciffy, this is: it takes the first four or six mini-chapters to get into the mood of the story, to create enough of a mindset and assemble the clues as to understand where the whole story takes place, and what the persons are. Concepts like direct interfaces are taken for granted, and seen as we seem handys today - an annoyance (compare this to "Oath of Fealty"!). Organization-wise, we have four viewpoint characters, and each chapter consists of four mini-chapters, each following its different narrative thread. The characters are about as different as they come; the first is not even named yet (tool of the crypt?), the second (chief scientist) and third (Count Sessine) are reasonable clear, and the fourth (Bascule) is a strange youth, and the perpetrator of that garbled english the book is so well-known for (actually, the Bascombe sections are fun to readif you like crosswords. Imagine me sitting on the loo reading a sentence aloud a dozen times until it clicks ;-). The scenery is totally strange, and it takes some time until the reader knows that this story actually takes place on a future Earth, not some strange otherworld. Which fact makes the setting even more obscure (Reminiscences of Trantor, and the earth of Sheffield's "Nimrod Hunt"). (26.07.95, finished all of chapter 3, that's the "Bascule as a Bird" stuff) Now that is what a mature virtual reality engironment might feel like! Compared to Banks' crypt, all of this cyberspace crap is just lame. (29.07.95) Oh my, the ``Banks-moment'' came early this time! (The BM is the point where the reader has to realign the whole mental universe of the book; it is usually on the last page of a Banks' book) The final end was only fun in that we now know why the book has its name, and what kind of salvation from the encroachment exists (even if the idea is snarfed from Niven, and the special effect from Vinge).

Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984)
(18.07.95) His first (published) novel, and a great success. The critics' comments alone are worth half the (exorbitant - 20DM for less than 180 pages) price. (19.07.95) And it was evening, and it was morning, and it was read. Maybe having been through "American Psycho" has hardened me, but I didn't found tWF that horrible. Probably the worst scene was in the chapter "What happened to Eric", and that wasn't even a murder! I still have problems formulating the "satirical morale" some reviewers seem to have found. Non-Spoiler: As usual with Banks, seemingly small details get new importance in the light of What Is Revealed In The Last Chapter. The structural similarity with "Use of Weapons" doesn't end here; the interleaving of storyline (Eric comes home) and memories is somewhat similar. A working Wasp Factory would be a great exhibit for any Museum of Modern Art.

Brian Stableford: The Werewolves of London (1990)
(16.07.95) A re-read. This is IMHO one of the best victorian horror (?) stories in existence. Reminds me a bit of Barkers' Imajica, but the latter doesn't achieve what it sets out for (world-building of that scale should not be attempted by a mere horror writer ;-), while tWoL gives a few fascinating glimpses into a magical universe that appears solid (may I say ``well-engineered''?). It even has a very good cover illustration. (23.07.95) Some of the symbolism reminded me that I still haven't aquired, yet alone read, "Paradise Lost". The finale is interestingly un-fantasy-like; no golden age, only a return to the status quo ante - and one of the Creators is still at large. I gather there exists a sequel; there is enough material left for one (is Malachalel still alive? What happens when the Clay Man awakens in WWI? Mandorla meets genetic engineering... the mind boggles at the plot possibilities ;-)

Jack Chalker: the first and the last of the Well of Souls books
(09.07.95) This should end my trash binge, as it doesn't get much trashier (without resorting to John Norman, of course ;-). My! That first book is a decent, complete work with interesting ideas, strange characters, and nothing less than God (TM) starring in an important role. But to draw this out with four other parts is ghastly. Luckily, I only read the last part, so I hadn't to endure the mindlessness that oughta have happened in between... Chalker tried to write up a grandiose ending, but it read like a warmed-up variation of the first one, and the 7-day shtick was nothing but pathetic.

Dave Barry: Greatest Hits
(07.07.95) Have been reading it for some days know, in installments of 3-12 pages (aka 1-4 columns).

Timothy Zahn: Deadman Switch
(06.07.95) Not as good as the Cobra books, but somewhat interesting. A few details strain my belief-suspenders, but they don't get too much in the way. (07.07.95) Decent mix between open- and happy-end.

I know classify Zahn under "undistinguished, but reliable entertainment".

Timothy Zahn: Cobra/Cobra Strike (1985/1988)
(05.07.95) Classic action/politic SF; it reads fast, and the characterization & motivation are not too weak. Zahn manages to keep the military aspects of the story low (kind of the anti-Pournelle approach ;-). (06.07.95) Both books have a nice ending; closed enough that I won't loose any sleep over the further life of the protagonists, but open enough that I would read a sequel.

Fred Saberhagen: After The Fact
(04.07.95) Lame time-traveling story. After ``Pyramids'', I had expected better.

Isaac Asimov: Murder at the ABA ("A puzzle in four days and sixty scences") (1976)
(02.07.95) (Ok, not junk, and it's hardbound, too) Maybe they'll throw me out of the guild for this comment, but IMHO Asimov wasn't a very good SF author. He did, however, write decent murder stories. This one is interesting for its auctorial perspective: Asimov is one of the characters of the book, the book itself (or rather, the fact that A. has to write it) is mentioned, and the narrator says that Asimov writes the book from his notes, and even introduces some footnotes -- to which A. responds. (04.07.95) The end is ok.

