52 books in 52 weeks – November

103: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

One of the few books I can say I enjoyed reading, but couldn’t recommend widely to others. Essentially, this is a novel and its sequel, intercut with each other and pretending to be a single book. Each is a good story on its own, but the intertwining creates a codex which is so large that the commitment to read it was one I didn’t feel I could make until my writing was in a lull. I’m not sure that cutting the two stories together adds much to either.

It is an enjoyable book so long as you like digressions into technical minutiae.  Now, I do, so it suits me excellently.  The thing is, though, if you are the sort of reader who doesn’t want the author to go off on a two page tear about a particular mathematical concept used as a metaphor, then it may not be for you. Also, there are times when a supporting characters stand around being simpletons, so that the main characters can tell them they are idiots. It doesn’t happen often, but there’s a certain preachiness to the book. I can forgive it, because the rest of the book is so interesting, but every so often you see the author’s hand up the back of the character, operating his mouth like a sock puppet.

The thing I disliked most was that the book doesn’t just take lengthy diversions into technical minutiae, it takes lengthy diversions into random surrounding ideas. There are, for example, a good fifteen minutes worth of the main character’s prefered method of eating a particular type of breakfast cereal. There’s a lengthy part about a character’s desire for women in stockings. Now: I accept that bit is demonstrating how Van Eck phreaking works, but it’s so dull that one of the characters flags it as dull and stops it. 

So, a long book, and an interesting book, but one that can only be recommended to those who delight in minutiae.

104: Australian Miscellany: This was a Librivox recording project to celebrate the 2012 Year of Reading.

I have to say the Year of Reading hasn’t impressed me as much as the UK Year of Reading, in terms of the research generated. Its web page also seemed to lie fallow for weeks at a time. I was hoping for more from it, but I suppose the UK version was better resourced.

Now, onto the Australian Miscellany. It’s a grab bag of recordings: whatever any volunteer wanted to record which was Australian. I’m hoping to do a series of podcast interviews asking people “Why did you record X?  What does it mean to you?” It has a mix of history, poetry and prose fiction, read by Australians primarily, but with some international readers.  I enjoyed it a great deal, but I think I’ll enjoy it more when I’ve had the chance to interview the readers for the podcast.

I have difficulty believing that in a month I’ve finished only one, single physical book. I know I’d over committed to my writing, and I did NaNoWriMo, but still, that’s a disgrace!  Next month I’ll be trying to get through two books by Australian Women Writers, to round out the AWW reading challenge for 2012, and a couple of fictions about scientific ghost hunting.