What a fine and incredible writer Dan Simmons is.
It seems to me that he can take any genre, any tale and narrate it so that it acquires a certain intrigue and a certain gravitas.
He has this incredible ability to pull you in to the most fantastical of conceits and concepts.
When he writes horror he truly chills you right down to the bone. When he writes Science Fiction his mastery over the form is evident. His storytelling is brilliant. What he does in Song of Kali is incredible.
The Hyperion Cantos might be amongst the most lyrical and profound books ever written. The six stories that the pilgrims narrate about their encounter with the Shrike and amazing to say the least.
Although I thought Drood was a bit overlong, he captured perfectly the feeling of being in the presence of a greater talent all the time and being good enough to know who the lesser talent is. His novels have entire scenes that I recall as vivid images in higher definition than any film has ever managed.
If you want to start reading him though I would recommend Hyperion. It is easily the best book of his that I have read.
Just an amazing amazing writer who deserves to be read by everyone.
I still have to ready a few books by him but I he is one author whose work I am always ready to read.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
This is the first book of Roger Zelazny that I have read and I enjoyed it. It is measured and pitch perfect with words chosen and sentences crafted with great care.
What Zelazny does with great finesse is confuse the reader as to what the book is actually about. It starts of feeling like fantasy and mythology but the more you read the more it seems like Science Fiction but this is one of those books that makes it really hard to put in a shelf.
This book also has the perfect sentence to begin the book. It is rare that one sentence capture the soul of a book and yet invite you in but Zelazny really nails it when he writes
His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god, but then he never claimed not to be a god.
It concerns itself with Sam and his tales. Humans have landed on an Alien Planet and made it their own and for some strange reason they choose to model their society as a Hindu one with all the problems that this brings about. Writing more would be giving away too much of the tale.
All I can say is read the novel.
If you have even a passing knowledge of Hindu Mythology your enjoyment of Lord of Light will be immensely increased.
It is an amazing piece of work and is a short, quick read which will stay with you for some time to come.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
I am a vampire. One of the nicer ones I happen to think. As I write this I have a glass of warm blood mixed with one of Single Malts that I enjoy drinking. I am a lucky one as well. I got converted when I was at my absolute physical peak, so now when I have to feed I try to target people who are fit. Imagine being an immortal oldie. Too old to move, to feed but staying alive no matter what. I have seen a few of those.
I am also a scientist so after the initial shock of finding out that Vampires exist and finding out that I was one myself I rather enjoyed it. I was immortal. I hated the sun so I didn't miss that much. I would work in the night. My senses were sharper than before and I entered some of the most productive time of my life doing path breaking research. I picked out patterns where none were thought to exist. I discovered a cure of diabetes, those sons of bitches at the pharmaceutical companies tried to screw me but I managed to find my way to CEO's home. Scared him a bit with the vampirish things that I could do. The next day things were taken of. That made me a billionaire and so I became a rich vampire bastard. The first thing that I ended up buying was a blood bank. I had myself an endless supply of blood and that is worth more to me than anything else.
Before I was rich the only part that reviled me was the actual feeding. Once a week I would have to skulk off into the dark, find an innocent bystander, attack them and drink their blood just to survive. Most of the ones I attack don't survive. The vampire virus either kills you or makes you stronger.
I know my dear reader that you reviled by the feeding but it really is a normal way to consume nutrients and survive. Don't pretend to think you are any different. Have you ever felt thirst, not simple thirst but thirst when all you want in the world is a drop of water, when you would do anything, absolutely anything for that drop. I am sure most of you have not but since I became a vampire, blood is water for me and the blood banks are my most closely guarded secret and possessions.
