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posted by martyb on Thursday December 06 2018, @01:32PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the read-and-discuss dept.

December: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.

The next poll will pick two books. I'd like to do it that way to keep a strong second place contender from being overlooked, and so I don't have to update the poll so often.

Discuss The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin in the comments below.

Snow Crash was written by Neal Stephenson in 1992. The novel features a bit of a Calexit scenario, and is known for popularizing the term "avatar" (paving the way for James Cameron's true magnum opus). These days, Neal moonlights as Magic Leap's "Chief Futurist". Seems appropriate.

Previously: Announcement postMars, Ho!Foundation


Original Submission

Related Stories

SoylentNews Book Club is Alive 51 comments

Want to read some books? Many of our users have shown interest in having a book club. Now it's finally time to kick it off.

Your soytyrant has pre-selected the first three books so that you have more time to read them, should you choose to do so:

September: Mars, Ho! by Stephen McGrew
October: Foundation by Isaac Asimov
November: The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin.

The plan is to read a book, and discuss it on the 1st of the following month. Suggestions for new books (of any genres, not just "science fiction") will also be collected at the same time. You can start listing some of your suggestions right now in this comment section. We'll pick up to eight of them and run a poll on September 15th to decide the book for December. And so on.

The first book is Mars, Ho! by Stephen McGrew, one of our more literary users (not to be confused with Mars Ho! by Jennifer Willis). The book is available for free on McGrew's website, although there are some purchasing options available if you want to support him. From the description:

Captain John Knolls thinks he's just been given the best assignment of his career -- ferrying two hundred prostitutes to Mars. He doesn't know that they're all addicted to a drug that causes them to commit extreme, deadly violence when they are experiencing withdrawal or that he'll face more pirates than anyone had ever seen before. Or that he'd fall in love. A humorous science fiction space novel, a horror story, a love story, a pirate story, a tale of corporate bureaucracy and incompetence.

All book club posts will be in the Community Reviews nexus, which is linked to on the site's sidebar. You'll likely want to click on that link once the posts fall off the main page.


Original Submission

SoylentNews Book Club: October 2018 28 comments

October: Foundation by Isaac Asimov
November: The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin.
December: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

October's book is Foundation by Isaac Asimov, meaning the collection of 5 short stories first published in 1951. It is the first published entry in the Foundation series.

Please discuss last month's book, Mars, Ho! below if you haven't done so already. You can also suggest books for January 2019. I can include titles that were already suggested, such as in the comments on the poll. We may be able to increase the maximum number of poll options to accommodate more books.

Previously: SoylentNews Book Club is Alive


Original Submission

SoylentNews Book Club: Discuss Foundation, Start Reading The Three-Body Problem 40 comments

November: The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin.
December: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.

A poll for the January 2019 book will be around the 15th, unless you want it sooner (not sooner than the U.S. midterms).

Discuss Foundation by Isaac Asimov in the comments below.

As for Liu Cixin's best known novel:

"Wildly imaginative, really interesting." ―President Barack Obama on The Three-Body Problem trilogy

The English translation for The Three-Body Problem was published in 2014 by Ken Liu under Tor Books.

Consider using <spoiler>text</spoiler> wherever you feel the need to do so.

Previously: Announcement postMars, Ho!


Original Submission

SoylentNews Book Club - Discuss: Fiasco, Start Reading: We Are Legion (We Are Bob) 17 comments

Discuss Fiasco by Stanisław Lem in the comments below. If you have any book suggestions for the upcoming poll, feel free to add those.

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) is the first book of the "Bobiverse" series by Dennis E. Taylor:

Dennis E. Taylor is a Canadian novelist and former computer programmer known for his large scale hard science fiction stories exploring the interaction between artificial intelligence and the human condition.

While working at his day job as a computer programmer, Taylor self published his first novel and began working with an agent to try and publish his second novel We Are Legion. However Taylor still had difficultly getting any publishing house to take on his work, eventually publishing it through his agent's in-house publishing arm. An audiobook rights deal with Audible was also reached and once recorded, We Are Legion became one of the most popular audiobooks on the service and was awarded Best Science Fiction Audiobook of the year.

