February 2006 Archives

Fire in the Fourth Dimension

This book is the worst book I’ve ever read. Period. I picked it up since it was only a dollar, and the events in the book all take place in Spokane, WA, my hometown. Hey, this could be worth the read. It was published by a house called “First Books Publishing” which should have been my first clue as to the tripe that lay withing those cheaply designed covers.

The writing is horrid. I’m pretty sure no one proofread this book, as it contains frequent typos, like the main character making a “pack” with his friends. I wish I could say that this was just an intermittent thing, but it’s not, and usually the reason the words are misused is because I’m pretty sure the author doesn’t know what they mean, since he makes the same mistake time and again.

The characters, a Disc Jockey and a wealthy Schoolteacher who stumble across plans for HG Wells’ Time Machine (and eventually, Wells himself), are barely two-dimensional. Actually, they were almost interesting at times. Too bad all the dialouge in the book was wooden and uninspired.

However, the worst part about the book isn’t the crappy writing and dialouge. It’s the fact that the author insisted on constantly throwing in bizarre, and completely out of place “factoids” about the Spokane area. He’d talk about landmarks, like Dick’s Burgers on Sprague, the Fox Theater, and others. It wasn’t that these references were present, it was the way that they always felt so out of place and pointless.

0.25/5 This book had what could have been an okay plot, if it wasn’t for boring characters, terrible dialogue, and random crap that littered the pages.

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

Steven Levy, a non-fiction novelist who has taken it upon himself to chronicle the explosive growth of computing and technology from the perspective of those on fringes, wrote a wonderful book about how the hacking movement really began. Hackers begins by detailing the origins of the first generation of hackers, the “True” Hackers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Hardware Hackers of California, and the Game Hackers after that.

The stories are all real, and they come from an irreverent attitude that seems to be fading away. For these people, these Hackers, technology was the key. Learning, was the goal. As technology becomes more prevelant, I’m afraid more and more people aren’t going to be seduced by the magic in the machine like these original digital pioneers were. I know I’ve met very few for whom computing wasn’t a ways to a means, but the whole purpose of the excercise.

This is in many ways a history book, but it’s written in such a way that it’s very interesting, and rarely really drags as many historical books can. If you’re interested in the movement that made computers into the household objects that they are today, you need to read this book. Now.