September to December, 2009

This is part of a series of wrap-up posts I’m doing to cover books I read after I started keeping track of when I read books, and rating them, but before I started writing reviews for them.

Bastard Operator From Hell (Version 1.0)Bastard Operator From Hell (Version 1.0) by
Publisher: Plan Nine Publishing
Released:
Pages: 160
Goodreads
Rating: 4/5

Lurking in the darkest recesses of an ancient computer center lies an eldritch evil who really hates to have his marathon Doom sessions interrupted.

A ringing phone brings his malign attention to bear upon some snivelling, whiny, computer user who doesn’t have the intelligence God gave a box of cake mix.

These are the tales of anguish and woe that befell the clueless gits who were stupid enough to seek his help. They dared call:

The Bastard Operator from Hell

Through the years I’ve read a bunch of the BOFH short stories/newsgroup posts, of which this is a compilation. Good, bite-sized, fun stories that still ring true on quite a few levels, despite being dated from a technology point of view. Definitely a piece of reliably entertainment for anyone who spends a little more time than might be healthy around computers.

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by
Publisher: Charles Scribner’s Sons
Released:
Pages: 183
Goodreads
Rating: 4/5

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story is of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his new love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.

I was really torn on the Great Gatsby. For a while I just didn’t get why the book was good, but then I suddenly woke up to it somehow. I’m still not sure I’d call it a great book (I’m sure many would disagree, and I’m equally sure that I’m probably wrong), but once I started appreciating it the book at least became quite fun, and a nice “the story isn’t really about the story” kind of thing.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective AgencyDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by
Series: Dirk Gently #1
Publisher: William Heinemann
Released:
Pages: 306
Goodreads
Rating: 4/5

What do a dead cat, a computer whiz-kid, an Electric Monk who believes the world is pink, quantum mechanics, a Chronologist over 200 years old, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (poet), and pizza have in common? Apparently not much; until Dirk Gently, self-styled private investigator, sets out to prove the fundamental interconnectedness of all things by solving a mysterious murder, assisting a mysterious professor, unravelling a mysterious mystery, and eating a lot of pizza – not to mention saving the entire human race from extinction along the way (at no extra charge). To find out more, read this book (better still, buy it, then read it) – or contact Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. ‘A thumping good detective-ghost-horror-whodunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy epic.’

I’m not saying that the Hitchikers-books aren’t great, but relative to them this book deserves to be much more popular than I imagine it is. It’s an easy, pleasurable, quick, effortlessly funny read. Anyone who liked Hitchhikers Guide should definitely also read this as a bonus.

The Lost SymbolThe Lost Symbol by
Series: Robert Langdon #3
Publisher: Doubleday
Released:
Pages: 509
Goodreads
Rating: 4/5

In this stunning follow-up to the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown demonstrates once again why he is the world’s most popular thriller writer. The Lost Symbol is a masterstroke of storytelling – a deadly race through a real-world labyrinth of codes, secrets, and unseen truths…all under the watchful eye of Brown’s most terrifying villain to date. Set within the hidden chambers, tunnels, and temples of Washington, DC., The Lost Symbol accelerates through a startling landscape toward an unthinkable finale.

As the story opens, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object – artfully encoded with five symbols – is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation…one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom.

When Langdon’s beloved mentor, Peter Solomon – a prominent Mason and philanthropist – is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon is instantly into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and never-before-seen locations – all of which seem to be dragging him toward a single, inconceivable truth.

As the world discovered in The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, Dan Brown’s novels are brilliant tapestries of veiled histories, arcane symbols, and enigmatic codes. In this new novel, he again challenges readers with an intelligent, lightning-paced story that offers surprises at every turn. The Lost Symbol is exactly what Brown’s fans have been waiting for…his most thrilling novel yet.

It’s not that popular of an opinion, but I quite liked The Lost Symbol. It’s still somewhat formulaic, but it kept me hooked and wanting to keep turning the pages. I’ll agree along with everyone else that the Da Vinci code was a tad overrated, but going into this book with lowered expectations made it quite a fun read. Whatever one thinks of Dan Brown’s style he does do it well.

The Silver ChairThe Silver Chair by
Series: Chronicles of Narnia #4
Publisher: Geoffrey Bles
Released:
Pages: 243
Goodreads
Rating: 3/5

Jill and Eustace must rescue the Prince from the evil Witch.

NARNIA…where owls are wise, where some of the giants like to snack on humans, where a prince is put under an evil spell…and where the adventure begins.

Eustace and Jill escape from the bullies at school through a strange door in the wall, which, for once, is unlocked. It leads to the open moor…or does it? Once again Aslan has a task for the children, and Narnia needs them. Through dangers untold and caverns deep and dark, they pursue the quest that brings them face to face with the evil Witch. She must be defeated if Prince Rillian is to be saved.

The Narnia series goes on, and I realised at this point in the books that I think this series is an example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Like the others, apart from Lion, this book by itself didn’t do that much for me – but the Narnia world remains a fun place to me.

A Clockwork OrangeA Clockwork Orange by
Publisher: William Heinemann
Released:
Pages: 192
Goodreads
Rating: 4/5

A vicious fifteen-year-old droog is the central character of this 1963 classic. In Anthony Burgess’s nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends’ social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. And when the state undertakes to reform Alex to “redeem” him, the novel asks, “At what cost?”

A justified classic – A Clockwork Orange really is a good book. There was a part in particular (yes, that part) that was excruciating, and it’s quite something for a book to manage to be that uncomfortable. The book also has an ending which left me feeling more sad than any other book I can think of other than The Book Thief. I felt sad in a way that made me appreciate how good a book would have to be to make me feel that way.

God's Debris: A Thought ExperimentGod’s Debris: A Thought Experiment by
Series: The Avatar #1
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Released:
Pages: 132
Goodreads
Rating: 4/5

God’s Debris is the first non-humor book by best-selling author Scott Adams. Adams describes God’s Debris as a thought experiment wrapped in a story. It’s designed to make your brain spin around inside your skull. Imagine that you meet a very old man who you eventually realize knows literally everything. Imagine that he explains for you the great mysteries of life: quantum physics, evolution, God, gravity, light psychic phenomenon, and probability in a way so simple, so novel, and so compelling that it all fits together and makes perfect sense. What does it feel like to suddenly understand everything? You may not find the final answer to the big question, but God’s Debris might provide the most compelling vision of reality you will ever read. The thought experiment is this: Try to figure out what’s wrong with the old man’s explanation of reality. Share the book with your smart friends, then discuss it later while enjoying a beverage.

A really interesting read, and, I think, underrated. Whatever one thinks of the opinions of Scott Adams these days, it’s impossible to deny that he is very good at thinking, and at presenting the thoughts. This very short book is a great piece of philosophy, built on the premise of “what would it be like to speak to someone who knows absolutely everything”. By design there isn’t much sense in this book, but it’s a really fun exercise to read it and do some mental acrobatics around why.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll Up