Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi

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I ordered Hannu Rajaniemi's new SF novel, Summerland pre-release and just finished listening to the unabridged Audible version. The production was fine and the story was fine. But not the mind-bending, idea-laden, richly-drawn epic with complex, relatable characters I was expecting. It's an interesting premise, but Rajaniemi does not elaborate it to the degree he did the world of Jean le Flambeur (one of my favorite characters in recent SF in one of my favorite worlds). There were no surprises.

I'm not saying I'm dissatisfied because it doesn't take place in the same story-world. I'm dissatisfied the story-world isn't as deep, isn't described as thickly, and the conflict seems at times petty and superficial. It's a good story and there may be interesting future twists, if Rajaniemi writes a sequel (but why hold back ideas that would have made this a better read?). The book marketing set the expectation this would be another volume by "one of the most exciting science fiction writers in the last decade" and I don't think it hits the mark. It's as if the Quantum Thief series took a decade to write and this was dashed off in a fortnight. It's more like a Laundry Files novel (complete with irritating British civil service bureaucracy), which although entertaining, in my opinion detracts from the stakes of the conflict. I like the Laundry Files and I liked Summerland. But I was hoping I'd love it.

Audible's easy book returns a big plus

I've got to say I REALLY like Audible. I've been a member since they began, long before Amazon bought them. I was surprised to discover I own over 400 audiobooks. One of the great benefits which I've only taken advantage of recently is that if you start listening to a book and you just hate it, you can return it for a refund.

I've only done that twice, and it's been in the last couple of weeks. First, I returned an Iain Banks novel (The Algebraist) because it began with an overly long gratuitous scene of torture. Maybe in a print book I would have simply skipped over it. In an audio it was just too obnoxious. The second book, which I just returned today after listening to a little over a chapter, was Jordan B. Peterson's 12 Rules for Life. In addition to being just a bit too religious in my opinion for a book by a psychoanalyst, it was written like a series of blog posts (although I did enjoy the part about the lobsters). When I got to the second long laundry list of analogies (this one for chaos, order, and consciousness) I just couldn't listen any further. Yes, Jordan, I got it. Move on and make a point!

So anyway, they took the books back with no fuss. I bought others to take their place. Everybody's happy.

New Blog for 2018

As you may have noticed on the homepage, I'm resuming blogging and keeping up a website. I've had a blog since the beginnings of blogs around 2000 or so. And I've had a website since not long after that. But then I got busy with other things like finishing my PhD, writing books, running a hobby farm, raising kids. It didn't seem so important to spend time putting my thoughts out on the web, especially when there was social media to allow me to do that with so much less muss and fuss.

Social media turned out to be a nightmare, however, so I dumped it. I pretty much agree with Jaron Lanier, who has been warning for years about the filter bubbles and disruption of value and personal dignity caused by out of control tech empires (see his books You Are Not a Gadget and Who Owns the Future for more on that). He has recently come out with a new book called Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now which I've just listened to on Audible. I had already deleted my facebook and Twitter accounts, so he was pretty much preaching to the choir in my case. However, he makes a cogent case — I may write a review of it soon.

One last note: I'm moving forward from this point without much looking back. I'm not going to scrape through old material and try to post archives of things I've said or blogged about before. If you need to find something old of mine, try the Wayback Machine. Once in a while, I may revisit something I've worked on before. But for the most part I'm going to focus this blog and website on stuff I'm working on now. So, enjoy!

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