Thursday 28 December 2023

Book review: Dark Light

PXL_20231228_101353659~2 By Ken McLeod. I've read other of his stuff - in particular, I've read Cosmonaut Keep, which is the volume one of which this is two. If you're inclined to read this stuff, start there.

Verdict: generally reasonably good without rising to any heights. The canny tinged-with-Scottish-socialism type political threads are reasonable and less wildly unrealistic than many another author's attempts. What's less realistic is the apparently implausible influence the various central characters have, apparently by virtue of being said characters.

The sex-vs-gender stuff - one of the central characters has female gender, despite being physically and sexually male - feels clumsy and heavy handed.

Past here, plot spoilers.

It is some time since I read CK but the general idea - that there is a "second sphere" populated by Earth type creatures I recall. I can't recall why the light-speed drive across 5 light years takes 200 years for a round trip, I missed something there. Never mind. In CK, if I recall correctly, dealing with the "gods" was reasonably deftly handled, disguising well what must be disguised: that we can have no idea what a "god" (aka super-intelligent being) would say. This time round it is less fortunate; the gods are rather less super-intelligent and more dumb-old-gods; and their "plans" are nothing more than tedious war and suppression of the young folk; I'd have liked a better answer than that.

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Revue d'un livre: A World Out Of Time

1702849695009-da1acf04-d7eb-4ccd-970d-b49b02adc583_[Ce revue en Francais, pour... une epreuve.]

Par Larry "Ringworld" Niven. Ringworld prit soi-meme trop serieusement, et ansi c'est ennervant. Ce livre est un jeu d'esprit et est plus leger. Nominalement c'est le SciFi "dur": il y a des Bussard Ramjets, la dilation des temps, le trou noir au cour du galaxy, et tout ca. Mes en effet, tout ca est du surface; a bas, c'est un roman picaresque.

Un homme prit un trajet grand, qui dure 70 k yr; quand il retourne a la terre, tout est change. Je doubte si tous les changements sont vraiment necessaire ou possible, mais c'est tout une blague (a la cote: le homme est dans le bateau d'etoile pour le diriger; je doubte beaucoup s'il etait possible pour lui de retourner, mais on ignore ca). Il voyage vers l'Antarctique, parce que le monde is plus chaude; it decouvre des gens, dans des societies etranges, et avec la seule femme de son type, it decourve le secret de l'immortalite des "dikta"s.

Je lui donne des pointes pour la description de la societe du future; et pour le secret d'immortalite, et pour le tone generale du livre. Mais c'est etrange qu'il y a seulement deux personnes "transporte" dans le future; et c'est beaucoup etrange que l'etat leur fait confiance.

Monday 18 December 2023

Chesterton / Simoco M1 over the years

It occurs to me that we don't have a good record of club crews over the years, which is a bit of a shame. Quite who might care is another matter, of course. Anyway, this post begins to attempt a record. Note: between 2007 and 2008, Simoco was renamed Chesterton.


Stroke: Shuowang He, Alistair Goodman, Conor Burgess, Adam Townson, Ralph Hancock, Harry Bulstrode , Jon Hachett, Bow: William Connolley. Cox: Will Miller. Coach: Joe Lillis. Blog post. Result: +1.


Stroke: Harry Bulstrode, Jonathan Pilgrim, Steve O'Rourke, Conor Burgess, Adam Townson / Alistair Goodman, Jon Hatchett, William Connolley, Ralph Hancock. Cox: Theo von Wilmowski. Blog post. Result: -1.


Stroke: Harry Bulstrode, Will Miller, Steve O'Rourke, Conor Burgess, William Connolley, Dave Richards, Ralph Hancock, Chris Wood. Cox Maddy Scragg. Blog post. Result: -2.




Stroke: Tom Pryke, William Connolley, Conor Burgess, Harry Bulstrode, Dave Richards, Steve O'Rourke, Matthew Myers, Bow: Chris Wood. Cox: Manja Neumann. Coach: Charlotte Payne. Blog post. Result: row-over x4.