Rudy Rucker: Master of Time and Space (1984)
(30.06.95) Rucker writes stories that milk mathematics and physics for strange concepts and phenomena. In "White Light" (the first Rucker I ever read, years and years ago), it was Cantor's infinities. In MoTaS, it is uncertainty - and that's the device (Physicists reading this, duck for cover!): by locally enlarging Planck's constant to about a meter (!) and putting a human observer in the midst of it, said human can influence macroscopic events by pure willpower! (The details are hilarious -- ''two hundred grams of red gluons'' almost made me choke over my breakfast.) (01.07.95) The book drags along, cites many hallowed SF classics, and finally ends. Hm. So what?

Michael Flynn: The Nanotech Chronicles (1991)
(28.06.95) Yet another set of short stories pieced together by a minimal frame. The stories are quite nice, mixing "hard SF" with quite some depth of characterization. One story, "The Washer at the Ford", is really a novella in both size (150 pages) and scope. (29.06.95) I already knew the last story ("Werehouse"), but upon re-reading it in the context of the earlier ones, many details fall into place.

Lois McMaster Bujold: Borders of Infinity (1989)
(27.06.95) A collection three Miles Vorkosigan novellas ("BOI", "The Mountains of Mourning", "Labyrinth"), barely connected by a frame story. This is the first Bujold I've managed to find; Miles is a rather fascinating character, and the execution of the first story (tMoM) was quite nice (plus, I like detective stories). (28.06.95) The other two stories are also solid adventure.

Later I learned that MoM got a Hugo.

L. Sprague de Camp: The Hand of Zei (1950/63/78)
(24.06.95) I am starting on a spree of junk SF. Bought a whole stack of Baen paperbacks on Saturday; one of our bookshops got hold of a shipment. This was amongst them. Strange typography, it might have been reduced from a hardback film. Illustrations by one Edd Cartier that have a golden-age-pulp aura. The story and its execution is nothing to write home about; a decent non-fantasy adventure story. De Camp's collaborations are better. (27.06.95) Happy ending without any surprises.

C.J.Cherryh: Serpents Reach
(20.06.95) Picked it up cheaply at one of the countless remaindered-books stores of Edinburgh, half a year ago (I was there for a Signal Processing Conference, ugh! Nice city, though.). One of the usual Cherryh style 'alien' settings, with half a dozen strange names thrown in to confuse the reader from the beginning on. It shows that this book is somewhat older: the heroess is not one of those ``confused by the everything'' characters that we all know and loathe from ``Heavy Time'', but a strong-willed one that knows what happens. The first chapters are mercifully fast-paced, a lot of detail was left out (again, in marked contrast to HTs level of precise detail and enervating character study). (22.06.95) The further development of the story and the ending/epilogue have the usual Cherryh-feeling. All in all, a medium-quality book that can be used as an introduction for people who don't want to tackle with the giant texts (Chanur/Cyteen), but want to get a taste of what a typical Cherryh reads like.

(16.06.95) Another one bites the dust.
Today i read that Roger Zelazny died on the afternoon of the 14th, of cancer. We'll never know how the fight between Ghostwheel and the Powers will end, let alone whether the real Corwin still lives. RIP.

Richard Kadrey: Metrophage
(07.06.95) This book had been gathering dust at the bottom of the 'stack for nearly a year, when I was reminded of it by a posting in rec.arts.sf.written that mentioned it as a positive example of cyberpunk. Indeed it is, but it is also a slow book - chock-full of surrealist details, my reading speed is slowed down to about one chapter per evening. (15.06.95) Finally finished. Great visual snippets that stay in the head for a long time: ``Monks hiding their tumors behind things like fencing masks took the confessions of lepers squatting in Griffith Park, while nearby, Neo-Mayanists cut the beating hearts out of captured Committee boys, offering them up to gods whose names they had forgotten, begging for forgiveness and an end to the plague.'' The somewhat confused story thread and gloomy ending are, of course, totally in agreement with the general illusion/enlightment motif that forms one background theme. I am still unsure about the meaning of the subtitle "A Romance of the Future".

Alan Dean Foster: Into the Out Of
(29-30.05.95) IMHO, one of Foster's best. And even in a genre (Horror) he doesn't usually work (well, his Alien novelization did make more sense than the movie script). Interesting characters, light language, vivid pictures, nasty monsters, some truly shocking scenes, and a happy ending. What more can one ask for?

Iain M. Banks: Against a Dark Background
(26-29.05.95) Like Consider Phlebas, only more so. A grand sight-seeing tour through a planetary system full of 10,000 years of half-forgotten history, wonders of nature, and near-magic artefacts. A story fueled by obscure political and religious organizations plotting against the heroine and each other. A narrative spiced with some comical elements at the most unexpected places. The end is somewhat tragic, but that's only to be expected.

Larry Niven: The Woman in Del Rey Crater
A new Gil Hamilton story, and on-line to boot! Somehow, reading it in a Mosaic window doesn't have the right ``feeling'' to it, however. Still, a good yarn, and it does have the ``Niven feeling'' to it.

