September 12th, 2002

The Backlog Reviews: Number One - The Duke Of Uranium

John Barnes is a prolific and flexible writer. While he regularly turns out complex works like Candle or A Million Open Doors, he also (like Walter Jon Williams) writes lighter works, thrillers and other, harder to classify pieces. The Duke Of Uranium is one of these works, a far future romp that mixes elements of Heinlein and Panshin.

A thousand years from now, humanity has fought and won an interstellar war - but now awaits (with some trepidation) the verdict of the Galactic Court. It'll be out in a few generations, and may mean the extermination of humanity. Meanwhile the debate over the almost religious Wager and its many principles continues. On a teaming space colony Jak Jinnaka finishes his schooling, somewhat at a loss for what to do next. The kidnapping of his girlfriend changes everything. Not only is she actually a princess, he's been trained by his uncle to be an agent for a social engineering group, and it's his job to rescue her.

Barnes takes us through a bustling far future solar system of black hole powered space colonies, complex martial arts, eternally orbiting sun clippers and battling philosophies. Jak is our unwitting guide, as he bumbles his way to a rescue (with a little help from his friends). This is the first part of a series, and one that I'll be buying the rest of. Barnes has a deft touch with light space opera, and after the first volume there's a distinct feeling that behind the stylised spy movie actions Barnes is putting together a much larger story. It's one that I'll be looking forward to following in future volumes.
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The Backlog Reviews: Number Two - Adventures In The Dream Trade

There's probably something more self referential than writing a review of a book of someone's blog in a blog, but at the moment I can't quite think of it...

Adventures In The Dreamtrade is a collection of relatively minor pieces of Neil Gaiman's writing. There are a few short short pieces of fiction, a handful of poems and songs and some book introductions. It's probably these that will attract most Gaiman completists. However, the most interesting (and largest piece of the book) is a copy of Neil's blog.

There's a lot to be said for a look at the inside of a writer's head. Normally it's the creative process that interests us, but that's not what Gaiman's online dairy shows us. Instead of taking us through the writing of American Gods, he's showing us the other side of the writers life: dealing with manuscripts and copy editors as a book goes from word processor document to bookcase. It's a story of editing, of corrections and tedious re-reading, of interviews and reviews, of signing tours and hotel rooms. It's a lot of fun to read, and very educational. It's also a continuing work, which you'll find at his website.

This is a A Year With Swollen Appendices for the printed word. A recommended, and surprisingly entertaining read. Now if only the book had an RSS feed...
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China lifts ban on Google

Well, at least there's some good news around...

There's a paper to be written somewhere on the democratic nature of search engines, especially when combined with blogs and other personal publishing technologies.
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