Archive: January 19th, 2002

Book round-up

Seeing as I’ve been issuing film reviews, I thought it would only be fair to go through some of the books I’ve read lately.

I finally finished "The Cogwheel Brain" by Doron Swade, which I’ve mentioned here before.

The book has an unusual structure. The first two thirds of the book are straightforward biography, detailing Charles Babbage’s life and his doomed struggle to get his analytical engines built. The last third of the book recounts the modern day tale of reconstructing part of Babbage’s machine in the Science Museum in London.

I found this last part, while interesting, wasn’t quite as engaging as the stories of Victorian invention and politics. Then again, I’m a stickler for Victorian science.

Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable book.

By the way, if you want to find it in the States, you’ll need to look for "The Difference Engine", not to be confused with the William Gibson/Bruce Sterling book of the same name.

On the subject of books with alternate American titles, I also read "Tyger, Tyger" by Alfred Bester, also known as "The Stars My Destination".

Actually, I was re-reading the book but it had been many, many years since I had first read it.

It holds up remarkably well and isn’t as dated as other science fiction books of the fifties. The main character, Gully Foyle, is especially well rounded compared to the one-dimensional figures found in most sci-fi tales.

It is a powerfully imaginative book full of vivid scenery and characters. The story is basically "The Count Of Monte Cristo" transposed to a future world where teleportation by thought power has become a commonplace mode of transportation.

The story, however, is really just a vehicle for the fast-paced writing that sweeps you off your feet.

William Gibson would agree, I’m sure.