July 26th, 2008

ronin

Recent sci-fi reading.


I don't seem to read much dead-tree any more; the web has pretty much provided me with more than I could ever possibly read. Never the less, I do sometimes still crack a book. In the last six months or so I've read three things worthy of note.

First is a short story by Walter Jon Williams. It's called The Green Leopard Plague. This is basically two stories intertwined. One of them is in the future, where a modified human being (who happens to be a mermaid, more or less) is searching through historical archives, slowly unwinding a story set in the present. I bought the book Nebula Awards Showcase 2006 on the strength of this story. Although there are only two other good stories in this book ("The Ship Who Sang" by Anne McCaffery and "Embracing-The-New" by Benjamin Rosenbaum), this story alone is worth the price of admission. And lucky you, Asimov's has a copy online.

I decided that I wanted to read some Greg Bear, so I bought a copy of Blood Music. I found it a throughly mixed bag. In my opinion, it takes too long to get going. And then some parts of it are absolutely fantastic, and some parts are downright goofy. I think I expected better from a book that was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Guess I'll stick with the other Greg.

Finally, a recent post on Reddit talking about the two-slit experiment pointed me to QED: The Strange Theory Of Light And Matter by Feynman. This is a great book if you're curious about how quantum mechanics explains the interaction of photons and electrons (that being the titular theory of "quantum electro-dynamics") but you don't want to learn vector calculus or statistical mechanics. As always, Feynman uses his brilliant insight and example by analogy to explain QED in a way that even us normals can understand. The book is actually a collection of four lectures. The first two lectures flowed pretty easily for me, but I started having trouble and had to slow down with the third. The fourth lecture gets into quantum chromodynamics (read: quarks) and was again pretty smooth sailing. If you like Feynman, this is a great book to watch the master at work.