Hans Fallada: Bauern, Bonzen, und Bomben (1931)
(22.05.95) Heute Morgen frisch angefangen. Ordentlich dramatische Handlung, geistreiche Dialoge. Die Ausführung ist straff: Die Handlung ist in kleine Szenen zerhackt; es gibt kaum unnötige Längen, und das Buch läßt sich exzellent in der U-Bahn lesen. Die Thematik ist erstaunlich aktuell: bei der Beschreibung der Bauern, die sich gegen das Finanzamt auflehnen, fühlte ich mich an das erinnert, was man von der Militia-Bewegung in den USA hört. (26.05.95) Deprimierendes Ende. Der Verräter stirbt, der Kinderschänder (und die Kommentare zu dem Thema sind nun wirklich shocking!) kommt an die Macht, der nächste Zusammenstoß steht vor der Tür, der zynische Bürgermeister geht, von seiner Partei erpresst. Endbewertung: Stilistisch gut, keine überbetonte politische Botschaft, unterhaltsam. Man sollte es gelesen haben.

Marlen Haushofer: Die Wand (270 Seiten, 1963, EV 1968)
(21.05.95) Eine angemessen besinnliche Sonntagslektüre, die sich flüssig liest. Inhalt: Mischung aus "Robinson Crusoe" und "Letzter Mensch auf Erden auf der Alm". Stellenweise ziemlich deprimierend; die Katastrophe selbst läßt den Leser kalt (die Haushofer hat sich eine recht nette Ausgangssituation ausgedacht), aber der Tot einzelner Tiere nahm diesen Leser ziemlich mit. Schöne Natur-Schilderungen. Das dräuende Unheil ging mir unglaublich auf den Geist; beim Umschlagen jeder Seite dachte ich "nun kommt es aber", und dann kam es doch erst auf den letzten 5 Seiten.

Ich bin mir noch immer nicht sicher, ob das Ende eher eine positive oder eine negative Tendenz hat: zwar ist die Kuh wieder schwanger, und die alte Katze lebt auch noch, aber Tod des Hundes liegt eben doch noch in der Luft. Es fehlt das wirklich aufmunternde Element. Immerhin, der weiter vorne angedeutete Plan, einen Tunnel zu graben, gibt eine Perspektive. Und dann ist da natürlich noch die Sache mit der weißen Krähe; die "Auflehnung gegen das widrige Schicksal"-Symbolik ist ja wohl hinreichend deutlich.

Alles in Allem ein Buch, das mir noch lange im Kopf rumspuken wird. Meine Mutter meinte, es handele sich um ein minderes Kultbuch; ich hatte vorher noch nie davon gehört (aber was weiß ich, was in den frühen 70ern in Deutschland als Kultbuch gehandelt wurde ;-). Ich hab vor 'nem dreiviertel Jahr Camus' "Die Pest" gelesen; die "Durchhaltens um der Pflichterfüllung wegen"-Philosophie wird bei der Haushofer in der Beziehung zu den Tieren deutlich ausgesprochen; wer mit Existentialismus also nichts anfangen kann, sei gewarnt.

Harry Harrison: A Stainless Steel Rat is Born
(16.05.95) I couldn't sleep (yeah I know, a lame excuse ;-). Good clean fun.

Charles Sheffield: Summertide & Divergence
(14/15.05.95) Summertide is great; Divergence is so-so (but you want to read it since S leaves too many issues unresolved). S rates 100% on "sense of wonder" and "interesting aliens", D had a lame answer to the "Builder problem" and a dumb open ending. (Still not resolved: Why did the Builders restrict themselves to a rather small region of space; why did they remove themselves from the scene (boredom doesn't count); why were only three clades preselected and considered important; ... too much was explained away by the "alien motives can't be comprehended" cop-out.) The UAC sections felt rather similar to "Gateway" trip reports and "Picknick" artifact descriptions; the transport system reminded me a bit too much of Bowman's journey into the monolith. Both books are easily consumed in one reading.

Charles Sheffield: Proteus Unbound (1988)
(14.05.95) Not nearly as good as Sight of Proteus, but still much better than average. As usual, Sheffield puts too many ideas into one novel. Still, a fast-paced story with interesting characters (who could stand more fleshing out) and good sight-seeing moments.

John Wyndham: Consider Her Ways (6 stories, 1961/1974)
(12.05.95) Yes, them are the classics. Consider Her Ways is one of the first all-female-society stories, with a few added twists; Odd is a 10-page novella (in the sense of "odd happenstance"); Oh, Where, Now, is Peggy MacRafferty? is a satire on the TV/film/beauty business (with a few really good lines; i.e. the one about the lift). Stitch in Time is a (forgettable) time-travel miniature. (06.06.95) Random Quest is a charming parallel-universe story. (07.06.95) A Long Spoon is a nice little deal-with-the-devil story, similar in tone to Niven's "Convergent Series".

The basic construction of most of these stories is very similar: "hero gets transferred into strange alternate universe / future / historic setting, and (more often than not) comes back to tell the story". The stories, however, are quite different.

