Saturday 12 February 2022

Book review: Rotherweird and Wyntertide

This is a book that I'd seen a few times in Waterstones and considered reading, despite it looking somewhat like a setup; when I found a copy in Oxfam it seemed ineviatble that I'd buy it, and so I did. Ultimately though my first impressions were correct; for a Goodreads review saying much the same, see here.

Firstly - but as you go on it becomes the most annoying feature - too much of the book is a crossword puzzle. Perhaps if you look crosswords, and the author undoubtedly does, that's cute; but I don't, so it is annoying (Calx Bole vs Calle Box is probably the most annoying). The problem this links too is that not only is the town of Rotherweird in some alternate fantasy universe but the entire plot is off there too, with bizarre trail-of-clues stuff that really doesn't make much sense.

There is, as expected, the cast of lovable and hissable eccentric characters with various entertaining properties but somehow... it is all too cartoonish? Or too constructed? More the latter: it is as though the author has had the idea of an anagram trail, and written backwards from there, without any great interest in his characters.

I didn't like the idea that (plot spoilers ahead) the mixing spot conferred immortality, and people knew that. Because, how would you know, without living those centuries? There's a bit with mayflies, but mayflies die from lack of food (no?) and the mixing spot merely confers lack-of-aging, so it wouldn't have made the mayflies last. Am I being too picky?

I did finish Rotherweird. And I just about finished part two, Wyntertide (sample review I quote sympathetically from: there were too many characters who all knew different things, and trying to keep track of who knew what was not only impossible, but also boring; I'm fine with the word "brio" though); but I'm not going to pick up part three.

Book review: Ringworld

Ringworld, by Larry Niven, is a classic; and indeed I was reading the SF Masterworks edition. But I didn't finish it. About half way through I got bored, annoyed, frustrated and just decided to stop. Here's a review on Goodreads that roughly says what I will.

I can put aside the casual sexism and clunky dialogue; I'm not looking for high or sensitive literature. But I'm less happy with the stupidity. Foremost amongst this is the bizarre nonsense about the hereditability of luck. That's so stupid that I really can't think of anything else to say about it. It wouldn't be so bad except it keep recurring. Secondly there's the implausible casualness of the entire expedition; to some extent one has to forgive this because so much scifi is similar but really: to go all that way with absolutely no plan whatsoever; to not have a backup ship around to observe; to not spend weeks if not months carefully studying the object before getting close; and so on.

Where I stopped was somewhat after the first episode with the natives, where they fly over a vast empty city, and don't stop, because they wouldn't learn anything. WTF? The author knows they wouldn't learn anything, and anyway he hasn't got any ideas about what they might find in the city; but there is no way they could possibly know that, and not stopping for a look around is both delinquent and speaking of an astonishing lack of curiosity.

There's a contrast to be made with, say, Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, where the sense of mystery sustains interest.


* The Moat Around Murcheson's Eye

Tuesday 8 February 2022

House: the cut beam in the loft

You may also be interested in House: flooring the loft.

Some years ago - let us say in 2003, I forget the exact date; before the building work of 2006, certainly - I wanted to make some useable space in the loft. But the cross-beams were awkward. The roof is rafters over frames, and at both ends and twice in the middle, there is a cross-beam at about waist height, which is the problem. Here is a picture of the remaining middle uncut one (facing approx SW, towards the connected neighbours):


So, after verbal consulation with a structural engineer I bought appropriate construction-grade 2x4 (the same thickness as the existing), built a "door" frame of double construction around the beam, braced at floor and ceiling and... cut out the mid-section. As shown below.

First, a general view. You see behind the uncut beam shown above.


Above you can see that the footing is bolted to the original bottom cross-beam that runs across the width of the house. Below we see the doubled structure clearly, and the bolts.