You see vampires are better than humans in every respect. We live forever, all we need is blood preferable human but mammal blood will do as well. But human blood is addictive, the first time I drank it after I tried animals I understood exactly what causes tigers to become manhunters. The only thing that scares us is the sunlight but I am sure we will evolve past that. Mirrors pose another quandary. Few people roam about carrying stakes that they will stab you in the heart with but for some reason mirrors don't notice our existence at all and you don't really realize how widespread mirrors are until you are invisible in them. Think about it, they are in bathrooms, in hotels, in restaurants. They are so common that you non vampires don't really notice them consciously. The mirror is what killed my ability to travel to dine out because I would never be visible. People are trained to notice anything out of the ordinary and this they noticed. Even after I became a billionaire I could barely move out for fear of being spotted and becoming known.
This all changed when I converted a Sally Hawkins. She was a beauty and for a second I thought that Twilight(If you don't remember what they are dear Reader, they are books that made vampires pale reflections of what they are really capable of) had happened in real life. But the actual events turned out to be quite different and a surprise. There was nothing long drawn about it. I didn't protect her. On one of my hunts(for which I feel the urge now and then I admit, everything tastes better after the thrill of the chase). Most humans fought but she didn't resist. Sally just offered her neck. I converted her and she thanked me for it(once she came to her senses, she just barely managed to survive the virus). It was her idea to come out into the open. She said Vampires should be candid about who they are. A few might get burnt but overall humans would adapt as they have adapted to everything else and since I was a rich bastard I had nothing to worry about.
I told Sally that she was wrong but she turned out be right. Many many vampires died but soon there was a movement similar to the one that was carried out to abolish slavery, the movement that gave gay people equal rights. Her presence, charm and marketing made it respectable to be a vampire and more importantly fashionable to be a vampire. People were claiming to be vampires all over the place. We were everywhere and some of us were surprisingly well off. If people could be believed there was a vampire in every company of the Fortune 500. The president's aides had some vampires as well. I guess being sharper and physically stronger does help. If you remember the gay movement from your time you will recall how widespread denunciation gave way to acceptance and equal social rights. By now vampires were everywhere and they were open about it. This changed a lot of things. Since vampires were far more gifted physically, they came to dominate sports. Mentally we were inexhaustible. No diseases affected us. We were at the tipping point now.
I suppose the transition really occurred when a Chinese parent got themselves and their kid Chung Fa converted. In a nation where where any sort of competitive advantage led to a richer and better life this was a revelation. They became outcasts but they were better than anyone else. Their kid was sent to every conceivable class and no human child in China could beat him. The trend took up in India where matrimonial columns started mentioning Vampires as a requirement and caused dowry prices to go up. There were protests of course but by now the humans could do nothing. They were too few and too weak.
Chung played table tennis and his videos became viral sensations. Even by Chinese standards he was an extraordinary player. I remember he defeated the then world champion in his teens barely losing a point and without breaking a sweat, his movements were a blur to the naked eye, a proud moment for all vampires. They had to use the cutting edge motion cameras just to see how he moved and hit the ball.
Soon improved athletes began cropping up all over the place and challenging the establishment. All sports changed. All the athletes changed themselves because they could not compete otherwise.
Vampire spread like a plague. Everyone wanted to be one and when everyone wanted to be one, I managed to isolate the vampire virus. I got rid of its harmful effects and soon the survival rate became nearly a 100%. Parents began using at as a vaccine on kids. There were programs to help it spread. All the rich were now vampires. Those who couldn't pay were getting bitten because life was no longer worth living if you weren't a vampire. I became richer than I ever was. I indulged myself and science continued to fascinate me endlessly.
Everyone is now a vampire, everyone.
What do we do about the blood you ask. We grow cattle, pigs. Slay them, get their blood by the dozens. Although nothing is as good as the humans we manage. Another scientist managed to add preservatives, flavors to blood to make it more potable and taste better. Blood is now available like coke once was, it is an ingredient of every single delicacy.
Of course it is rumored that some vampires still keep humans trapped as slaves, as animals. Keep them fed and use them for blood. I am one of those. Some things are best kept natural I believe. I treat them well but I have no illusions of what they are to me.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Here is a list of the stuff that I enjoyed in 2012 analogous to the one I did in 2011. Thinking about a reason to do this I can only quote Kurt Vonnegut as the answer
“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.”
