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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

The Delirium Brief
Charles Stross
Progress: 106/368 pages
Ack-Ack Macaque
Gareth L. Powell
Progress: 249/792 pages
Introduction to Topology
Bert Mendelson
Progress: 10/224 pages
Isaac Newton
James Gleick
Progress: 32/289 pages
Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 58/250 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 468/700 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 242/1102 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe
Gravitation (Physics Series)
Kip Thorne;Kip S. Thorne;Charles W. Misner;John Archibald Wheeler;John Wheeler
Progress: 48/1215 pages
Antarctica - Kim Stanley Robinson This the most perfect novel by KSR that I've read. The Mars books and Galileo's dream were more ambitious and perhaps achieved more but at the cost of some flaws. That often seems to happen when writers really reach out and try to grasp something big and complicated but I would encourage them to try it anyway...however Antarctica tackles a fair bit and succeeds every which way I look at it: narrative drive, characterisation, subtext, prose style (apart from an occassional jarring line here and there).

Weird things are happening in Antractica: robberies, hijackings. Senator Chase's aide Wade is sent South to find out what is going on and so an adventure starts... As is usual for KSR, the story is told as a patchwork of perspectives from diverse utterly convincing characters. Sometimes this leads to problems of pacing and digression, but not here. A whirlwind tour of Antarctica, a cold weather adventure and some real surprises are mixed with tales of the (human) history of the continent and the usual concern for the environment, in a scenario that is all to plausible a view of the near future where the Antarctic Treaty has broken down and mineral exploitation is in the exploratory phase.

KSR went to Antarctica and saw much of what he describes first hand - he describes it vividly and with proper awe. Few people writing today can describe landscape and its effect on people who live in it as well as KSR consistently does let alone with as much appreciation of its fragility and importance or concern for its imperilled future.

And of course, here Kim is making the same points he does elsewhere with regard to ecology, sustainability, population, corporations, co-operation and self-interest. It's not subtle but it isn't detrimental to a good story, either.

One of the characters is a Chinese feng shui expert who wrote minimalist poems in response to a previous visit to the cold continent. Some of these appear at the head of chapters and they get better as one progresses through the book. My favourite is:

white white white
white green white
white white white

which, in context, is a delight.

I'm not sure how well known it is that this book precedes the Forty, Fifty, Sixty series: it's miles better than any of those and all of them taken together, too. Read this one if you like KSR, cold weather or survival tales.