A few books that I’ve enjoyed recently.
Sandman Slim. (Richard Kadrey). It’s been years since I’ve this much fun with a “bad-ass comes back from the dead to wreak retribution” novel. It’s a little predictable and somewhat repepepetititititiousify, but you’ll enjoy it.
The Gone-Away World. (Nick Harkaway). Don’t let the stupid fuzzy dust jacket on this book confuse you; there is madness and power in these pages. The old world is gone, replaced by terrible, mysterious menaces resulting from man’s quest for better and better weapons. There is humor, there is beauty, there are terrible secrets, there is love and war, and there are ninjas in a desparate battle with midgets.
K. J. Parker’s Engineer trilogy: Evil for Evil, Devices and Desires and The Escapement. From the opening chapter of E4E I was hooked; an engineer (quasi-medieval technology, at the level of catapults and spring-driven spear-throwers and so forth) is betrayed, condemned to death, and escapes his home city-state to take refuge in the “great unwashed” cities outside. How he gets his revenge takes up three books, and it’s worth it.
Wireless. (Charles Stross). Collects many of his recent short stories, including Missile Gap, one of my favorites.
Hacker’s Delight. The first chapter — everything you’ll ever need to know about bit twiddling — is worth the price of admission. Beyond that, just about every simple algorithm I’ve ever heard of for doing efficient low-level, wacky stuff is covered here. BCD arithmetic on modern 32-bit architectures? Covered. Population-counts? It’s all here, and tons more.
Programming Erlang: Software for a Concurrent World. (Joe Armstrong). Erlang is a refreshing programming language. While reading this book I kept having flashbacks to reading the original The C Programming Language (which I think is one of the best programming language books around). Erlang is crisp, expressive, and looks like lots of fun (wish I had time to do a project in it).
The Eerie Silence (Paul Davies). Good discussion of the Fermi Paradox (basically, where are all the ETs?). More than just a re-hash of the tired old stuff (Drake equation, etc.), he’s got some interesting points about what the likelihood of and might mean to make contact with a million-year-old technological civilization.
Solaris Internals (Richard McDougall and Jim Mauro). Yet another goopy “here’s the innards of a modern(ish) real-world OS.” Reminds me of the Vax/VMS internals docs and the various books on the 4.2bsd kernel by McKusick. I don’t like Solaris much, but the details are fun. (Heh, speaking of million-year-old technologies … )