Little Mothers and Books

I finished two novels this weekend that I had languishing in the wings. One I had started before my vacation and the other while away. Generally, when I travel, I try to take mostly books that I can give away or otherwise toss in order to lighten my load. I also take unstarted books in order not to carry paper that I’ve mostly read. Weird, I know. Before we left, I had started David Louis Edelman’s Infoquake.  I was about two-thirds of the way through it when we left so I did not bring it. On the trip, I read a couple of novels but had not quite finished Greg Bear’s Vitals, which had been recommended to me by my friend, Duane, who runs the science fiction section of the University of Washington Bookstore.

Of these two, Edelman’s book was the most engaging and interesting, hands down. As promised by other reviewers, the book was just bursting with new ideas and lots of fun. Besides, when the highlight of the book isn’t killing people but is, instead, shipping a software project, it is pretty close to home. He makes it work well too (truly).

Bear’s book was decent but I felt like it just kind of fell apart in the second half after a lot of promise in the first. There was a bit too much Deus Ex Machina and an unnecessary second character viewpoint that came out of nowhere. I don’t know if Bear just lost steam but the ending was a let down to me.

Both books, among other things, deal with very small things working within the human body. For Edelman’s book, it is nanotechnology (“Bio/Logic”) that acts as a pervasive programming platform for the software in the book and which is the locus of economic and political activity in society. The firms, Fiefcorps, that form a large central focus of the book (one in particular) are small units of one master and several apprentices working on software for this platform. Stuff like “NiteFocus 48” for night vision and the like. I found the idea of companies like this very interesting and they worked as a plot point.

For Bear, the very small things were bacteria, specifically bacteria in the human body (the “little mothers”), which communicate with one another in a general sense and which can be subverted by human ingenuity to act as a platform for programming people.

It is interesting that I wound up reading these books in close succession since I’d had the Bear book for most of a year and only picked up the Edelman book recently. I had no idea what either was about in detail.

My next book projects will be non-fiction. Mostly Buddhism materials (and my esoteric work for my thesis) along with going through Jeff Vail’s A Theory of Power again along with Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology by David Graeber. There is some weird intersection in my interests in Open Source, Spirituality (specifically Buddhism) and non-traditional political thought or organization going on. I’m just following a loose direction in thinking and seeing where it goes.