China Mieville Bas Lag rereads - I read all of Mieville again and I was amazed at how much I had missed the first time around. The Scar totally transformed itself into a bravura performance. Perdido and Iron Council embedded themselves in my consciousness. Thanks to knowing the big picture and the plot details I could really dive deep into his writing, his choice of words and get lost in the amazingly rich and intricate world of Bas Lag.
Nick Harkaway - Both his books Angelmaker and Gone Away World were fantastic to put it mildly. The verve, imagination and the sheer brilliance of the storytelling blew me away. Angelmaker was a fascinating read melding so many elements into a seamless whole. Gone away world had a climax that shook me up when it finally happened, even though I was expecting it.
Chinaman - Its about Sri Lanka seen through the eyes of a cricket loving 60 year old whisky addict. This is a great read full of wicked humour. If cricket fascinates you even mildly pick this up.
Octane Twisted - A stellar dvd that captures Porcupine tree playing The Incident. Everything about this is great. You are doing yourself a disservice if you have not heard Porcupine Tree yet.
Get all you deserve - Another concert but this is Steven Wilson's solo project. A brilliant showcase for a musician at the peak of his powers.
Life of pi - A great film with amazing visuals and a great soundtrack. I never imagined that such a big budget hollywood film could be made with a primarily Indian Cast. A novel that I thought would be hard to film translated beautifully to flim.
Cloud Atlas - The novel by David Mitchell was brilliant containing six spell binding stories collapsing on top each other. That the Wachowski brothers decided to make a film out of it was insanely ambitious. The result was a great film with some amazing performances by a recurring cast of characters.
There will be blood - Technically this film was released in 2007 but I really did enjoy watching this. Daniel Day Lewis gives what is probably the greatest performance of his career.
Make good art - This is a commencement speech by Neil Gaiman. Its a striking one right up there iwth the one Steve Jobs did. Beautifully written and delivered with a great deal of wit and charm.
Farnam Street - Contains some of the best curated intellectually stimulating stuff on the internet.
and thats it for the year that went away never to return.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
This is to announce another small little project I have been working on.
If thats enough to get your attention then have a look at http://kkey.in or http://kdogmatix.appspot.com.
Essentially all it does is allow you to create short urls for yourself. The problem I was trying to solve was there were some websites which I accessed frequently enough that I wanted to do so with a few keystrokes.
I have found it quite useful and so I decided to make it such that everyone can setup their personal accounts with their own short keywords.
If you are know about linux then you can think of these as aliases for the web.
If this piques your interest go to http://kkey.in
I have taken the liberty of adding a few defaults such as gmail, facebook and techmeme to get you started. They can be accessed using http://kkey.in/m http://kkey.in/fb and http://kkey.in/tm which get activated the first time you login
It will ask you to login using your google account. Don't worry no information from any of those services is accessed. Its just used to log you in.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
KBookSearch now has a chrome extension. Try it out here
As usual this happened when I was trying to solve a problem that hampered the book search experience.
Amazon is a great place to look for books but there is no way to know what the prices are like in India so this extension lets me know what the prices are with a click of the button.
Here is a screenshot. Its simple, easy to use, very very functional and should just work wherever books are sold.
The experience might actually be better than using KBookSearch itself.
The best way to use this I find is to set this up as a search engine of Chrome with a keywords of its own.
Here is an image that explains the process. The short version is below
Here is an image that explains the process. The short version is below
1) Fire up Chrome Settings (A button on the extreme right in chrome)
2) Go to Manage Search Engines
Add the following
Name --> KKey
Keyword --> d (I find 'd' nice because its easily accessible on the keyboard)
URL with %s in place of query --> http://www.kkey.in/%s or http://kdogmatix.appspot.com/%s
which is more reliable
which is more reliable
This is what it should like once you are finished
Now you should have things all setup. If you now hit d
on the Chrome Omnibar you can hit 'm' or any keyword that you choose. If they keyword exists it will take you to the page otherwise ask you to add the keyword.