Skip to main content


Showing posts from July, 2011

Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald : Short stories set in a divided India of the future

Cyberabad Days is an absolutely fantastic collection of stories of varying length. I never thought science fiction set in India could be done so well until I read this and River of Gods. The way Ian McDonald writes it seems that he has lived in India forever and his observations about the culture, the ways the caste system works, the preference for a male child are spot on. His prose is electric and Ian McDonald turns even spiritual discourses into absolute page turners. Indeed it is amazing that the best science fiction on India has been written by someone British. There are seven stories in all each of them covering ample terrain.My favorites include  1) The little goddess A child who is annointed as a goddess gets thrust into the real world the moment her blood is spilled. She becomes a carrier of high level AIs. Absolutely brilliant. 2) Vishnu at the cat circus Places the whole of river of gods novel into context. A tale of how a genetically re engineered Brahmi

On Hans Zimmer

I have been listening to quite a lot of soundtracks lately. Two composers in particular stand out, Hans Zimmer and Clint Mansell. I have written about Clint Mansell over here . Hans Zimmer has somehow managed to score a lot of my favorite movies including Inception, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight , the Gladiator, Sherlock, Pirates of the Caribbean just to name a few. In fact chances are that if there is a movie's score you like in the last decade its by Zimmer.(Apart from Lord of the rings of course :)) The thing about Zimmer though is that he is able to deliver even in movies that are not particularly good. Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons come to mind immediately which feature some great violin solos courtesy Joshua Bell. Here are a few of my favorite tracks. Put your headphones on and listen. Discombulate from Sherlock Red Warrior from The Last Samurai Time from Inception Jack Sparrow's Theme Science and Religion from Angels and Demons

The fifth head of Cereberus by Gene Wolfe : Three extraordinary novellas

Three novellas, seemingly not connected but so intertwined as to be inseparable. The prose is simple but effective. Wolfe writes with great economy and precision and makes the narration in all the novellas seamless. All three are narrated in the first person and so it can get a bit disorienting at times especially the very first story about father and son who turn out to be not so and an aunt who turns out to be a daughter instead. (Yeah I know it sounds insane already but it is a strange book and a mind bender) Two planets share the same orbit. Humans came and took over an entire civilization but there is a catch.The catch being that the aliens were shapeshifters. There are stories that claim that the aliens have impersonated the humans and in fact are not extinct. Now where most authors would adopt a slam bam and thank you madam approach for this sort of tale(I can already imagine a heroic protagonist uncovering a prophecy with him as the saviour and the aliens as villainou

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Zoo City is a strange beast. Some sections especially the news reports are well written. The pop culture references(especially a nod to His dark materials by Philip Pullman is apt along with a fake imdb movie page) but some sections just fall flat and require that you plod through them. The story is set in South Africa where criminals are attached to an animal so that having an animal becomes a marker for having a nefarious past. It turns out that these animals also bestow certain abilities. The protagonist Zinzi December has the ability to find lost things thanks to a sloth. She had been caught in a drug scandal and needs to pay back the mafioso, so she takes up a job she hates, a missing persons job. The novel then proceeds in standard noir fashion to uncover a conspiracy that is larger than what anyone anticipated. There are other animalled characters, an inside guide through the music production business and some gritty fight sequences.  Also because it is based in South Afr

A Mathematician’s Lament by Paul Lockhart

This is probably the best treatise on what is wrong with the way Maths is taught. I find that it also applies to most subjects including the languages. In fact this is a great critique of the way schooling works. Also look out for the particularly neat proofs for old problems(Why is a area of a triangle so). Read it here . On  a related note the head first series by O Reilly seems to be doing something to change this. I find their books to be great. This lament compares math to art and the different ways in which they are learnt or taught. It also points to the sheer lack of imagination , the dryness of school textbooks and their ability to take an object of beauty and turn it into a torturous affair. I suppose this is even more pertinent in India where everything must be reproduced exactly as is without modification. I think Gauss summarized it best by saying that what we need are notions and not notations.

Embassytown by China Mieville : A delightful cocktail of Aliens and Language

Its scary to have high expectations. More often than not you end up devastated but I am happy to say this is not one of those instances. China Mieville has exceeded all my expectations and come up with the most unique book that I have ever read. Embassytown is a science fiction novel that is at once a thriller and a treatise in linguistics and as usual Mieville takes on a genre and turns it on its head. This is at its core a study of language albeit one carried in so thrilling a manner that I hardly paused while reading Embassytown. Imagine there are aliens, of course they have means to communicate with themselves but for them everything is as is, their language does not have a concept of abstraction. They cannot lie and make things up so to speak. What they say has to be the truth. Mieville takes this simple idea and stretches it to its absolute limits, building a world, a system of space travel that is incredibly well realized. The writing is just magnificent. The way Miev

Long Road out of Eden by the Eagles

You think to yourself what can an aging band who haven't recorded stuff for ages come up with. Can they at least come up with something like Hotel California. This is the eagles we are talking about here. And then they come up with Long road out of eden, one of the most exquisite albums that I have heard. New and old at the same time. Bloody brilliant. Stand out tracks include Long road out of eden and waiting in the weeds. Give it a couple of listens. All they have is some video on myspace. Here it is.