Archive for March, 2007

Hugo Review: Temeraire

March 31st, 2007

The Hugo Award nominations for 2007 were just

announced this week. I’m going to be reading all of them over the next few weeks, starting

with Temeraire by Naomi Novik.

The novel is set in 1795, and Captain William Laurence has just captured a French frigate carrying

precious cargo – a dragons egg, about to hatch. Weeks out to sea, someone has to harness the freshly

hatched dragon and begin a new life.

This is obviously not a novel for everyone. It’s solidly aimed at that valuable crossover Napoleonic

War/Dragon market. Which I think, at last count, had about 12 people in it. I know a lot of people

prefer fantasy to be nicely ahistorical. Actually, tone-wise I thought that this book was actually

a lot closer to steampunk than most modern fantasy.

Naomi Novik is a first time author (and also nominated for the John W. Campbell award for best new writer),

and this is a very impressive book. The writing is strong, the characterisation good, and the plot

fast moving. It’s a very enjoyable read, but I did come away with a slight feeling of a little bit

of shallowness overall. There’s also just a little bit too much of the cliches of period English drama –

the aloof father, the gruff but kind commander, the strong woman in a man’s world, and so on.

I think this is a good book, very enjoyable. But I’ll be surprised (not having read the other books

yet) if it does win the Hugo this year – there’s just not enough to it to win.

Nine months

March 31st, 2007

Well, thank goodness that we went to all that trouble for David Hicks…

Today’s silly trailer

March 31st, 2007

Trailer for When Harry Met Sally remixed as a horror film. (Via, which has a few more good links)

Another present suggestion

March 31st, 2007

Watch movement cuffliinks.

Weekend project

March 31st, 2007

Make your own Trebuchet. Fun!

Hide your TV

March 31st, 2007

I’ve always thought those beds with the TV built into the foot were not very well thought out (imagine the neck strain you’d get watching them…). Here’s a better way to do the same thing.

Must. Resist. New Zealand. Joke!

March 27th, 2007

Scientists have created a sheep that is 15% human. (Via)

The Book Nobody Read

March 26th, 2007

I’ve just finished Owen Gingerich’s The Book Nobody Read, a history of Copernicus

De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.

De revolutionibus is a very important book, but it was once labeled “The Book Nobody Read”, due to

its extremely technical fashion. The book gives the Copernican heliocentric theory, but also included

a lot of technical details.

Gingerich’s book has a couple of elements – firstly, he discusses the history of the book, and how it

was, in fact, widely read and influential at the time. But the really fascinating part comes as he

discusses his obsessive quest to document every existing copy of the first and second editions of the

book. The first bit is interesting (although dry), but the second bit is fascinating. I always

love reading about the obsessions of other people (having so many of my own), and the book draws a

vivid picture of the fairly laid back obsessive way that he approached the task.

One of the most interesting elements is the discussion of the marginal annotations found in very many

of the existing copies of De revolutionibus. The old days where you read not only the book, but the

comments left by previous readers, have a kind of romance that we miss now with every purchase being

a new book. I remember back in the days of the borrowing cards in the back of books always enjoying

the history of the book, something that electronic systems these days miss out on.

It’s an excellent book, well worth reading.

Great moments in journalism

March 26th, 2007

From a San Francisco Chronicle story about a local political scandal:

That seemed to be the buzz on the streets of San Francisco, too. Tarri Chandler, who said she was homeless and was carrying a cardboard cup that read “Cold, very hungry, please help,” said she didn’t think it was much of a story.

Bizarre! (Via)

Open source geology

March 26th, 2007

Great story about the benefits of “crowd-sourcing” in places where you wouldn’t expect. (Via)