Poul Anderson: The Horn of Time (1968, contains 6 stories written between 1956 and 1965)
(10.05.95) Yet another short story collection that had been gathering dust for half a year now. The stories are quite good. The Horn of Time the Hunter had a rather obvious ending, A Man to my Wounding explores a new way to play wars (could have been a Niven story), The High Ones is a bit flat in its political message (and reads like an EES 30ies pulp story), The Man Who Came Early is mainly good for its atmosphere (as are most of Anderson's "nordic" stories), and for the debunking of the Connecticut-Yankee-rulez cliché. (11.05.95) Marius is a standard post-apocalyptic war-band history re-enactment piece; it even includes a science of psychodynamics (eh, sociosymbolic logic). The last story, "Progress", is set in the same universe as (ohmygawd, what was its name? that novel with the big aerostat over France, and the Maurai high-bio-tech shipping empire - or do I mix two books?), and leaves a well-rounded good-feelings impression (Anderson seemed to think so too, otherwise he wouldn't have re-used that universe ;-).

M. Swanwick, W. Gibson: Dogfight (from the Burning Chrome collection)
(09.05.95) Nice read for the loo, but in the midst of it, one of those Gibson-esque technobabble blunders that made me cringe. Speaking about a 3D-hologram game console, a character comments:
``These suckers are all written in hexadecimal, see, `cause the industry programmers are all washed-out computer hacks. That's how they think.''
Does now one in the know proof-read this stuff?

C.J.Cherryh: Voyager in Night
(30.04.95) A small novel, good a for lazy Sunday morning's reading. A typical Cherryh: a bunch of more-or-less confused characters that are thrown into a stress situation in which they have to make far-reaching decisions. Nifty: encoded in typographical gimmicks (character names such as and ++()++) visible from early on are hints of background facts that are revealed only in the last chapters. Also as usual, her aliens are alien.

Peter Greenaway: Prosperos Books
(02.05.95) Thursday evening (really: Friday (28.4) morning), I watched this movie for the first time, and then on TV (Yes i know, shame on me. During most of the year, I am too lazy to visit the cinema, so I had not seen it earlier, even though PG is one of my favourite regisseurs. Fave: Drowning by Numbers), and was reminded of Calvino's Invisible Cities: during the film, maybe a dozen books were described in much the same manner in which Calvino's Marco Polo describes his cities to the Khan. I wasn't really prepared for the movie (i.e., hadn't read the play in years), and it was shown too late (is there a law that the good stuff may not be shown before midnight?) for me being a good recipient, but it was still fun. Opulent pictures, thousands of details full with dense symbolism and good music (including a few very nice vocal pieces) - all one can wish from a movie. The synchronization didn't destroy much; the song vocals were the originals, and the text didn't go much beyond Shakespeare's play anyway.

Iain M. Banks: Consider Phlebas
(27.04.95) Started to reread it (has it been a year? two?), in a sheer fit of I-want-to-read-something-nice. Still the best post-golden-age space opera; much more realistic than, say, AFUTD.

Jack Vance: Noise, The New Prime, The Men Return
(26.04.95) Two short stories (of the 20 page class) from the collection "Eight Fantasms and Magics" I have sitting on my stack for some months now. "Noise" is a bit weak, but still nice; TNP ends on a delightful twist, and TMR leaves me with an eery feeling - only few authors manage do describe a world in which causality is totally out of order.

TOR Double: Arthur C. Clarke, A Meeting With Medusa & Kim Stanley Robinson, Green Mars

Two good novellas (about 70pp each, is there a longer version of GM out?). Upon reading the "Medusa" story, I was reminded of why Clarke is considered one of the grand masters: action-filled chapters of introduction, fascinating mostly-realistic science in between, a sense of wonder, and a nice bang at the end that sets many elements of the story into a an entirely new light. Recommended. (Of course, he wrote the story in the 70ies; the tragedy of the abominable "collaborations" is just so much greater.)

"Green Mars" is nice in a different way. The story is well-known; a group of people climbing Olympus Mons on a Mars that is thoroughly on its way to terraform, and a viewpoint character that has lived through most of the process, and wants to preserve the old "red" Mars against the onslaught of the new "green" Mars. The longevity/memory shtick is a nice touch to an otherwise fairly standard story; the execution is well-done (remembrances of "Escape from Kathmandu"? KSR seems to like mountain-climbing), with many nice little details.

Christopher Fraser, David Hanson: A Retargetable C Compiler: Design and Implementation (Benjamin/Cummings, 1995; ISBN 0-8053-1670-1)

(20.04.95 Yesterday it arrived, after I ordered it some 3 weeks ago. 105.- DM! Ugh.) This is a book I have been waiting years for. It describes the innards of lcc, a minimalist C compiler. Chris Fraser is also known as the author of burg, a BURS (bottom up rewrite system) generator that is also an absolutely beautiful minimalistic C program. I expect that in a few years, burs will be to code generation what yacc is to parsers today. We used burg in our own retargetable DSP compiler, and when we ftp'd our first copy of it and looked at the code, it was all "ooh" and "aah" and "i wish i could write such concise code". Reading code is the second-best way of learning good C programming (writing/maintaining being the best way), and now everyone has the chance to read (literate) code from a master. I intend to read the book from cover to cover. At page 55, I have already learned a few nice tricks about memory management, and found a few minor bugs (one compatibility hole and one omitted cross reference). (02.05.95) You might want to look into my notes on the book.

(According to Computer Literacy, the book is available from Addison-Wesley since Dec 1994. Apparently, AW owns B/C, but you wouldn't know it from the imprint.)