[...] In October 2018 Taylor was added to the X-Prize Foundation Science Fiction Advisory Council as a "Visionary Storyteller". This group of accomplished science fiction authors help advise the X-Prize team on envisioning the future.

Previously: Announcement postMars, Ho!FoundationThe Three-Body ProblemSnow CrashThe Moon is a Harsh Mistress


Original Submission

SoylentNews Book Club - Discuss: Snow Crash, Start Reading: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress 20 comments

February: Fiasco by Stanisław Lem
March: We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1) by Dennis Taylor

Discuss Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson in the comments below.

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein was published in 1966:

The book popularized the acronym TANSTAAFL ("There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"), and helped popularize the constructed language Loglan, which is used in the story for precise human-computer interaction. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations credits this novel with the first printed appearance of the phrase "There's no free lunch", although the phrase and its abbreviation considerably predate the novel.

The virtual assistant Mycroft is named after a computer system from the novel.

Previously: Announcement postMars, Ho!FoundationThe Three-Body Problem


Original Submission

SoylentNews Book Club - Discuss: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Start Reading: Fiasco 75 comments

March: We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1) by Dennis Taylor

Discuss The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein in the comments below.

Fiasco was translated into English in 1988 by Michael Kandel:

Fiasco (Polish: Fiasko) is a science fiction novel by Polish author Stanisław Lem, first published in a German translation in 1986. The book, published in Poland the following year, is a further elaboration of Lem's skepticism: in Lem's opinion, the difficulty in communication with alien civilizations is cultural disparity rather than spatial distance. The failure to communicate with an alien civilization is the main theme of the book.

Previously: Announcement postMars, Ho!FoundationThe Three-Body ProblemSnow Crash


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Aurean on Thursday December 06 2018, @02:16PM (5 children)

    by Aurean (4924) on Thursday December 06 2018, @02:16PM (#770643)

    It was alright; not particularly mind blowing, but not bad, either.
    It's the sophons that got me - they violate the laws of thermodynamics, what with not needing energy to move or process information - additionally, they'd have no way of perceiving the world around them, considering that they're a LOT smaller than the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation that's present in any appreciable quantity.
    I like the way the world that the book is set in is portrayed (not the world itself, because history)

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by SemperOSS on Thursday December 06 2018, @03:19PM

      by SemperOSS (5072) on Thursday December 06 2018, @03:19PM (#770675)

      As always, when you read sci-fi, even hardcore sci-fi like this, there are a few assumptions you just have to accept, like the sophons ... Write it up to Arthur C. Clarkeian "magic".

      In Clarke's own Rendezvous with Rama the "magic" was the reacitionless drive.

      --
      I don't need a signature to draw attention to myself.
      Maybe I should add a sarcasm warning now and again?
    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Thursday December 06 2018, @04:04PM (1 child)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 06 2018, @04:04PM (#770703) Homepage Journal

      The sophons weren't restricted to our four dimensional world. We were never given any hint how, or how much, energy might be transferred to/from sophons in the higher dimensions.

      The more impossible bit that I kept chuckling over, were the way the aliens would simply dehydrate, when all three suns were scorching the world. Like - their bodies couldn't burn or anything. That, and, when/how did they ever procreate? It seems they rarely got a crop of anything harvested, let alone find time for baking babies. Unless, of course, Mama dehydrated with Baby inside of her, and Baby patiently waited for the next rehydration period.

      --
      The only reason for not believing in it (Marxism) is that it doesn't work. - Thomas Sowell
      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06 2018, @06:55PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06 2018, @06:55PM (#770778)

        I think it's explained, maybe near the end, or the beginning of the second book. The mommy trisolarsn and daddy trisolaran merge together, then split into up to 5 baby trisolarans. The children retain some parental memories, so it's less procreation and more self cloning. Thus, trisolarans have no parents or children.

    • (Score: 1) by angelosphere on Saturday December 08 2018, @04:19PM (1 child)

      by angelosphere (5088) on Saturday December 08 2018, @04:19PM (#771557)

      they violate the laws of thermodynamics, what with not needing energy to move or process information
      Perhaps you should reread the laws of thermodynamics .... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_thermodynamics [wikipedia.org]
      Ooops, it has nothing to do with transfering information ...

