No, Seriously, I Mean It

June 24, 2010 @ 7:37 pm | Filed under:

No more lists! Enough with the booklists! I just found two more library books on my nightstand, titles I left off this morning’s library list:

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce (I think I heard about this at Semicolon)

(What? Two books is not a list. Okay, it’s a veryshortlist. Fine.)

And the library website informs me I have at least three more books on the way: a Scott Westerfield novel, another by Cory Doctorow, and the about-to-be-released Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins, whose Secret Keeper I liked very much. (Mitali, you may recall, has written the foreword for the upcoming reissue of Emily of Deep Valley, which, along with the double volume of Carney’s House Party/Winona’s Pony Cart, for which I had the pleasure of writing a foreword, will be released this coming October.) Bamboo People pubs next week, and I’m first in line at our library system.

Anyway, you know, that’s IT. I am going to have to swear off book blogs until I catch up. (I will never catch up.) (I will never swear off book blogs.)

I did resist the VERY STRONG temptation to join Detective Girl and Mental Multivitamin in the Neal Stephenson summer reading project—the entire Baroque Cycle for DG, and Quicksilver (part one of the cycle) for Ms. M-mv—largely because I still haven’t finished (yes, I started it!) Stephenson’s Snow Crash, which I bought after Comic-Con two years ago. AND ALSO BECAUSE I HAVE FIFTY BOOKS PILED UP TO READ FIRST.

So that’s exactly how much self-restraint I have. I decided not to read this one book until I read some of the others. I’m sure you’re impressed with my strength of mind.


Speaking of Stephenson, I’m glad I read The Diamond Age before the launch of the iPad. It has been great fun reading all the descriptions of the device with the image of Nell’s Illustrated Primer so fresh in my mind. How prescient of Stephenson. We don’t have his “smart paper” yet, but the iPad isn’t far removed from his vision.

And I feel somewhat chagrined for not picking it up the first time through, but I JUST GOT the connection between Diamond Age‘s Mr. PhyrePhox and, duh, Firefox. At least, I’m assuming (now that I’ve noticed it) that the similarity is no accident. An homage?

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8 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Kathryn says:

    Ooh! Like the sound of Diamond Age! Reserved 🙂

  2. Melissa Wiley says:

    Kathryn, necessary caveats: Diamond Age has loads of profanity and some unsavory situations. Nevertheless, it was one of my favorite reads of last year for the inventiveness of the near-future it posits. Nanotech, matter compilers, neo-Victorianism, the incredibly lush detail of the worldbuilding. It’s one of those books that informs your imagination, so that forever after I will be holding up techie developments in the real world in comparison to the plausible-impossible future portrayed in Diamond Age. If that makes sense.

    I’ll give a short synopsis in the next comment. Skip it if you’d rather go in knowing nothing at all about the plot! I’ll try not to spoil, though. 🙂

  3. Melissa Wiley says:

    THE DIAMOND AGE: OR, A YOUNG LADY’S ILLUSTRATED PRIMER. The setting is post-cyberpunk, in an age when nanotechnology (the science of manipulating matter on the atomic and molecular levels) is advanced, sophisticated, and totally the norm in society. At certain enormous Source complexes, seawater and other substances are broken down into their basic molecules—hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, etc. These molecules are sorted and recombined to create anything you can imagine. Streetcorner matter compilers generate free food, clothing, and blankets, for example.

    Instead of nations as we know them today, society is divided into “phyles,” groups who share a cultural, ethnic, or philosophic bond. One of the largest and certainly richest phyles is the neo-Victorian group, people who have consciously chosen to pattern their lifestyle after those elements of Victorian culture which they deem admirable. They live in protected enclaves—gated communities (the gates are nanotech particles which will attack intruders). Other powerful phyles are the Han and the Nippon.

    A neo-Victorian nanotech engineer named John Hackworth is commissioned by his boss, the wealthy Lord Finkle-McGraw, to create a device for McGraw’s granddaughter: a sophisticated computer that will look like a book but be totally interactive. Lord F-M feels like there is something serious missing from his granddaughter’s education, despite (or because of) her privileged, careful upbringing. He sees the Primer as a way to give her experience in (virtually, at least) overcoming adversity, developing resourcefulness, etc.

    Hackworth creates this masterwork and decides to make an illicit copy for his own young daughter. Unfortunately for him, he is attacked by a street gang and the precious Primer is stolen. It makes its way to the hands of an impoverished four-year-old girl named, Dickensianly, Nell. Nell “bonds” with the Primer and the rest of the book is the story of her education, and of the consequences of Hackworth’s theft.

    Neo-Victorians, education philosophy, and high-tech gadgets? You see why it had me at hello. 🙂

  4. Hannah says:

    My husband has been reading the Baroque Cycle for AGES. Well, I guess he finally must have finished because lately it seems like it’s all Patrick O’Brien, all the time.

  5. Girl Detective says:

    Melissa, I found you through your link to my blog. I too alternately love and loathe my booklists. And congrats for not getting sucked into my crazy idea of reading the Baroque Cycle. it’s very good, and very involving so far, but it’s a heckuva project. I’m taking a break after Book 1 and read 2 graphic novels and one novel, then I’ll tackle the next in the trilogy.

    I feel similarly about Diamond Age–I flat out love it, and love much of what it has to say about girls and literature. I’ve been musing on good/bad lit for girls recently after having read about the Bechdel test ( for films (has to have 1. 2 women characters with names, 2. having a conversation 3. about something other than men), and eying books through the same lens, and seeing how terribly so many of the books I read as a girl fail it.

    Finish Snow Crash, then I’d check out Cryptonomicon before tackling the Baroque Cycle.

    And while it’s been long enough since I read DA that I don’t remember PhyrePhox, I’m sure that’s a connection. Stephenson is a very forward thinking tech-head, who ironically writes his huge books out in longhand.

  6. Melissa Wiley says:

    Girl Detective, lovely to see you here! I’m a longtime reader of your blog.

    PhyrePhox is the member of CryptNet interrogated by Judge Fang—he’s one of the people working on the Seed technology. So: a technogeek hacker—positively Firefoxy. 😉