(24.04.95) The trick of using interface structures is fun; it looks & feels much like SML functors. The design decision that sizeof(int) == sizeof(long) >= sizeof(void*) is IMHO out-dated (I expect to see char/wchar=short/int/long/long long=void* sizes of 8/16/32/64/128 on 128-bit architectures, if there will ever be one. Or even on 64-bitters; 128 would be great for functions pointers that have fields for closures or IPC pointers with MMU/process information.)

Philip Roth: Zuckerman Bound (Comprising three Novels and an Epilogue)

(25.03.95) Bought it cheap. (27.03.95) Read the first two chapters of ``The Ghost Writer''. Don't know whether I'll have the stamina to read all of it; it starts as a fairly ordinary "young author meets old author" novel. (29.03.95) After reading chapter 3 (Femme Fatale), I still don't know whether it is supposed to be a fact or a dream of Zuckerman. Anyway, a strong idea. (30.03.95) Ok, he made it clear in the next (and last) chapter: it was his hyperactive imagination. All in all, a neat and tight little story.
The next book (``Zuckerman Unbound'') starts on a much lighter note, and should be easier reading. (31.03.95) It is, but after closer looking at it, it is just the protagonist's identity crises all over again. (08.04.95) Oops! It ended, all of a sudden. Strange way to finish of a book; neither the "game show jerk" nor the "father's death" thread are really finished. (I guess its ok if you only look at the "Zuckerman's lost past". ``Unbound'' indeed.).
The ``Anatomy Lesson'' starts on a sickly note; not the best kind of literature when one is recovering from a flu. (20.04.95) Currently the book is on hold; I am stuck some 60 pages before the end and somehow miss the inclination to finish it. (24.04.95) 10 more pages; but lying in the Tiergarten sun on a lazy Sunday afternoon, that was all I managed. (04.05.95) Finally, finished it. I have my problems reading texts in which the protagonists make idiots out of themselves, as Z. does here; I enjoyed his final collapse, and read the rest of the story with its much more rational viewpoint in one quick setting. As usual, Roth finishes the story without giving us real answers: what is Z's illness, does he start on his studies, does he write again? (I don't quite buy the obivous "illness as a symptom of burn-out / as a symbol of guilt" interpretation approach; but I also don't want to view the pain as a mere McGuffin).
The ``Prague Orgy'' starts on a light note, and provides a few nice anecdotes early on. Doesn't look like Roth wants to depict the "orgy" parts in graphic detail, though ;-) (31.05.95) Finally got around to read the last dozen pages. At least this time there is a semblance of an ending, and a moral, to boot. I will refrain from writing down a final judgement and/or interpretation; except to note that my biggest problem with all four texts was my inability to really sympathize with Zuckerman.

Philip Kerr: A Philosophical Investigation (1992)
(26.03.95) My notes on the reading process are kept separate, here is just the final review:

I am not quite sure whether I would call this a "good" book; it has too many weaknesses. For one, the strange coincidence at the center is never explained (why was Wittgenstein named Wittgenstein?); for another, I permanently mix up the minor characters (but that may be my weak memory); for a third, the computer-related scenes look too much like weak cyberspace imitations. Other elements of the story are superb: the description of the Docklands and the Hong Kong fugitives, also the characterization of Jake. IMHO, the "philosophical" aspects are mostly gibberish, and don't form an "added level" of the story, as they are supposed to do. All in all, a decent read, but no "must".

Umberto Eco: Die Insel des vorigen Tages (1994, dt. 1995 von B. Kroeber; 508pp, Hanser)
(08.03.95 - 23.03.95) Wer den Leseprozeß verfolgen will, kann dies gerne tun; hier jetzt nur der Endeindruck (spoiler-free!):

Es ist nicht unbedingt ein Buch, das man gelesen haben muß. Da es keine rechte Handlung hat, muß man sich wohl oder übel auf die abstrake Ebene konzentrieren, die denn auch recht konkret gestaltet ist. Auf der Ebene der Meta-Abstraktion (Intention des Autors und so) handelt es sich m.E. bei der IdvT um eine Erörterung der ``metaphorischen Weltsicht- und Beschreibungsmethode''; das macht uns Eco mit dem letzten Satz auch noch mal ganz klar. Wir (Leser) sehen und interpretieren die Welt mit den Augen von Roberto, einem Produkt des frühen 17ten Jahrhunderts. Es ist dies eine Zeit des Übergangs von einer metaphorisch/qualitative auf eine physikalisch/quantitative Sichtweise der Welt, und Roberto ringt ordentlich mit den Fragen des Vakuums, der Rotation der Erde, des Wesens der Zeit, und obensein mit seinem Glauben.

Sicherlich ist das Thema faszinierend, aber das Buch hat mich stellenweise ziemlich gelangweilt. Immer wenn es ums Abstrakte ging (Erläuterungen wild-irrer naturphilosophischer Theorien), hat es mir Spaß gemacht; immer wenn der Held wieder in seine fiebrigen Eifersuchtsphantasien verfiel, ging es mir auf den Nerv. Mir ist klar, warum dieses erzählerische Moment eingesetzt wird; gefallen muß es mir deswegen noch nicht.