      • (Score: 1) by Aurean on Tuesday December 11 2018, @03:47PM

        by Aurean (4924) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @03:47PM (#772896)

        Specifically the second law: The law of conservation of energy.
        "This states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. However, energy can change forms, and energy can flow from one place to another. A particular consequence of the law of conservation of energy is that the total energy of an isolated system does not change."

        There is no source for the energy the sophons express.

        Really good science fiction remains in the physically plausible domain. Note that I'm not dissing the books - just that it forces the genre into fantasy territory, rather than remaining pure science fiction.

  • (Score: 2) by RandomFactor on Thursday December 06 2018, @02:59PM

    by RandomFactor (3682) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 06 2018, @02:59PM (#770665) Journal

    I haven't gotten that far into it. Just been quite busy.

    Feel free to spoiler the crap out of me as punishment.

    --
    В «Правде» нет известий, в «Известиях» нет правды
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Hyperturtle on Thursday December 06 2018, @03:19PM

    by Hyperturtle (2824) on Thursday December 06 2018, @03:19PM (#770674)

    I had thought Ultima IV popularized the term "avatar" among sci-fi/fantasy fans. Maybe that's just not new enough for most of today's audience to remember? For its era, it was a best seller. It certainly introduced the concept of what an avatar was for me. I had no idea, I thought it was a made up word for the protagonist (the player character) in the game. Ultima 3 didn't seem to have any avatars, but then Ultima 4 considers you to be *the* Avatar. I suppose there's a difference.

    AD&D later expanded on that concept of where one can encounter an avatar and what it was or could be (usually some old man turns out to be a holy being to drive the plot along), and it was much later that I learned of how various religions also used the term for when their deities came down to visit the locals--which was similar to one's role in Ultima IV anyway and the AD&D's interpretation in the rules and campaigns.

    The whole concept of being a projection of a being that may (or may not) be a representation of the actual being being projected is another matter -- such as a character in World of Warcraft or Neo in the Matrix or Hyperturle on this forum.

    By playing loose with the terms, we are all avatars online and anywhere we project ourselves that we don't physically happen to be. I wouldn't consider Snowcrash to have introduced or popularized the idea, but it continues to sell and remain relevant, where Ultima IV is mostly a memory or curiosity for those interested in computer retro-gaming or video gaming history.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by SemperOSS on Thursday December 06 2018, @03:33PM

    by SemperOSS (5072) on Thursday December 06 2018, @03:33PM (#770684)

    It is nice to read a story with a different cultural perspective than my own. I think Liu Cixin does a great job of showing differences between Western culture and Chinese.

    I love how he managed to integrate the real Three-Body-Problem physics with the Three Body Problem story and translate that into a mostly believable culture. The novel may have been written based on a single idea (most are, aren't they?) but he spun a beautiful yarn from that premise.

    Unfortunately, as much as I like this novel, the sequels do not quite live up to it, in my opinion, especially the last in the series.

    --
    I don't need a signature to draw attention to myself.
    Maybe I should add a sarcasm warning now and again?
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Whoever on Thursday December 06 2018, @03:40PM (1 child)

    by Whoever (4524) on Thursday December 06 2018, @03:40PM (#770687) Journal

    The novel features a bit of a Calexit scenario,

    Really? It's been some time since I read Snow Crash, but IIRC, it includes a very weak Federal entity.

    Instead, I think it actually visualizes the Libertarian fantasy, where everything has been privatized and the government hardly impacts people's lives.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Sulla on Thursday December 06 2018, @07:23PM

      by Sulla (5173) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 06 2018, @07:23PM (#770791) Journal

      This.

      My understanding of Snow Crash was a society where companies were large corporations that owned tons of land broken up across the whole globe. I couldn't tell if the US was broken up and completely decentralized with no-mans land between the various colonies or if that land belonged to the fed. Guess we will find out soon.

      --
      Ceterum censeo Sinae esse delendam
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by jelizondo on Thursday December 06 2018, @03:42PM (5 children)

    by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 06 2018, @03:42PM (#770692) Journal

    It was a very good read even when a couple of things bordered in the incredible for me. The sophons already mentioned and the concept that a civilization exposed to constant destruction could materially advance beyond our technological level.

