Foundation’s Fear

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This book is a solid zero stars in my mind. I got to page 372, but simply couldn’t wade through the chore any longer. The plot meanders, and its not clear to me where the story is going. Worse still, basically nothing has happened yet. I am a little surprised, given the generally positive LibraryThing reviews. I should have read the Amazon reviews instead. Some examples:

Normally, I do a lot of my reading on the train (BART for those of you familiar with San Francisco), getting to and from work. An engrossing book keeps me awake and I read it relatively quickly. “Foundation’s Fear”, especially the first half of it, set a record for putting me to sleep. There were days in when I only managed to read a couple of pages. A paragraph or two and I’d be out, even before the train started moving. As others here have pointed out, there is a lot of boring dialogue and description and much of it focuses around the Voltaire and Joan of Arc artificial entities. Hundreds of pages of philosophical noodling and descriptions of imaginary scenes conjured up in cyberspace become numbing.

And another:

This book is not good, not because it’s not Asimov but because it’s simply not good. I had the luxury of reading it within the context of the other two “new” books and while that helps in hindsight, it doesn’t while you’re slogging through Benford’s weighty prose.

Don’t expect Asimov but then the reader shouldn’t. As Bear and to a lesser extent Brin show, authors can bring a fresh perspective on the topic and do it fairly well. Benford never seems to make up his mind which of his myriad little sub plots will be the main plot and thus, nothing really happens that expands our understanding of the Foundation Galaxy. Moreover, instead of fleshing out some of Asimov’s admittedly skimpy ideas in the Foundation galaxy or introducing new themes that build upon previous concepts, instead, we take a quantum leap into a muddled unknown with concepts (aliens and tiktoks being the two most egregious examples) that clearly don’t belong in the Foundation setting.

This book differs from Asimov’s view of the Foundation universe in important ways:

  • This book is much more explicit about Dors’ nature than Asimov ever was. There was some element of doubt in Forward the Foundation right up until Dors’ death. That is not the case with this book.
  • This book reworks Hari’s entry into the First Minister position, which I found annoying. Especially because the discussion around that entry is slow, and lacks action. Basically the new version was kinda boring.
  • Worm holes are a major part of the economic makeup of the galactic empire in this book, but somehow Asimov never mentioned them in his books.
  • This book dwells on computers, robots, artificial intelligence, and aliens — all things Asimov left out of his books (except for robots of course). Its not like Asimov was unaware of these things, he just didn’t use them in this universe.
  • This book is really long (600 pages), but nothing much seems to actually happen in the first several hundred. The Sims sequence is the first really interesting part of the book, and even that drags on into long boring descriptions of polygons waving in the virtual wind.

[isbn: 0061056383]

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Sticklers, Sideburns and Bikinis

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This is the second book I have got from the LibraryThing early reviewer program (the previous book was The Spy Within).

I’m going to have to be honest with this book and say that I haven’t read all of it yet. Its basically a dictionary and I don’t tend to read those cover to cover. On the other hand, I have read about 10% of this book so far, and do intend to read it all.

This book is great. The content is interesting, well laid out, and excellently written. That’s probably made a lot easier by how interesting the content is — the stories behind various works tend to be short and novel, which is fun. The book is also useful — it’s already ended an office debate over the origin of the word “hooker”.

[isbn: 9781846033001]

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Please help me test trunk

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I’m getting ready to do another MythNetTV release, as I’ve fixed quite a few things recently. I’d appreciate people testing the new code before I do an official release. You can get the current code like this:

    svn co http://www.stillhq.com/mythtv/mythnettv/svn
    

That will create a directory called mythnettv, with a subdirectory named trunk, which is the latest development version of the code. You should probably create that directory somewhere where you don’t mind a new directory being created.

This release has lots of small changes, which are listed in the ChangeLog which will be downloaded with the code.

Thanks.

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Second Foundation

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I am starting to think that there is something missing in the Foundation trilogy. Specifically, there isn’t much action. Most of it is just people talking at each other — with pages and pages of dialog. This makes these three books much harder to read (and therefore less compelling) than those elsewhere in the extended Foundation Series.

I did enjoy this book, I just feel that I could have done with some more action to make it less hard work.

[isbn: 0345336291;0345309014]

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King of the Murgos

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This is book two of the Malloreon, the sequel series to the Belgariad. Some people complain that this series is just a repeat of the previous series with some of the names changed, and I certainly used to think that myself. Now that I’ve read this book again I think that’s unfair — the story line is actually quite different, and the characters are generally older and wiser (which makes them feel more developed). I enjoyed this book, probably more than I did Guardians of the West.

[isbn: 0345358805]

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Does anyone else think its odd

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Does anyone else think it is odd that my kid’s school had a “code red alert” drill this morning? This is where they have the whole school pretend that there is a gun toting maniac on campus, and the class goes to a corner and hides. They practise being quiet while someone beats on the door, that sort of thing.

I find the whole thing just a little disturbing.

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The Stainless Steel Rat for President

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I need a break from all this serious reading, and the Stainless Steel Rat books are always amusing. In fact, this book was much better than the previous two I have read (The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World and The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You) as it didn’t suffer from the incredibly weak plot lines that books involving time travel seem to cause for Harrison.

This book is back to the classic rat — a simple criminal romp through an unsuspecting society, his hottie wife in tow, and with his two now grown kids along for the fun. I enjoyed this book a lot.

[isbn: 0553227599]

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Fixed LibraryThing links

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I only just realized that the links to LibraryThing that I automatically insert into book posts only work if you have a LibraryThing account. I’ve now fixed that so that there is a link to a public page, as well as a link to your personal library if you use LibraryThing and also have a book that I mention.

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Guardians of the West

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I read this book as a child, and must admit I didn’t like it. That’s interesting to me, because it quite liked it this time. Its not the greatest literature ever written, but it is a good read. You need to have read the Belgariad first though, because this book (the first of the Mallorean) reuses the characters without spending a lot of time introducing them to you. I think I prefer it that way because it would be annoying to have to go through all that character development again as someone who has read the first series.

[isbn: 0345352661]

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