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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is a pure delight. Clay Jannon, who is that rare mix of competence, dorkiness, and enthusiasm that few writers get right, begins working in a musty, mysterious bookshop only to find himself entangled in an adventure involving secret societies, cutting-edge technology, and a lost book. 

The reader would be forgiven for assuming that Sloan is setting up your standard battle between old and new, paper and computers; instead he does something much more interesting by showing how these two disparate worlds can work together, enhancing each other.  This works in part because the two groups in the novel, the Society of the Unbroken Spine and Google,* want the same thing -- transcendence from the frailties and humiliations of the flesh. They're just other forms of Gnosticism, privileging the mind over the body and hoping for eternal life in one form or another.

This is what the two factions want, but Jannon himself has no such ambitions.  Skeptical of the claims each side makes, he just wants to solve a really cool puzzle.  Which he does, through his knack of putting together people, concepts, and methods from all aspects of life.  That's what the novel is ultimately about -- collaboration.  It makes for a lovely, engaging read.

*Yup, that Google, and it is horrifyingly sterile and perky.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Cellini Spiral

A few months ago I was looking for a nice, solid beading project, and I settled on a bangle made with the Cellini spiral stitch -- a good excuse to use some lovely size 6 green beads.  The bangle at the end of this post gave me the idea of using a mix of size 11 beads, inspired by all the blooming flowers I saw this spring.  The result:

While I was poking around the internet, looking at different Cellini projects,  I ran across one woman who claimed to whip up a bangle in an evening.  I'm calling shenanigans on that -- this project was easy, but took a loooooong time.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Overheard on the Street

"I'm not sure whether to be pleased or concerned that my pee smells like champagne and strawberries."

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Chemickal Marriage by Gordon Dahlquist

Getting the third volume of Dahlquist's series was a bit of an ordeal; thank you, Public Library of St. Louis, Missouri!

And it was an ordeal to read.  There's just too much -- too many arch-villains, each one stepping in to take over the dastardly plan when the previous one dies.  Too many allies who help the heroes for a moment, only to disappear or be left to their fate. Too many interchangeable underlings. Too many separations and reunions of the protagonist trio. Too many action scenes that don't change the outcome, chases that don't go anywhere, and conversations that don't reveal anything significant. Above all, there is a sense of ugliness that pervades the narrative.

And it's a shame -- there are some wonderful characters in this trilogy and a lot of neat, original concepts, starting with the mysterious blue glass that can take or infuse memories, wipe out a personality or replace it with another, brutally kill the body or give it strength.  Pruning this story down would have done wonders.

Monday, July 3, 2017