Stroke: Tom Pryke, William Connolley, Jonathan Pilgrim, Alexander Fanourakis, Conor Burgess, Steve O'Rourke, Chris Wood, Bow: Ralph Hancock. Cox: Keith Lee. Coach: Dan McGreal. Blog post. Result: -1, +1.


Stroke: Andy Southgate, Steve O'Rouke, Conor Burgess, Steven Andrews, Steve Penson, Dan McGreal, Chris Wood, William Connolley. Cox: Manja Neumann. Blog postResult: -2.


Stroke: William Connolley, Dan McGreal, Matt Woodthorpe, Conor Burgess, Simon Lloyd, Steve Penson, Brian Stevens, Keith Lee. Cox: James Tidy. Blog post. Result: +3.


Stroke: Andy Southgate, Chris Wood, Mike Parrott, William Connolley, Rob Doubleday, Dan McGreal, Simon Emmings, Bow: Dave Richards. Cox: James Tidy. Blog postResult: -2.


Stroke: William Connolley, Ian Foster, Andy Southgate, Chris Wood, Ralph Hancock, Paul Holland, Dave Ifould, Bow: Dave Richards. Cox: James Tidy. Blog post (mine). Result: +1, -2.


Stroke: James Howard, William Connolley, Andy Southgate, Chris Wood, Will Wykeham, Ian Foster, Ralph Hancock, Bow: Dave Richards. Cox: James Tidy. Coach: Kate Hurst. Blog postResult: +3.


Stroke: Andy Southgate, James Howard, Ollie Crabb, Will Wykeham, Chris Flowers, Steven Andrews, Paul Holland, Bow: William Connolley. Cox: James Tidy. Blog post. Result: +1, -1.


Stroke: Ollie Crabb, James Howard, Tom Watt / Chris Smith, Steven Andrews, Andy Southgate, Sipper, Chris Wood, Bow: William Connolley. Cox: James Tidy. Blog post. Result: +1.


Stroke: Ollie Crabb, James Howard, Tom Watt, Chris Smith, Andy Southgate, Steven Andrews, Ralph Hancock, Chris Metcalfe. Cox: James Tidy. Source: this pic. Result: -2.


Stroke: Andy Southgate, Ollie Crabb, Tom Watt, Andy Hurst, Chris Wood, William Connolley, Ralph Hancock, Dave Richards / Nick Lee. Cox: James Tidy. Sources: emails, this video. Result: -3.


Stroke: Andy Twigg, Tom Watt, James Howard, Chris Braithwaite, Chris Metcalfe, Ollie Crabb, John Aspden, Bow: Chris Wood. Cox: James Tidy. Source: email from JH. Result: -1.


Stroke: Andy Southgate, Tom Watt, James Howard, Chris Braithwaite, Chris Smith, John Aspden,  Chris Metcalfe, Chris Wood. Cox: James Tidy. Coaches: John Aspden, Rev Ian Thompson, Chris Braithwaite. Result: +3. Pic.


Stroke: Andy Southgate, Jeremy Davies, Chris Braithwaite, John Aspden, Tom Watt, Chris Metcalfe, Chris Wood, Lyndon Jenkins. Cox: Lisa Edwards. Coach: John Aspden. Result: +3. Pic.


Stroke: Andy Southgate, Jeremy Davies, Chris Braithwaite, Darren Payne, John Aspden, Tom Watt, Chris Wood, Alister Bailey. Cox: Emma White. Coaches: Peter Jeffrey, Paul Knights, Andy Nicol. Result: row-over x4. Pic.

2004 - 2002



Stroke: Andy Southgate, John Aspen, Andy Nicol, David Sinclair, Andy Hurst, Ralph Hancock, S. Mackrae, A. Hendrick. Cox: A. Pearce. Result: +2, -1. Pic (slightly better version, was JA's, now with KH).

2000 and before


Sunday 10 December 2023

Book review: Involution Ocean

PXL_20231210_140957726~2 By Bruce Sterling. Wiki says "The premise is influenced by Moby Dick by Herman Melville" which is right; there is a distinct tang of mad sea captain in the air, and a semi-observerish narrator, and something approaching a Whale. But none of the detail fits MD.

