Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Of "faeries" and A.I.

Today's plant: My long-suffering orange tree, now producing both flower buds and tiny oranges. I plan to use it as my Christmas tree this year if it proves completely free of mealybugs. (Tho if you could genetically engineer silver mealybugs, think how festive that could be.)

I finished Tithe yesterday in an "I have to finish this before work" reading frenzy that got me to the office late. Possibly as a result of this, its resolution seemed unclear to me. The romance ended nicely, but the secondary characters' narrative threads seem to just trail off. Still, the point of reading Tithe is not so much the plot as the exquisitely constructed atmosphere. Holly Black's characters wander through set pieces that are beautiful, creepy and eerily familiar. I think anyone who played alone in the woods as a kid will recognize Black's realm of Faerie. Her creatures live in tiny suburban creeks and patches of trees - you don't have to go to England or way out in the country. (Normally it gives me fits when people insist on writing "faerie" rather than "fairy," but I'll make allowance here, partly because she's really done her research (her faeries' motives are never clear, and many of them are cruel) and partly because of her excellent subplot involving a lonely gay character.)

Idoru got finished last week and sent me directly to its sequel, All Tomorrow's Parties, which I read last year. All I remembered was what happened at the end to the idoru, an artificial-intelligence celebrity who takes on a life of her own in the datasphere. Both books concern her struggle for material existence, while questioning what sets her apart from a human society increasingly dependent on data for survival. They're the second two books in a trilogy. I was telling a work friend that one can't read a great deal of William Gibson all together, as he tends to put the reader in a sort of depressive trance. But it is winter now, so maybe it's time to take another shot at the Neuromancer trilogy in its entirety. Still, it was a relief to reach for the relatively light-n'-fluffy Tithe. Both books deal, in vastly different ways, with secret worlds that operate under our noses and affect us all. Can we give Lovecraft credit for this? I don't know. It's time to have some coffee.

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