David Brin: Startide Rising / The Uplift War
(15.03.95) When I am lying in my bed, down and out from fever and an inflammation of the mucous membranes, I find myself unable to read something new; instead, i grasp a well-known tome and read it in one session from end to end (well, at my max. rated speed of 50 pg/h in 3 hour-installations). I know only few books that I like enough to re-read 3 or 6 times; amongst them are "The Mote in Gods Eye", the "World of Tiers" books; and first and foremost, Brin's Uplift series (Sundiver excluded) (they didn't get the Hugo 84/88 for nothing. After having looked into the Hugo list, i must add "Cyteen" to the list, and the Chanur books). I have recently aquired a new copy of Startide Rising (my old one has been lent away for three years now), and my current state of health (cough,cough) seemed as good a motivation as any to re-read it (two or three years is also enough to forget enough details about a book so that re-reading it is not too boring). It is still fascinating; some details are just too bizarre (``send for the quartermaster of religiosity to bring spare rings for a new priest''), and the Stenos-dolphins (which I remembered as simply being "bad guys") look more like tragic figures upon re-reading. I even manage to scrape together a bit of sympathy for Metz: it is exactly those human-like qualities that he is trying to create that lead to his final downfall. Still, some critique is in order: just like in "Earth", Brin puts too much into the novel. The fact that the Niss machine notices the improbability of all the coincidences doesn't make up for them in the first place. (18.03.95) The other thing one might critize is that he always creates such happy endings.

Italo Calvino: Invisible Cities (1972)
(28.02.95, ex libris Jutta) Die 2te Bildungslückenschließungslektüre. (Besprochen in Deutsch, weil ich kein Italienisch kann, und ich nun mal in Deutsch angefangen habe & keine Lust, das Vorhandene noch mal umzuschreiben.) (01.03.95) Auch hier bin ich mir noch nicht ganz sicher, worauf der Autor hinauswill; ich lasse mir aber auch etwas Zeit, und habe erst 4 Stadtbeschreibungen gelesen. Mal sehen, ab wann sich eine Struktur aufzeigt. (02.03.95) Ja, ja, ich seh es, ich seh es! Nee, doch noch nicht. (Ist es einfach nur ein Essay über die Interaktion von Erinnerung, Wünschen, und Wahrnehmung? Klassische Themen, allesamt. Die dargestellten Gedanken und Empfindungen sind manchmal ziemlich komplex, und ich muß nach den meisten Städten etwas innehalten, um mir darüber klar zu werden, worum es da denn nun eigentlich ging.) (07.03.95) Bin jetzt bei Kapitel 7 angelangt. Habe nebenbei begriffen, warum die Überschriften in einem "Schatten-Font" gesetzt sind. Parallelen zu Venedig, insbesondere die ganzen "thin cities" auf Pfählen. Jede Stadtbeschreibung beschreibt dieselbe Stadt, gesehen durch ein anderes Prisma (Isolation von Eigenschaften) bzw. eine andere Linse (Verzerrung der Proportionen); aus dem gefilterten und verzerrten Bild kann man die Form des transparenten Körpers erkennen. Dieser Körper ist der Geist dessen, der wünscht, wahrnimmt, erinnert. (09.03.95) Gegen Mitternacht beendet. Neben dem schon gestern erwähnten Prisma-Effekt (der auch im Buch selbst angesprochen wird, ``jede der Städte ist Venedig'' oder so ähnlich), gibt es auch noch die Symbolik der Stadt selbst, als elementare Organisationform der menschlichen Gesellschaft, die das Bewußtsein des Individuums prägt und zur gleichen Zeit Symbol des Geistes ist, oder der Elemente des Denkens im Geist (Society of Mind?).
Abschließend: es ist kaum möglich, eine zusammenfassende Interpretation dieses Buches zu liefern; man kann nur Facetten beschreiben oder durch eine Interpretation zu einem Ganzen zu verbinden versuchen. Diese Unfähigkeit gehört mit zu den Themen, die im Buch wiederholt angesprochen werden. Vermutlich werden mir in einigen Wochen und Monaten nur noch einzelne Stadtbeschreibungen und Pointen im Kopf bleiben, und das Allgemeine Gefühl, überall nach Schatten, Reflektionen, und Negativen zu suchen.

Max Goldt: Ungeduscht, Geduzt und Ausgebuht (1988)
(28.02.95, ex libris Jutta) Das Schließen von Bildungslücken ist mir eine hehre Aufgabe, außerdem ist es immer so hochnotpeinlich, zugeben zu müssen, von einem Autoren noch nie was gehört zu haben. Ich fühle ich mich ohnehin akut unwohl, wenn ich nicht mindestens 4 Bücher simultan in Arbeit habe. (01.03.95) Mein erster Eindruck (nach 20 Seiten): Faszinierend, sprachmächtig und verwirrend. (Ad-hoc Definition: "sprachmächtig" = "man möchte den Text laut lesen") Bei einigen Texten weiß ich absolut nicht, worauf er hinauswill. Das ist vielleicht auch ganz gut so (will ich wirklich wissen, was es mit den 3 haarigen Beinen auf sich hat?). (02.03.95) So, ich habs durchgelesen, und muß nun wohl oder übel eine Meinung von mir geben. Der Eindruck der vermischten bleibt (er gibts ja auch selbst zu, im Vorwort). Zum Beispiel: Die "Radiotrinkerin" war richtig charmant; den "Blödmann" muß er geschrieben haben, als er in einer völlig mörderischen Laune war, und es macht keinen Spaß, es zu lesen; die "Ausländerinnen im Gespräch" hinterlassen einfach nur ein Gefühl der Ratlosigkeit. Manche Texte sehen nach niedergeschriebenen (Tag)Träumen aus, typische Assoziationsverwurschtung. Ich vermute mal, daß Goldt deutlich lesbarere Texte von sich geben wird, wenn er zu einem Thema schreibt, und nicht nur wild drauflos. (04.03.95) Heute abend, 20:05, spricht er eine Doppelrolle in einem Hörspiel im ORB. (05.03.95) Ging so. Ich fand es nicht hinereichend komisch (es handelte sich um ein satirisches Interview); es ging kaum über das hinaus, was der Kulturbetrieb an Realsatire jeden Tag von sich aus erzeugt. Hab aber auch nur kurz am Anfang und Ende reingehört, vielleicht sind mir einige Perlen entgangen.