    I side with Stephen Hawking in this matter: attracting the attention of ET could be catastrophic. We accept, without proof, that any civilization more advanced than ours would be gentle; forgetting that during WWII Germany was very advanced and very evil civilization.

    I found very interesting the many references in the book to the political situation in China during the Cultural Revolution but I could not quite grasp why the government, after killing most of its scientists and engineers, would embark in a large astronomical project.

    At any rate, the book is worth five stars and the sequel is very good, albeit a bit darker.

    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Thursday December 06 2018, @04:09PM (1 child)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 06 2018, @04:09PM (#770708) Homepage Journal

      Germany was very advanced and very evil civilization

      I don't think Nazi Germany was a civilization. It was a culture, within our greater Western civilization.

      --
      The only reason for not believing in it (Marxism) is that it doesn't work. - Thomas Sowell
      • (Score: 2) by jelizondo on Thursday December 06 2018, @05:12PM

        by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 06 2018, @05:12PM (#770728) Journal

        I’ll concede the point. But other examples abound. The more advanced western civilization, supposedly Christian, wiped out the Aztec and the Cherokee civilizations (amongst others). Consider that the Aztecs had human sacrifices, which could be seen as barbaric, but the Christians were not above burning people alive. My point being that material superiority is not correlated with moral (or philosophical) superiority.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday December 06 2018, @04:23PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday December 06 2018, @04:23PM (#770711) Journal

      I side with Stephen Hawking in this matter: attracting the attention of ET could be catastrophic. We accept, without proof, that any civilization more advanced than ours would be gentle; forgetting that during WWII Germany was very advanced and very evil civilization.

      Listening to a bunch of Isaac Arthur [youtube.com] Fermi Paradox videos on YouTube, I'm not so sure anymore. It seems to me that if we were going to have a problem with this, we would just be swarmed without even attracting attention to ourselves (and future stupendously large space telescopes and gravitational lensing will allow us to locate civs). If there's no faster-than-light travel, we are as safe as can be. If there is, we have been visited or are being visited. And robust (not self-destructive) intelligent life is probably rare, thus the galaxy has not been colonized (as far as we can tell).

      If we start planting humans on Mars, Ceres, Callisto, Titan, etc., asteroid mining, and building a Dyson swarm, humanity should have some staying power and enough splinter groups to keep things fresh and expanding. From there we can explore and/or conquer the galaxy on a relatively short timescale. We'll find what's in our cosmic backyard sooner or later.

      As far as intergalactic travel goes, it's questionable if we'll accomplish it. But if we do nothing, Andromeda and some local group galaxies will merge with our own eventually, bringing many new star systems to us and potentially some intelligent aliens. Humanity could last for billions of years and reach this stage simply by distributing ourselves throughout the galaxy. A group or two could get wiped out but others will stick around. There will be some divergent and self-directed evolution, which could make our cheap sci-fi humanoid aliens a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 1) by Sulla on Thursday December 06 2018, @07:30PM (1 child)

      by Sulla (5173) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 06 2018, @07:30PM (#770797) Journal

      I think their tech advancement is explainable. If I recall the cycles could last a couple years or thousands of years and although that which was constructed and built might be lost there was retention of information across the cycles. If we had continuous information retention and growth since the time of our greats we would be much further along. In the West's cycles of expansion and destruction we tended to lose a lot that we had to make up for regarding scientific development. The Trisolarsn society seems to me that they had a leader like Augustus and thinkers like Plato/Aristotle/Leonardo/Tesla who never died and just continued to exist and think. Regardless of physical progress, the progress of the mind could still be great.

      --
      Ceterum censeo Sinae esse delendam
      • (Score: 2) by jelizondo on Thursday December 06 2018, @11:02PM

        by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 06 2018, @11:02PM (#770922) Journal

        Well, in my mind, explainable is kind of thin. Suppose everything is wiped out. Need iron? Start by rebuilding the roads, the foundries, the forges and so on. Now think particle colliders, computers, spaceship factories and other more sophisticated enterprises and every start sets the civilization back hundreds or thousands of years, even if the knowledge is retained.

