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Showing posts from May, 2011

On China Mieville

A few years back if you had asked me who my favorite writer is I would have to think and then I would throw up a few names here and there but if you asked me now I would say China Mieville without the slightest hesitation.  What I like about Mieville is the way his characters acquire skills, the way they explain their skills and the way they explore what they are passionate about. Mieville seems to understand that once you acquire a skill you tend to use in ways that would not have been thought of. Isaac in Perdido Street Station, Judah in Iron Council, Uther Doul in The Scar, Collinswood and to a certain extent Vardy in Kraken all have certain skills which they acquire with a mixture of intuition, study and of course being in the right place in the right time and of course they also happen to use the skills they acquire in many different contexts. I like the way the sideplots morph into something else and add unexpected turns and twists to an already intriguing tale. The worlds he cre

The best of Paul Graham

Paul Graham is a startup incubator. He also happens to write essays which are really really good. In general I wish I had them read them a lot earlier. I have been reading his essays for a while now. Here are some extracts which I liked and so it begins. Addictive things have to be treated as if they were sentient adversaries—as if there were a little man in your head always cooking up the most plausible arguments for doing whatever you're trying to stop doing. If you leave a path to it, he'll find it. And my main computer is now freed for work. If you try this trick, you'll probably be struck by how different it feels when your computer is disconnected from the Internet. It was alarming to me how foreign it felt to sit in front of a computer that could only be used for work, because that showed how much time I must have been wasting. From Disconnecting Distraction How do you avoid copying the wrong things? Copy only what you genuinely like. That would have sav

Iron Council by China Mieville

I enjoyed Iron Council immensely. Mieville is inventive as usual. The other reviews said that this book is overtly political but I never found it to be so. I always thought it was being taken to its logical conclusion. The story contains three separate threads which of course converge at the end. The city of New Crobuzon is at war with Tesh. They are building a railroad to conduct the war. The workers aren't getting paid, they strike, they fight and eventually break away across unknown frontiers. It is against this backdrop that the tales of the Judah, Cuter and Ori unfold. This is a challenging book but the sort of challenge that one enjoys(or at least one that I enjoyed). Mieville seems to have an insanely keen grasp of characters and he writes like one possessed. There is lesser exposition than his previous works. A lot of the creatures are described with economy and precision with words that sends one hunting for the dictionary (but then you find that the word that

On Sprezzatura and Rahul Dravid

There is a word that I recently read in Nicholas Naseem Taleb's The bed of Procrustes. They call it Sprezzatura. The oxford dictionary defines it as studied nonchalance. All admired athletes have this quality. They make what they do look exceedingly simple. Sachin, Laxman and Federer all possess this is in spades. They have a languid grace that belies the effort they put into their game. This is precisely the problem with Rahul Dravid. You can see exactly how much effort he has put into his game. Every single knock he plays, the effort is palpable. He drips buckets of sweat, seldom looks to be effortless hitting the ball and he never takes it easy. His batting is graceful yes but never does it look effortless. When he plays a cover drive it is plain to see that he has practiced the same shot in the net on countless occasions. Dravid it seems has always been destined to be the sidekick and the hero. In every single partnership he has been overshadowed by his partner at the other en

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville : A rambunctious novel that defies description

Perdido Street Station is a truly exceptional book. Perdido Street Station is packed with so many ideas and concepts that other authors could have made a whole series out of just one of them. Thinking about this novel still gives me the chills. I had not heard of China Mieville till Samit Basu(author of the Gameworld trilogy happened to mention him) and what a recommendation this turned out be. I couldn't help but form images of what was happening and they still creep me out. The monsters in this book are scary to say the least. The novel begins with a Garuda(a bird like creature) who comes to Isaac, a scientist to get his wings(they have been removed by his folk as punishment for his crimes). Isaac then begins his foray into winged creatures and the tale metamorphoses into something else entirely. The world of New Crobuzon that Mieville creates is on an entirely different scale from what is typical. It is rich, detailed, nuanced, utterly fantastic and populated with a

Finch By Jeff Vandermeer : Fungal Noir and insect invaders

Finch is an absolute cracker of a read. Marry a hard boiled detective tale with science fiction and a bleak end of the world scenario and this is what you get. The tone resembles Blade Runner but with a fungal twist. The city of Ambergris is probably the biggest character in the novel though and you can feel its every nuance through the eyes of Finch and you will never look at spores, fungi and mushrooms quite the same way again after reading Finch. The novel begins with One and a half bodies. Both of them dead. One human, the other one being what the author calls a gray cap. A murder mystery if ever there was one. The case is forced upon John Finch who is a detective not by choice but by compulsion. As is expected from a detective tale the mystery is more than it seems on the surface and everyone has a back story and no one knows who they really are. This is apparently the third book in Ambergris trilogy and although they are self contained I am looking forward to rea