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Read: Interesting Times

Rincewind, a Horde of octogenarian Barbarians and their newest member, a teacher beginning a new career. I laughed out loud several times. ‘Nuff said.

Re-reading all the discworld novels was a brilliant idea.

Read: Fallen Dragon

Galactic empires; time travel; genetic and technological (self) enhancements; a romantic, tragic hero; and a strong moral: what is there not to like?

At first it took me a while to see the link between the different time strands; I blame the medium. Reading an ebook is different from reading the printed text. The link was rather obvious, the protagonist at different ages, different levels of experience and maturity.

One aspect that made Hamilton’s Fallen Dragon interesting was the political and economic system in place in this future vesion of our society. Not so different of what we have now, therefore the more credible. Nations states still exist, yet the decisions are made by and within the big companies, “public” services are provided rather by them, consumed by their employees and owners; participation in society and economic and social progress is via stakeholding in a company. Being an owner is having a voice, being able to progress through the ranks within the company, determining one’s own fate, being able to escape. There are, of course, prositive and negative sides to this way of organizing society. Hamilton very frankly spells them out, at least a few of them, without pushing the reader too strongly in a particular direction; embracing or condeming it. After all, freedom of choice and assuming responsibilty can arise from within this systen and from opposing it.

Read: Writing for Peer Reviewed Journals

Thomson and Kamler’s “Writing for Peer Reviewed Journals: Strategies for getting published” differs substantially from other guides with similar titles like “Writing your journal article in 12 weeks”. It has the same audience, the rather inexperienced doctoral and early career researcher.

Their approach is different. The writer is seen as an individual that (still) struggles with his or her identity as a writer. Thus, strategies for getting published also include finding one’s identity. Following a universal to-do-list and checking off item after item is not enough.

Thomson and Kamler take a “meta-perspective.” They analyse, they deconstruct, and they build a whole from the atomic parts. The different maturity stages of a (tiny) text are shown, exemplifying their advice. Of course, in a way they, too, share a list of tasks with their advisee, their reader. Yet, these tasks are not just exercises on how to write an academic text. They are indeed strategies for increasing the likelihood of getting published.

Hence, Writing for Peer Reviewed Journals is not just another practical guide for writing publishable articles, it is a valuable complement to other guides on academic writing. It focusses on different aspects of the writing process and parts of the text – like the abstract or the title – that are often neglected.

Read: Deep Storm

Slowly, very slowly I work through my to-read shelf. Child’s Deep Storm must have been sitting there for at least 5 years. For a good reason. There are better books.

Deep Storm is well written, well paced, and while reading it also rather interesting. Unfortunately, I will have forgotten all about it before I finish the next book. It’s good entertainment for the moment but utterly forgettable. Which, honestly, is not really a particularly bad thing for a mystery thriller. I would have a hard time to reproduce the plot of any of Cussler’s novels (the specific novel’s plot, not the general recipe). Yet I enjoyed them.

In the end, there was one issue raised that, maybe, sticks a little longer. How do you secure a nuclear waste dump site or weapons cache for the millennia to come? The stuff may be dangerous for such a long time that you cannot assume members of the future civilization will be able to decipher our current language. How do you warn them of the imminent danger, how do you protect them from more serious harm?

Read: Style -- The Art of Writing Well

I have to admit that I am not able to fully appreciate Lucas’ Style – The Art of Writing Well. Imagine, I lack the necessary education: in the French language, in classical English literature. And I am not the only one.

Style is not a practical guide to hone one’s English writing. It is about Writing Well in a much more general sense. It is not about how to achieve a certain effect. It is rather to show the importance of a few general principles that are likely to improve any text. Lucas summarizes these as “pursue clarity, brevity, and courtesy to readers; to be, if not gay, at least good-humoured, never to write a line without considering whether it is really true, whether you have not exaggerated your statement, or its evidence; to shun dead images, and cherish living ones; and to revise unremittingly…” There are other books than Lucas’, textbooks that will better help in putting these principles into action.

Still, Lucas also gives some practical advice. In the last chapter on the Methods of Writing he urges the writer to think but not to over-think, to revise but to know when to let go or else the text becomes too constructed, too cold. I think this is the most important lesson.

Lucas considers French a language that allows good style more easily than English (which, in turn, has the advantage over German), hence all the French, all the long French, examples to illustrate his points. I can understand the despair of the many readers who were denied a translation in the first edition 1955. These readers are mentioned in the preface to this, the third edition of Style. The translations are now provided in many, many footnotes – I would have preferred to put the English translation next to the French –; yet they cannot do justice to the original as they lack the elegance and melody of the French excerpts. Hence my feeling of a lack of proper appreciation.

Finally, there was also a moment of confirmation of a personal conviction. Endnotes en lieu of footnotes are a terrible obstacle. They are just rude. Already footnotes disrupt the reading and comprehension process. Now, with endnotes you have to flip through the pages of the book: First to find the endnote, then to find the reference to the endnote again that send you away from reading the actual text. If there are endnotes, I usually don’t bother to look at them. The author obviously does not want me to. If an author should limit his use of footnotes – sometimes they are adding to the clarity and brevity of the text and are thus beneficial – endnotes should not be used at all! Never.

Read: Cemetery Dance

It is a while since I have read my last Preston & Child Pendergast novel. A little bit more than three years ago in fact. I was not too happy about the turn to the esoteric, supernatural that the series took. Luckily, Cemetery Dance is true to the old style of the author duo. Every seemingly supernatural mystery has a perfectly and credible scientific explanation.

Since Preston and Child know how to write a page-turner their thriller provides some well spent hours of good entertainment. The plot twists were a little bit transparent and therefore anticipated. Yet, this did no (or only very little) harm to the enjoyment of the thriller.

I guess I will resume reading the series in the near future.

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