Goodreads review.

A grand space opera. The author writes for us, the readers, flights of emotion inspired directly from music, waxes lyrical about space, sex, death. AI ‘personhood’ is briefly skirted, a shadow looms large upon interplanetary civilisation. As for consistency with science, this work of fiction holds up alright, as much as I’m any judge. Full of ‘high culture’ this book is most rewarding to anyone peculiar enough to have memorised planetary geography or the relevant famous figures. Prepare for ‘SJW’ agitation!

How to build an asteroid habitat, called a terrarium here, is detailed. This eases the reader towards the sweet, fantastic indulgence of interplanetary travel. Pitfalls are avoided, to my frustration, the experience of gravity closest to the sunline is not written. Terraforming technologies are strung together in the brief chapters which jerk away from linear narrative. In regards to terrarium, this pre-emptively constructs the next destination and a frequent travel method. Terraform technology is advanced and had to be so because humans buggered up the climate in “The Dithering”. A critique of modern times. Regrettably the author does not use this opportunity to highlight the unique benefits of a benevolent dictator [climate is a global system, a singular executive is my preferred option for action], which offers clear benefits in 2312 due to additional supports absent to any contemporary wannabe.

Social affairs were hit-&-miss to the sweet spot. Economics are discussed in broad strokes. Observations of the narrative try to find a balance between modern criticisms and absent fantasy. There is a lack of personal devotion to a particular economic system, a ‘future-Objectivism’ would fit snugly into place. Race, is not a sticking point for any of the characters, such sticklers are probably unlikely to go on an adventure. However, there were frustrations. Surely an Indian citizen of earth; from an impoverished, violent, rapey, xenophobic community, would feel some degree of culture-shock on being transplanted, almost overnight without any anticipation whatsoever, to Chinese Venus? Not really no, not in 2312!
Describing a minor character as of indeterminate race from the view of a major character, is inconsistent to the fantasy. Either the main character cares about race, or does not. If the latter, and not a single main character has the slightest bias in this regard, then why would it be remarked upon in their inner dialogue? If it did matter, the main characters have discreet access to AI-assisted, Future Internet. Further, if it was instead a flight of fancy, a challenge to the personal, unassisted mind, than dark skin winnows a few of the potential races (i.e. Korean, Gaelic) from the pools of possibility.

Gender, is a similar kettle of fish. Personally, the writing was at times repulsive. There is an attempt to show repulsion of others sexuality as a human attribute (hermaphrodites / androgynous circle orgies are not repulsive, but some small people having sex with one big person is). The particulars are brief and bad. However, sex doesn’t strangle the space fantasy, nor is it a distracting spectacle to alleviate narrative inadequacies. The fit jarred me. The temporary failure of internal logic is powerfully frustrating to me. Again if physical gender is remarkable, and if someone is definitely not-male and not-female, it is not indeterminate gender, particularly not if the observer gave a damn to remark upon it. It indicates two genders as definitely absent.
A bit of the internal backstory though, does clear it up slightly. We, the reader, are exposed to a historical summation of longevity. In the same way that powerful social taboos about conception technology were overcome, i.e. abortion, devout Abrahammic religions & the general populace deviating from those moral codes, so to is our contemporary gender template overwhelmed by the what is offered by embracing, by act of intentional & specific creation, both crotches…

Finally, the AI. This is written with a sprinkling of quantum terminology; coupling, decoherence, potential states and more. Qube AI is not explicitly interrogated, implicit interrogation takes place, about the character of Jean Genette. I, for one, would truly like to read the future version of the Turing Test. It is a shame it was not explicit, perhaps it cannot be done adequately. At times Qubes are narrative tools used as literal Deus Ex Machina, the difficulty of imagining a story involving powerful AI without resolving the tension in a few verbal queries & commands must be recognised

The Eureka Stockade.

Goodreads Review.

Signor Carboni Raffaelo writes funny [& true!] anecdotes, the progress of history, some mediocre poetry, and an ability to communicate his own passion. To sketch out the events in the book loosely; it begins with Raffaelo’s visit to Australia, his discovery of several ounces of gold, then his gradual engagement with local affairs. He & his fellow gold-diggers are repressed by a licence scheme, there is a murder-later revenged by vigilantes, fire, (mild) abuse of clergy, and the climax is a bloody rebellion against the colonial government (which at the time was terrified of democratic revolution), finally trails off with his trial and departure to Rome.

My own impression was of his own sincere belief in a Christian God, his belief in equality beyond race or religion (although scarcely mentions Australian Aboriginals), his awareness of world affairs (such as Field Marshall Lieutenant Haynau)  and of a sense of alienation from the colonial world. He was a visitor, not any type of colonist. His trial, which I believe to be directly transcribed, has shockingly bizarre & absolutely hilarious speeches.

Signor Raffaelo records various Australian lingo, some now fallen out of pop. use, and peppers his book frequently with, “Great-Works!”. “Spy Goodenough”, occurs frequently and took me quite a while to grasp. It was rewarding to expand my awareness about national caricatures-‘John Bull’; his pleasure in flames, and so deeply attached to commerce.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in Australia, this event even now carries social momentum (in the form of the Eureka Flag).


Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science.

Goodreads review.

Rather good, to be honest, not flawless. Some really frustrating inconsistencies diminish the case the author builds, nevertheless he delivers a quality product. Very enjoyable anecdotes and the specific skeletons, once closeted, have room enough to dance along these pages. Be warned though, science is a nebulous concept in these pages, it does not always mean the method (predictability, records etc.) nor a community of individuals.

An example of failure is using the frequency of publication as a standard to defend Mr. Sagan, whilst later attacking that very standard as stifling progress. Also, a few pages prior mentioning his wide margin of error in a study, which is less predictive and so less valuable when scored with the¬†scientific method. Also on that, in the last chapter, mentioning a study of Mr. Sagan’s of which he himself is dubious. All this undermines a certain expectation of consistency, that a critic will have a superior alternative in mind (constructive criticism) as well as hurting trust that Mr. Sagan is more scientist than demagogue (I use the word aware of the negative connotations).

What I want to change though is simple. Put a bloody asterisk when there are notes in the rear pages. Those notes are extra chips in bag, so to speak, and had cooled, gone gross, when I turned the final page and found them there.