There is musing - in the storyline context, sane people get an extended life - about yearning for death. There are perhaps could have been more explored hints about the Elder Cultures. And the mystery of what lives down in the dust. And then there's the plot, which in some ways is less interesting.

I first read this oh most of forty years ago; and it has stayed unread on my bookshelf ever since, tagged in my mind as "interesting", and has survived numerous culls since then. But I had long forgotten in what way it was unusual, and now I find to my dismay that while a little unusual it is well within genre: strange things happening on a distant planet.

Saturday 9 December 2023

Book review: the Mystery of the Blue Train

PXL_20231203_152035794 Another Christie. Not too bad, though (for me) rather broken up; I read it over about a month with gaps; so I was even less than usually encouraged to guess the solution. Another with "Americans" as the source of money and hence action; the Europeans are predators mostly. The driver of the story, fabulous rubies and a divorce, seems rather dull now.

Quibbles: that Ava Mason should be a male impersonator seems an over-clue. She doesn't need to be. She just walks off the train dressed as a man, FFS, she could do that just as any old female actor. I also feel that the two-unreliable-narrators means that a lot of the story / description - who was the man on the train? - is effectively nulled out, which is dissatisfying. Had I been paying more attention, I'd have felt cheated.

Book review: the Memory of Earth

PXL_20231209_164115278~2 By Orson Scott Card. Book one of a 5-book series but I doubt I go further; either I'm getting rather curmudgeonly in my old age or this book is a bit pale. Goodreads doesn't seem impressed either.

The world: Harmony, a distant (100 light years, it emerges) world settled 40 million years ago after the Earth suffers what sounds like a nuclear war. Immeadiately you, but not the book, will think: what, we had starships but only sent them out after a war? Why did we only settle one planet? And so on. But we must cast those aside.

The idea is that the world is stable, because a computer-in-orbit aka the Oversoul keeps people from advancing tech far enough to kill themselves too badly: so, for example, no wheels-for-transport. But 40 million years is a very very long time; unimaginably long. Compare (from Ashmolean: Egypt) the picture I've inlined below. And that's only 3,000 years ago; there's even stranger stuff from 2,000 years before that. We see nothing like that; never do the characters come across say an obelisk even 100,000 years old. Or even 10,000 years, worn unintelligible, and say to themselves: the older stuff has just worn away. Instead, we might be in say Constantinople 1,000 years ago, but with limited use of computers.

By which I mean, the 40 million years idea is cute, but he does nothing with it. As a contrast, an image I recall from another book: we're inside a generations starship, where barbarism has occurred, as the makers predicted, and civilisation is gradually re-establishing itself; scattered across the interior are vast pillars, inscribed with knowledge, simple at the bottom and more exotic higher up, and as tech advances people can read higher (ladders, telescopes, balloons). Somewhere across the plain, one of the pillars has fallen and forbidden tech can be read by anyone... That kind of image is totally absent from this book.

Since this isn't really thought out at all, it seems a shame to waste complaints on it, but the total failure to develope in 40 million years would suggest to me giving up, rather than continuing to fight. The people, as described in the book, have essentially lost all that history: they must, there is too much of it. By contrast, there's a lot of human history, but "we" (the West) haven't lost it, because it is embodied in our society. But since their society is quasi-static (like the weather: always slightly different, but the same patterns recur) they have lost most of those 40 million years.

Side note: apparently the story in some way parallels the Book of Mormon (close enough to spoil the plot, according to this review), which Book at a quick glance seems like totally wacky maaan.


Tuesday 5 December 2023

Ashmolean: Egypt

I didn't realise the old place had so much Egypt in it. See set: Ashmolean, Oxford 2023/12. This post created in the hope I might fund these pictures again one day. There's also an Assyrian protective spirit, but I didn't find that.


Superb stuff. I like to imagine - it would be what my novel was about, if I ever wrote one - that these beasts and gods really used to walk amongst men, and the sculpters simply drew what they saw; but over the millennia we have forgotten what once was, and assume the images are merely fabulous.


Stepping back a little to around 3300 BC, we have a colossol statue of the fertility god Min (see-also).


3300 BC is an unfathomable amount of time away. Quasi-randomly, a vulture's head.


And then, suddenly, the Greeks took a completely different turn.