Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Communion of the Saint
by Alan David Justice

This is my second complete "podiobook" that I've read (well, okay, listened too)... now, I suppose, guilt is going to start nagging me to donate, since in both cases, I've been very impressed.

Clio Griffin, an out-of-work academic with an attitude and a tendency toward sarcasm, travels to England to interview for a last-chance job--as the pet historian for an antiquarian group who hope to use her to build the reputation of the local saint--Alban, the first Christian martyr of Britain.

No sooner does she arrive than the saint, dead for seventeen centuries, starts talking to her--out loud. The voice is hard enough for Clio to take; her mother, in her final illness, had lost touch with reality, and Clio fears the same fate. When the saint drags her unwilling into the past, to live the lives of people long dead, Clio fights to hold on to her reason...
This was very interesting and enjoyable - a bit of mystery, a bit of mysticism - not the book I expected, but then, I'm not sure what I was expecting. I'll have to keep watch to see if he does another.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

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Ouch. I kind of wish this bit of Science Fiction was more, you know, fictional.

...a believable and frightening tale of a near-future San Francisco, victimized first by terrorists and then by an out-of-control Department of Homeland Security determined to turn the city into a virtual police state. Innocent of any wrongdoing beyond cutting school, high school student and techno-geek Marcus is arrested, illegally interrogated and humiliated by overzealous DHS personnel who also "disappear" his best friend, Darryl, along with hundreds of other U.S. citizens. Moved in part by a desire for revenge and in part by a passionate belief in the Bill of Rights, Marcus vows to drive the DHS out of his beloved city. Using the Internet and other technologies, he plays a dangerous game of cat and mouse, disrupting the government's attempts to create virtually universal electronic surveillance while recruiting other young people to his guerilla movement. Filled with sharp dialogue and detailed descriptions of how to counteract gait-recognition cameras, arphids (radio frequency ID tags), wireless Internet tracers and other surveillance devices, this work makes its admittedly didactic point within a tautly crafted fictional framework.

That about sums it up. The "science" is good - the near-future extrapolations of technology are very believable and, sadly, the political projections are too plausible as well. I'm familiar enough with the tech described that I probably zipped over those bits (eg. about tunneling protocols and other ways to subvert things) so I'm not sure how readable that will be. It might be a roadblock to some readers. I'd have liked a bibliography or a few more pointers for the interested reader to follow up - but Doctorow does offer some links.

I do like his handling of the consequences of the radical or subversive actions of the protagonist. He doesn't just give him a free pass to rebel, and he makes him see some of the negative results from his protests.

I just hope it isn't prophetic in the sense of FOREtelling the future. (Prophetic in the sense of "a preachement" is okay.).

Access Denied (Turing Hopper Series #3) by Donna Andrews

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hm. Cute.

"Artificial Intelligence Personality" Turing Hopper has been monitoring the credit cards of notorious criminal-at-large Nestor Garcia, waiting for signs of activity. When suddenly thousands of dollars of purchases begin appearing, Turing traces them to deliveries to a vacant house in northern Virginia. For Garcia to be using his credit card in such a manner is highly suspicious, so Turing and "her" assistants, including human friends Tim and Maude, who work for Washington's Universal Library, start investigating. Tim watches the vacant house, but when a dead body turns up, Tim could well be the police's only real suspect in the murder.

I actually found this book while looking for a more hackerish/civil-liberties oriented book - but this had merit. Odd to pick up in the middle of a series, but I got enough out of it.

Essentially it's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" crossed with a mystery yarn - featuring an AI who has "awoken" and is semi-liberated (enough to own her own business - sort of) and works to solve mysteries. I guess I'll be looking up the rest of these over time. Fun, and tolerably accurate about security and computers (obviously a BIT of a stretch with the AI programs).