        More, in the case of iron and other minerals, the easily extracted ores have already been used and while you can recycle them, they are now dispersed all over. I’m not saying impossible but it seemed a weak point. It would have been more credible to say that the extra influx of ultraviolet radiation, for example, forced them to dehydrate and wait for better times, without destroying everything in the surface.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Thursday December 06 2018, @07:15PM

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Thursday December 06 2018, @07:15PM (#770786) Homepage Journal

    I'm a software consultant who once lived in a storage locker with my father's ceremonial sword.

    One of his swords, rather, my sister Jean has the other one.

    --
    Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
  • (Score: 2) by cosurgi on Friday December 07 2018, @11:22AM

    by cosurgi (272) on Friday December 07 2018, @11:22AM (#771101) Journal

    I just yesterday have finished entire foundation series.

    --
    #
    #\ @ ? [adom.de] Colonize Mars [kozicki.pl]
    #
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Friday December 07 2018, @04:47PM (1 child)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday December 07 2018, @04:47PM (#771193) Homepage Journal

    Cixin Liu has done a credible job of creating an alien race. He has assigned them intelligence, motives, and a strange flavored psychology. He has given them some decent powers, and reasonable limitations. He's done such a good job with the aliens, we can almost forget that the story is about humans.

    And, as a bonus, these humans are mostly Chinese, from the generation when China was experiencing "interesting times".

    For myself, I've read accounts of the atrocities that happened during the Communist takeover. None of them have been so riveting as Cixin Liu has authored here. None have been so detailed. And, I have little doubt that his accounts are pretty true to life. The reeducation camps, the purges, the shame of not conforming - so many ways to condemn oneself to death, or worse. And, in the book, it all feels so real. Fiction, based strongly on fact, is what we have here.

    And, in the purges, we find the motivation for the first signals to be sent. In effect, "We're too sick to live - come help us!" What irony, that the folk on the receiving end are in such dire straits themselves. They have little help to offer, and in fact, require all the help they can get!

    The aliens are interesting, sure, but of more interest, are the number of people who betray the human race, for various reasons. Greed, vengeance, lust for power, lust for fame, gullibility - all of humankind's failings and weaknesses are put on display in this story. Equally interesting, are those people who fight in humanity's interests. It becomes a more or less typical antagonist-protagonist story between the two human factions, with the trisolarians almost taking the part of a force of nature.

    The most interesting thing about the people, is how readily hordes of them fall into a new religion. It's something that I've never really thought about, but people do seem to always be ready and willing to be suckered into a new religion. Scientology, Moonies, Mormons - there are never enough religions to go around, so we are always ready to make room for a new one. In this case, millions fall under the sway of the "Lords" of Solaris.

    Like any really good book, this one is written on several levels - and I'm not sure I've found them all yet.

    I am anxiously awaiting the fourth book though. It's a great story as an action story alone - and I want to see what happens when the Solarins get tired of waiting to land on earth!

    --
    The only reason for not believing in it (Marxism) is that it doesn't work. - Thomas Sowell
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by legont on Friday December 07 2018, @06:39PM

      by legont (4179) on Friday December 07 2018, @06:39PM (#771260)

      but of more interest, are the number of people who betray the human race, for various reasons.

      I travel more than average folks do and what I see is almost universal hate of the local governments. It's not universal in a sense of what local is as some hate say state level but ok with city or vise versa, but there is some government to hate for everybody. That's why I am so pessimistic about our progress as humans at least for a foreseeable future.

      --
      "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by legont on Friday December 07 2018, @06:17PM (1 child)

    by legont (4179) on Friday December 07 2018, @06:17PM (#771252)

    I find the most interesting the idea that any proven contact with an alien civilization is likely to trigger an all out nuclear war immediately. In the book Chinese released it early on while western nations supposedly did not.

    What do you think the approach is right now? Would the US nuke Russia if Putin is proven to be in talks with extraterrestrials?

    --
    "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08 2018, @12:48AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08 2018, @12:48AM (#771359)
      Yes, those ETs will be perfectly OK that their representatives had been killed by a 3rd party. They will not strike the USA from orbit in punishment. They will simply fly away. They are a pushover.
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