Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Revolution in the Valley + The Well of Lost Plots + 2007

Three more books that I finished reading recently ...

1. "Revolution in the Valley" by Andy Hertzfeld

This is an account of the development of the original Macintosh, written
by one of the core members of the team, Andy Hertzfeld.  It consists of
many short pieces chronicling some aspect of the Mac, its developers,
or Apple in general at the time.  The text of the stories can also be
found at the companion site:

The book goes beyond the web site by including interesting photos and
scans from notebooks.  While I admit the stories will mostly appeal to
geeks and Apple fans, there are some interesting insights into the
design process, teamwork, computer usability and the leading figures in
the computer industry.

2. "The Well of Lost Plots" by Jasper Fforde

This is the third book in the "Thursday Next" Series, following on from
"The Eyre Affair" and "Lost in a Good Book".

Our heroine, Thursday Next, is trying to take some time out from her
battles with Goliath Corporation and ChronoGuard.  She enters BookWorld
(the world that exists within books) and becomes a trainee Jurisfiction
agent, under the guidance of Miss Havisham (from "Great Expectations".
Jurisfiction is the agency responsible for policing BookWorld.  Since
she is pregnant to her recently-eradicated husband, she joins the
Character Exchange Programme in the hope to get some peace and quiet.
Things don't turn out as planned and she gets involved in murder and
intrigue surrounding the forced introduction of the flawed UltraWord(TM)
Book Operating System.  Having her memories gradually erased by Aornis
Hades doesn't help.

Another enjoyable and inventive piece of storytelling from Fforde.  This
time he describes the inner workings of the Well of Lost Plots, where
all the books ever written are kept, along with books still under
construction.  People communicate with each other in BookWorld using
Footnoterphones.  And the book-writing process itself is actually the
result of ImaginoTransference.  The author's web site has special
features and summaries of ideas in the books:

3. "2007: A True Story, Waiting to Happen" by Robyn Williams

I started reading this book a couple of years ago, but gave up for some
reason.  Since it is now 2007, I was reminded of the book and having
nothing else to read, decided to give it another go.  The author is
Robyn Williams, head of ABC Radio's Science Unit.  It's about an
apparently co-ordinated worldwide rebellion of animals against the
environmental changes caused by humans.  Eventually the President of
the US and other world leaders seek answers to the problem.  An
Australian scientist and a "reformed" political advisor team up to
devise a plan to solve the crisis.  In the meantime, some powerful and
shadowy forces are trying to take advantage of the situation to propose
a more radical plan, to eradicate all non-human life and start again
using genetically-engineered material.

The plot is embellished with the predictable relationship that develops
between the left-leaning scientist and the right-leaning advisor.
Knowing a bit about the Gaia hypothesis, where "all organisms on a
planet regulate the biosphere to the benefit of the whole"
might help when reading the book.  How the animals are working together
is not fully explained, and this is a deliberate move by the author.
However it appears some protagonists are aware of what's going on.

I wouldn't say it's a great read, and the writing style can get a little
too "wordy" (dare I say a teeny bit elitist?).  There are lots of
mentions of music playing in the background, probably since the author
works for ABC Radio.  And I'm not sure I can buy the co-ordinated animal
rebellion.  But given the acceptance of global warming and its effect on
the environment, it's a timely story.