Aldous Huxley: Brief Candles (1947?)
(27.02.95) Just found this in a used book store. An old edition ("Tauchnitz Edition Hamburg, No. 8"? never heard of that one, printed by Stalling (!), with the warning "Not to be introduced into the British Empire or the U.S.A." on the back. A German publisher putting out a British author in '47? Hm.) Contains three not-so-short stories and a larger one ("After the fireworks"). I plan to read it next after the `plain tales'. (05.03.95) Have read the first 50-pager ("Chawdron"): A man tells a second man about a just-dead third man. This has to be literature, it is about life, love, morality, ego, Christianity, desires, deception and self-deception. The speaker employs a nice cynical pose, hardly a page goes by without a fine witticism.

Rudyard Kipling: Plain Tales from the Hills (1888)
(27.02.95) Another collection of short stories; originally published in an Indian newspaper/magazine for a colonial audience, later reviewed for re-publishing in the homeland. Judging from the first two stories (consumed during breakfast), these are more vignettes than ``real stories''. (27.03.95) Ideal reading matter for the loo: each story somewhat less than 6 pages, told in a matter-of-fact style without any literary ambitions that might cause constipation.

Rudyard Kipling: The Jungle Books (1894/95)
(22.02.95) In the ever-ongoing attempt to work on my so-called education, I am sometimes catching up on the "classics". This one I got at a bargain price (was is 99p?), and it has been gathering dust for some months now. Interesting stuff, really. I like children's books, their prose is often much more refined than so-called "real literature". (23.02.95) Ugh! The "morales" of some of the stories are somewhat, eeh, disputable. For example, "Servants of the Queen" advocates unquestioning obedience. Oh well, these were the days of Her Majesty's empire, and political correctness was defined differently... (26.02.95) (Sniff) That last story ("The Spring Running") got me. And "The Miracle of Purun Phagat" is very nice, too. All in all, the 2nd book is better than the first one.

Storm Constantine: Burying the Shadow (1992, 406pp)
(15.02.95) Started on it. This might take a while; Constantine doesn't exactly write fast food language. I get the impression that her repertoire is somewhat limited; after reading the first two pages, I had the impression that the protagonist was Wraeththu. Of course, Vampires aren't so far off. (20.02.95) Three quarters through it. Constantine is a better author than I originally thought; she manages to convey very different ``moods'' when changing the viewpoint between Gimel and Rayojini. As usual, her "un-human sex" scenes (e.g., the "merging" on page 272) are very well-written. The knowledge of great events in the past, spiced with quasi-biblical names (especially Sammael & Mikha'il), creates an undercurrent of living mythology that gives an added flavour to the story. (21.02.95) Finished this morning at 00:41. Whew! A rather nice happy ending. In contrast to other "fantasy" fiction, this ending really closes the issue; all threads and open problems have been nicely tidied up. The final dialogue scene between the two main protagonists has a nice "down to earth" quality, in contrast to the "dreamy" or "unreal" impression I had when reading the previous ~40 pages, and that ended in the big finale.

I really have to aquire a copy of "paradise lost" one of these days to see how much of BTS and Brust's "To Reign in Hell" has been inspired by it.

Hugh Osborne: Update Plans (1994)
(subtitled, rather enigmatically, "A High Level Low Level Specification Language")
(16.02.95) Read the first two chapter of it . Weak on characterization, but the examples are quite good, and the language (the English, not the Update Plans ;-) leads to an easy-going learning experience. Good layout, too. (So good indeed, that I am tempted to adopt his style of example presentation.) IMHO, he has simplified his formalism too much; it is not a good idea to unify the memory space; separated location bases have distinct advantages. But then, he has no static typing (so far, maybe he introduces it in a later chapter) and (shudder) doesn't seem to worry about his primitives and data-types at all! (17.02.95) Started on chapter 3 last nigt (semantics). Simple enough, but to base the semantics on an unbound index set is IMHO inappropriate. Recommended for the sleepness. It got me asleep after 3 pages! Osborne exhibits the typical mathematician's disease: everything is made as simple as possible, leading to incredible complexities (in this case, quite complex notational conventions; cf. the slightly absurd "register" notation introduced on page 10) when he sets himeself to real-life tasks. (20.02.95) Didn't get much farther during the weekend, only finished the semantics chapter. Nothing unexpected, really. (21.02.95) Chapter 4 starts off with a big example, a lambda+ calculus machine. UP are used to describe the machine (fine with me), and to transform lambda+ calculus programs into machine code in a two-step process (IMHO, a totally bogus application -- while it may show nicely what UP can do, it also shows that UP are much more powerful than is needed for "mere" machine descriptions!).

