Monday, March 09, 2009

Reading List (part one)

It's been quite a while since I shared my reading list here. Truth be told, I haven't been reading much at all. So here's a list of the books I've been reading for the past six-seven months.

1) The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul: This Batman comic is written by Grant Morrison. It's a bad read however, full of magic, supernaturalness and otherworldness.

<*Gets prepared for being whacked by Grant Morrison's die hard fans*>

<*Whack, whack, whack*>

<*Emerges with a bloody nose*>

2) War Games Act One (Batman): Nothing great about it either.


3) The Idiot: A fourth (or is it fifth?) re-read of the Dostoyevsky masterpiece. I can do this over and over again and yet not stop being awestruck each and every time I read this book.

4), 5), 6) The Bridge Trilogy (William Gibson): William Gibson has been the noir prophet of cyberpunk and has never failed to amaze me with his minimal, gritty, compact prose about societies of the near future and their interaction with technology. Here is a writer who operates more as a sociologist, argues that culture is shaped by technological shifts and writes about human/societal behaviour in the way no other person can write about (cf: "The street finds its own uses for things"). He was writing about science fictional extrapolations of underground subcultures way before they became big enough to be noticeable (he writes about Otakus and their subculture in near future settings in 1996!).

So it's easily understandable that this trilogy totally kicks ass. The three books of the trilogy: Virtual Light, Idoru and All Tomorrow's Parties continue on the Gibsonian theme of the merger of technology and humans and the proliferation of AIs and their effects on society in a dystopic setting, although this time the future is much nearer than that of the earlier Sprawl Trilogy.

Virtual Light, however, is probably the weakest William Gibson book I've read. As a standalone book, I didn't think it was as awesome as his earlier works. Idoru is brilliant. All Tomorrow's Parties (the name is a tribute to the eponymous Velvet Underground song) is the perfect consummation of all the themes explored in the trilogy. The ending is fantastic and reminded me of the awe inspiring, shatteringly earth shaking ending of Neuromancer (relax, I am not going to rave all over again about how great the book is).

Highly recommended!

7) Pattern Recognition (William Gibson): This book is set in the present and features a mysterious series of film footages found on the internet and the hunt for its maker. A thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking read.

The story started in the book continues over in the second installment, Spook Country - a book I have not yet read (actually the only Gibson book I haven't read till now).

If one observes the way Gibson has been writing, one sees that the timelines of worlds that he's been writing about have become more and more close to the current world timeline. He started off with Burning Chrome, (the anthology) and then went on to write the Sprawl Trilogy (set in a far future) and the Bridge Trilogy (set in a nearer future). Now come Pattern Recognition and Spook Country set in the present world. Juxtapose this with his now famous statement - "The future is already here - it's just not evenly distributed" and you begin to appreciate the remarkable insights that the writer has to offer.

8) Burning Chrome (Anthology) (William Gibson): The groundbreaking anthology that set Cyberpunk on the highbrow science fiction manifesto. The stories are trademark Gibson - taut, spare, tense stories about lonely anti heroes in SF settings suffused with heavy doses of film noir. Terrific stuff.

The rest thirteen books will be covered in part two. Don't hold your breaths though.

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