Sunday, March 07, 2010

Reading on the plane

No, not on the flight back, I was too exhausted and too busy hoping I might get some sleep to do any reading. But on the way out, I polished off two books. That probably sounds more impressive than it is, though.

The first was Wicked Lovely, which I had already started. To be honest, I skimmed over a lot of the bits in the middle that are more geared to the book's target audience (it's a publication of HarperTeen and it's kind of a teen girl romance novel). So why was I reading it? Because we're going to use its background for a bit of roleplaying to introduce a friend to the hobby. At first the plan was for Siobhan to GM, but on finishing the book I had an idea that will make both a good adventure, and possibly a good play for Lusternia, so I did a bunch of writing on that adventure during the week.

As for the book... I learned that it was originally a short story that got extended into a novel, and that is telling. There's about a short story's worth of story, but the padding, that's supposed to flesh out some of the characters, is mostly a lot of people walking around avoiding the inevitable. Some of the characters do get fleshed out, but the secondary characters, essentially everyone but the central four, remain very two-dimensional.

The writing itself is competent, and the setting, the modern world influenced by the world of the fey, is interesting (though not fleshed out as well as one would like -- perhaps there's more in the later books). For its target audience I'm sure it's a solid book (though for them, "fey is to vampire as Wicked Lovely is to Twilight" comparisons seem inevitable). It just didn't have enough to really sustain my interest. But I do have an idea for my own story that's consistent with both its feel and its setting (maybe not with the sequels, though) but full of more adventure.

After that, I read the free, non-humor essay-disguised-as-a-story by Scott Adams, God's Debris. Scott makes some very big claims for it in the introduction:
The target audience for God’s Debris is people who enjoy having their brains spun around inside their skulls.
The description of reality in God’s Debris isn’t true, as far as I know, but it’s oddly compelling. Therein lies the thought experiment: Try to figure out what’s wrong with the simplest explanations. The central character states a number of scientific “facts.” Some of his weirdest statements are consistent with what scientists generally believe. Some of what he says is creative baloney designed to sound true. See if you can tell the difference.
You might love this thought experiment wrapped in a story. Or you might hate it. But you won’t easily get it out of your mind.
A charitable interpretation is that one can make a comparison with those who thought the first Matrix movie was great not for the action sequences but for the philosophy. People tend to attribute a lot of profundity to their first exposure to an idea, not necessarily the best expression of that idea. People who thought the idea of the Matrix was mind-blowing are people who haven't run into those ideas before in any form.

But I am not sure I can even give Scott that much credit. The fact is, telling the difference between the baloney and the "facts" is not that hard at all. Almost all of it is baloney, and the same trick is used over and over and over to connect things -- simply avoiding connecting them, but saying them sequentially very fast. And it's not very compelling. Maybe some of it would be to someone who has never thought about these things, but I think even in that case, Scott is overstating the case and overselling the profundity and impactfulness of the ideas.

On the positive side, the PDF is formatted very nicely and reads excellently on the Kindle, almost as good as a native Kindle document, without even rotating the display (in fact it worked better unrotated).

In both cases, I don't intend to read the sequels. Instead, I've moved on to a modern crime murder mystery thingie that I got free, called The Pawn. It seemed like suitable reading for a trip, but I only got a bit into it before we arrived, and then I never spent any time reading after that (most of the time I might have spent reading I spent writing). So now I have to finish it before delving into something deeper.

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