Book Notes - Dune and Dune Messiah

I'm generally not a big fan of sci-fi books, but my friend Allen suggested a while back that I check out Frank Herbert's Dune.  Since I consider Allen to be someone who knows me fairly well and of good taste, I ordered it from Amazon and gave it a read.  I found that I enjoyed it.  While I'm not much for space aliens and laser guns, I found that Dune was much more about international (in this case interplanetary) economics, politics, governance, and religion.  That sort of thing does interest me.  The fact that it happened to take place on a foreign planet and involved space travel was somewhat irrelevant.  The cultural commentary was thought provoking and very relevant to contemporary life on Earth.

Since I enjoyed Dune, I decided to read the next book in the series,  Dune Messiah.  I enjoyed it as well, although since the political relationships and economic power groups had been established in the first book it wasn't as thought provoking in that way.  Dune Messiah was more about plot, and I didn't find it as engaging.  It read more as a epilogue to Dune, albeit a long epilogue.  I suspect I will not go on to read Children of Dune.

After reading the first Dune book, I happened to catch the movie version  on television.  The book was way too complicated to have all of the nuance captured in the movie, but I think it was a reasonable adaptation.  The ending was a bit unfaithful to the book, but in all it's worth watching as long as it's in addition to, not instead of, reading the book.

Dune (Dune Chronicles, Book 1)Dune Messiah (Dune Chronicles, Book 2)

Spook Country and other William Gibson Thoughts

As I wrote here a few months ago (1, 2), I picked up a copy of Mona Lisa Overdrive for some light reading while I was in California.  I finished the book in a few days and was reasonably entertained.  I still have yet to read Count Zero.  A while back, I'd read Pattern Recognition and enjoyed it a lot.  I really like books along the lines of Pattern Recognition or Cryptonomicon which are more "technology fiction" rather than "science fiction".  I saw that Gibson had come out with Spook Country, a sort of sequel to Pattern Recognition.  I liked Pattern Recognition and I like the "technology fiction" genre, so I picked it up.

Unfortunately it didn't grip me in the way that Pattern Recognition did.  I am not sure why not.  Perhaps I didn't find the characters as likable or compelling.  Perhaps the specifics of the mysterious plot unveiling didn't interest me as much as in his previous book.  Or perhaps it was due to the often very short chapters and skipping back and forth between characters and points of view.

In any case, for die hard William Gibson fans it's worth a read.  But I didn't find it all that gripping.

Tags: William Gibson, Spook Country, Pattern Recognition

Updated Reading

Although my current reading selection is listed as Swann's Way, in truth I haven't had much time to spend on "serious reading" so I haven't picked that book up in ages. I do still read however. I stopped by Barnes and Noble in California last night and picked up Mona Lisa Overdrive. I've just read a few pages, but so far it's not a bad read. Very much in the style of Neuromancer, which is understandable given that I think Mona Lisa Overdrive is a something of a sequel. The middle book in the trilogy is Count Zero which I have not read.

You'd think I would read them in order. But alas, you'd be wrong. I don't think there is much character or plot overlap between them. They're simply set in the same universe.

A La Recherche du Temps Perdu

I finally got around to updating my current reading selection. Unfortunately I'm really busy these days and don't have time to do as much reading as I'd like. I've had a copy of Swann's Way on my shelf for a while. I'm not sure that Proust is the best "light reading" but since I've been putting it off for years already I may as well do something about reading it. We'll see how that goes.

Ajax in Action

My web design skills have atrophied over the years, and the technology has passed me by. My main career path is in UNIX infrastructure, so I stay pretty far removed from anything that actually involves web design. Unfortunately there are a lot more freelance jobs for web developers than for infrastructure automation perl coders, so I thought it might be time to refresh my web design knowledge. I picked up Ajax in Action in the hopes of catapulting my JavaScript knowledge to the forefront of Web 2.0. Or something like that.

I've been reading the book off and on for the past couple weeks, and I really like it. It's well organized and is fairly comprehensive for the prospective Web 2.0 coder. It covers not only the mechanics of how to make things flashy in JavaScript, but also how to design and develop for scale and supportability. Issues such as code refactoring, the Model-View-Controller approach, effective UI design, and code profiling are covered as well as the nuts and bolts of the JavaScript required to display it all.

If you're looking for a good introduction to Ajax-style development, I highly reccomend this book. I do think that I may pick up O'Reilly's JavaScript: The Definitive Guide for a more thorough coverage of all the details of JavaScript. And I'm curious to check out Prototype and Scriptaculous in Action as well.




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