Snow Crash / Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash / Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash starts off with a bang. The base story is pretty good and Neal Stephenson keeps an excellent pace with a few twists and turns – some expected, some not. The protagonist of this cyberpunk science fiction tale is Hiro Protagonist (yeah, my thoughts exactly), failed pizza delivery boy in reality and a katana wielding warrior hacker (the term ronin comes to mind) in the Metaverse. The Metaverse is an immersive online world in which about half the story occurs. Hiro’s sidekick is a 15-year old skateboard courier who goes by the name of Y.T. (Yours Truly). As would be expected, the skateboard like all other gear is “futurized” with a whole host of features that one would expect to find in a typical sci-fi thriller. Juanita plays Hiro’s former love-interest and fellow hacker. There’s the megalomanic who wants to control the world by way of a computer virus and his henchmen and the Summerian myth with its rather odd metaphors that beg interpretation, which is of course provided by our hero and his lady. Somewhere around the final third of the book, things kind of go sideways – not in the story itself, rather in the narrative. It would seem that the author tired of the task at hand and failed to put much effort into the climax, which turned out to be rather anti-climactic. The end result is that the final third of the book is a big letdown.

Verdict: Give it a miss. There are better reads out there, from the same author no less.

Life in the Valley of Death / Alan Rabinowitz

Life in the Valley of Death / Alan Rabinowitz

 

I’m not typically given to reading a book on nature conservation. I believe in all that, but I’d just rather do what little I can than read about someone else’s efforts. I came across this book watching “The Colbert Report” wherein the author was a guest. The interview went well and Alan Rabinowitz didn’t come across as preachy. So, I figured I’d give the book a read. I got it from the library and when I read the description on the inside flap, I started feeling a bit leery. There was mention of the author contracting cancer during the course of his attempts to have the Hukwang Valley in Burma be designated as a tiger reserve. Without being callous, I was concerned about having to wade through a self-aggrandizing narration of heroic efforts despite the cancer. But I was thoroughly surprised. This wasn’t a “Lifetime” channel type story. Mr.Rabinowitz is crisp, clear and to the point. He’s a real life hero and doesn’t dwell on it. There’s no commercialism in this book. The story is very touching without being sentimental. After reading this book, I felt like I was being called upon to rise above what I perceive to be my maximum potential – you will too. Read this book and be enriched.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Games Indians Play / V.Raghunathan

Games Indians Play / V.Raghunathan

“Games Indians Play” is an attempt to use game theory to explain why Indians are “like that only” i.e. act purely in their self-interest choosing short term gains over acting in the common interest to obtain greater gains in the long term. The attempt is not entirely unsuccessful, but is hampered by a few issues. The primary issue is that the author comes across rather strongly as an Indian basher, particularly in the early chapters. In fact, he tries to repeatedly state that he’s not indulging in bashing and that only leads me to think, “He doth protest too much.” Being preachy doesn’t help either, though when Mr.Raghunathan does admit to being guilty of the behavior he decries, it does reduce the irritation a bit. His pseudo-recommendations don’t seem particularly well thought out or practical in the existing non-cooperative system. That said, he is spot on in his observations that with Indians, power is the ability being able to break rules with aplomb and nary a concern about retribution. The inability to develop and adhere to any set of rules due to poor self-regulation is rightly pointed out as a very serious failing of Indian society in general. This book will appeal to those folks that like the application of logic to study and explain social behavior. I’d say reading this was certainly not a bad use of my time, though not as enriching as claimed in the brief in “Knowledge by Wharton”. So, word to the wise, don’t look for too much depth or any practical solutions to the ails discussed in the book.

Verdict: Recommended.