Greg Bear: Psychlone (1979)
(14/15.02.95) A light read. Midway, I remembered to have read it some years ago. Mediocre language and structure, but a nice idea. There aren't too many SFish Occult/Horror stories with quality ideas around (only dozens of "Alien" look-alikes).

Anthony Burgess: The Wanting Seed (1962)
(11.02.95) started to read it to test whether I am in a Burgess-mood. This book has been on my to-do stack for nearly a year now; Last time I began reading it, I barely managed 10 pages. But then, I have no stomach for dystopias. (13.02.95) Half through it; now I know how to be a civilized cannibal. (14.02.95) Ugh! What a sappy ending! All in all, a book that tries to be very cynical, but which didn't really shock me (thirty years can do that to a book). (If you want to know: "American Psycho" does shock me.)

Anthony Burgess: Any Old Iron (1987)
(6-11.02.95) The reading experience is varying; the mood swings from a depressive tone to the funny and fast-paced. The story line has a jumpy feeling to it (while it is told linearly, there are large gaps in time and space). The characters are fascinating. The end is somewhat open; the two symbolic objects (they aren't really McGuffins) that have guided most of the stories are gone, but the life-lines of the varying people are still very much open.

P.J.Farmer: The Other Log of Phileas Fogg
(08.02.95) A light snack; good for an evening. Funny at the beginning, its premises aren't strong enough to keep up the interest. Probably more interesting to read if you know all the cameos; I missed most of them. The two adventure scenes tucked on at the end and in the middle are the usual you can expect from Farmer.

Installed the book stack.
(09.02.95) The name originated from this early linkpage entry:
From the bookstack: Having re-read "Focault's Pendulum", I'd say it's even better the second time. For a different, yet strangely similar, conspiracy theory, look at The Story So Far.

Frank Herbert: Dune series
(retroactive entry: Jan 95) Re-read the whole series, this time without skipping the quotations. It really gets repetitious; Herbert has the bad habit to recycle quotations, phrases, and persons. Looking back at the series, it would have been nice to see more of the Guild and the Ixians; the reader now knows the Bene Gesserit from all possible view points, and the Tleilaxu from some, but the other power groups are totally opaque. I would have thought that the Guild, of all the groups, would have the best intelligence about the Scattering and the Honored Matres. They should also have the best fall-back position, being distributed and having had a space-faring monopoly for a few thousand years.
For a deeper discussion, read the DUNE Home Page or the discussion on the never-written 7th book. This re-reading was initiated by a long discussion in rec.arts.sf-written on the nature of the two Face Dancers that haunt the last book. For the purpose of re-reading I even acquired the previous-to-last book (heretics) in the original version (I only had read the german translation) at the full price (usually I read whatever I can find in Berlin's used book stores).

Harry Rowohlt: Pooh's Corner
(retroactive entry: Dec 94) Hab's meiner Mutter zu Weihnachten geschenkt (ich lese alle Bücher, die ich verschenke; woher könnte ich sonst wissen, daß sie schenkswert sind ? ;-). "Pooh's Corner" war Rowohlts Kolumne in der ZEIT; soweit ich weiß, schreibt er jetzt keine mehr. Dieses Büchlein enthält einige der Kolumnen und ein paar Filmrezensionen. Lesenswert. Muß versuchen, mehr von ihm zu finden. (28.02.95 Nachtrag: Jutta hat mehr über diese Buch zu sagen. Und Harry hat das Schreiben der Kolumne nicht ganz eingestellt.)

Tom Robbins: Still-Life with Woodpecker, Skinny Legs and All, Another Road Side Attraction
(retrocative entry: Dec 94) After buying an original version of SLWW, I re-read SLAA and ARSA, too. Hopefully, "Frog Pajamas" will be out as paperback soon -- I can't stand hardcovers.

Schneemelcher: Neutestamentliche Apokryphen
(pending entry: July 94 ... now) Band I (6. Auflage) enthält Evangelien (auch Kindheitsevangelien und Verwandtes); Band II (5. Auflage) sind die Apostelgeschichten und Apokalypsen. Der Schneemelcher ist ein kanonisches Werk. Es gibt kleinere (und erheblich billigere!) Apokryphensammlungen, die aber nicht die ganze Bandbreite des Materials vermittlen können.
Ich bin dabei, alles von vorn bis hinten durchzulesen. Zur Zeit bin ich auf Seite 160 von Band II (die Petrus-Akten). Zu jedem Text gibt es breite Dokumentation der Quellen, der Erwähnungen in der Sekundärliteratur, der Rezeptionsgeschichte, und der theologischen Aussagen. Einige der Texte zeugen von einem kindlich-naiven Glauben (Wundertaten des Jesusknaben in den Kindheitsevangelien). Andere reflektieren die Bemühungen, vorhandene Lücken zu schließen (z.B. Abstammung und Kindheit von Maria und Josef).

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