Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Tale of Two Books

I switched off and read a few books over Easter. The first was The Dervish House, Ian McDonald's postcyberpunk grey goo novel (spoiler - no grey goo involved). I've been looking forward to reading this for a while, and I enjoyed it a lot. McDonald is rightly dismissive of the grey goo scenario ... if it was going to happen ... , so instead offers something much more interesting - religious belief as disease. With subplots involving aggregation/crowdsourcing and specific mentions of small world networks, it's, err, a thumping good yarn. But not a classic to rival Gibson's Neuromancer or Stephenson's Snow Crash.

I also read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, which I've never read before. I was rather disappointed with this book, which for me didn't live up to its reputation. If this is truly the Great American Novel, god help us all. Some good one liners though and it will bear re-reading sometime, something I rarely do. Quite a short book, so I also went on to read The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which is much more charming.

But there's something else:


I read The Dervish House on paper, and the others on my iPad. I also read a lot of other stuff over the holiday, mostly via Flipboard and Zite - social curation, aggregation, small world networks. Leaving aside the fact that the iPad is not a great eBook reader, there is a fundamental difference in the reading experience. The iPad is much more of a sit-forward device than a printed book or a magazine, and that alters the reading experience. Great for work, not great for relaxation - for me at least, when I want to switch off, I switch off the iPad and sit back. Did the medium I read these two books on affect my reaction to them? I can't see how it would fail to. I guess that means I'm not a digital native ;-)


  1. Funny, I found myself absent-mindedly trying to turn actual pages on the iPad while somewhere over the suthern Indian Ocean, deep in the night, so natural was the experience...I am a sit-back iPad reader, obviously! It's pretty good for magazines, too - my wife's Vanity Fair looks VERY handsome on the 'Pad.

  2. I am a huge fan of Ian McDonald: I think his "Brasyl" was high art. I also really enjoy Gibson and the like, and have just bought a Paolo Bacigalupi novel which is supposed to be up there with said two.

    NOW is the golden age of SF!!