Faust in Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics (Gino Segre):
a physicist's love letter to the quantum revolution. Segre opens with a 1932 gathering of prominent physicists in Copenhagen, and the humorous parody of Faust
younger members of the meeting put on for their seniors, then bounces back and forth through time and across Europe to explain how they got there, and why it was important to quantum physics. This is really all about the awesomeness of the big players: Bohr, Dirac, Delbruck, Einstein, Heisenberg, Meitner, Pauli, Schroedinger, and others. It's a little scattered, because the focus is on people more than science, but is extremely enjoyable. Strongly recommended.Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (Edwin A. Abbott):
Mathematical fiction; allegory; satire or parody? A. Square, a quite regular parallelogram, is opened to life beyond two dimensions and status measured in rigid sides. Shattering the Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out (Fawzia Afzal-Khan, ed.):
Collection of written works by Muslim women. It's divided into six sections: nonfiction essays, poetry, journalism, religious discourses, fiction, and plays. Unsurprisingly, the nonfiction sections spoke most strongly to me. I especially had issues with the plays: scripts are the bare bones of a theatrical work, and constructing the mental stage, actors and actresses, props, voice intonation and the like was exhausting.
Anyway. Things to like: multiplicity of authors bringing a different focus to bear on the same topics, diversity of mediums. Things that drove me nuts: New Yorkers retelling September 11th stories. I get it! Fear, anger, hate, dark side! If that's the point - in the face of hate, we are all victims - it's been made. And made. And made some more. Now, solving of the problem, please. ( Bunches of quotes )
Again, I liked the nonfiction parts a lot. And this is a good anthology for getting a better understanding of where Muslim women are coming from, and how as a group and individuals these women don't need saving as much as they need respect for their persons and goals. Islamic feminists make compelling arguments that the Koran is a pro-woman document, which has been distorted by human patriarchies. Not all of these writers - if any - are arguing from the secular Western background many Americans associate with feminism, which is a compelling reminder of the diversity of women calling themselves "feminists". Arrows of the Queen trilogy (Arrows of the Queen, Arrow's Flight, Arrow's Fall) (Merccdes Lackey):
Reread. Purest wish fulfilment: by working hard and feeling self-pity and being nearly drowned or freezing in a horrible blizzard or being horribly tortured until you want to die you'll be loved forever by everyone. (The underpants gnomes' business model
was recently brought to my attention. It's that sort of logic.) Trashy teenage girl emotional porn; literary Kit-Kats. Later Lackey novels are closer to stale waxy discount chocolate, but the Arrows trilogy is the fresh, pure product.
I got 194-odd pages into the 720-odd pages of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (Steve Coll)
, so it deserves an honorable mention. I made it to 1986, and I think I got the highlights: covert ops leak, don't give money to Pakistan - or other organizations who you 90% disagree with - and wow, made peace, not war. The Family Trade (Charles Stross):
Boston tech journalist Miriam Beckstein loses her job and finds her birth family - a clan of universe-hopping feudal smugglers - in one of the more eventful months of her life.
I've struck out on Stross' Hugo-nominated SF twice, so I was pretty dubious when someone recommended giving his fantasy novels a shot. In this case, third time does
pay out: Beckstein has the hallmarks of a wish-fulfilment character (also known as Mary Sue
) but transcends her mysterious past and rare magical gift to be mostly her own person. Stross' solid grip on early 21st C assumptions works for him in this case: readers can sympathize with (overqualified) Miriam - tech journalist, ex-med student, budding businesswoman - while reveling in her adventures in a Boston run by medieval-tech-level Viking descendents.
Stross follows the rule
! Miriam & Paulette's dating-related conversations don't start until Miriam actually falls for a guy.
I skimmed most of Eva (Peter Dickinson)
, which I originally read in middle school. Eva wakes up in a hospital bed after an accident and has to cope with the consequences. The Invisible Cryptologists (Jeannette Williams):
Nonfiction account of African-American employment at NSA and its predecessors from WW2 through the '50's. Dry, but informative: as usual, white employees had significantly better salaries and more and better opportunities for advancement. Draws on NSA documents and interviews with former employees to unearth a piece of buried history.About Mothers and Other Monsters (Maureen F. McHugh):
Short fiction collection. I'd completely forgotten I'd already read one of the stories - "Presence" - before, and I'd forgotten where it ended. I'd tacked on three months and a page or two. Thematically, got a bit old by the closing stories, but individual stories stood up pretty well. I especially liked "The Cost to Be Wise" (advanced world colonists use "primitive" natives for their own ends) and "The Lincoln Train" (post-Civil War AU). The Hidden Family (Charles Stross):
Sequel to The Family Trade
. People travel between worlds a lot. Woman start businesses together. Entertaining, but this was my reaction to the end of the book: [Miriam] dared to hope the worst was over
. "And then," my inner 12-year-old piped up, "a bomb
Realizing this is the seond of a series rather than the middle volume of a trilogy, I'm in no rush to keep going.
Technically, I finished the Sharing Knife: Passage (Lois McMaster Bujold)
on May 2nd, so it should go in the May log, but it was remarkably not-obnoxious so I want to give it a shoutout. Standalone post to follow RSN.