Today, after much hard work, Google finally launched its music store. My team does all the automated recommendations for this. Hope you like them, and if not, they'll be even better soon.

I've managed to make time to read a bit more fiction. I partially blame the iPad and its Kindle functionality. Some spoilers on older books follow.

"Consider Phlebas", Iain M. Banks. What a weird book. I finished and can't decide how much I liked it. Which I guess means it was OK? You starts off thinkng you're in for a grand epic space opera a la Vernor Vinge's "Fire Upon The Deep", but then midway through you realize it's more of a fun romp with the intergalactic war set as a background. Then it gets to the end, and you die, the girl dies, everybody dies, for no good reason. You are wondering if perhaps the whole book is a joke, or a meditation on the futility of war. You read the epilog, where it is revealed that any surviving characters have lost their zest for life and kill themselves or put themselves into cryosleep and wake up millions of years later and THEN kill themselves, that everyone who won a battle went on to lose a war, and you learn in passing that the protagonist's entire race goes extinct later in the conflict. I wish I knew what Banks was trying to do so I could understand whether he'd done it. Three stars, with a big standard deviation.

"Revelation Space", Alastair Reynolds. OK, sure, I enjoyed. Ancient galactic civilizations, threats to the existence of the human race, mysteries, bravado, etc. I'm not great at analyzing plots, but this one suffered from one flaw I know how to look for since my friend Laura tipped me off to it back when we both read "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." "OK, let's get this straight. We're the forces of evil. We are trying to kidnap Harry Potter. We've got a professor at Hogwarts who's on our side, and he can magic up any item such that when Harry Potter touches it, he'll teleport wherever we want. Now, what item should we magic? How about we magic up a pencil and then leave it on his desk? No, wait, I've got a better idea! We'll magic up the cup he'll find at the center of the maze when he WINS THE ENTIRE OLYMPICS." Ummmm... really? Really? Anyways, this book is the sci-fi equivalent, a ridiculously complicated plot to achieve a straightforward result. Still, I couldn't put it down, so three and a half stars.

"What Ho, Automaton", Chris Dolley. Short and sweet. It's steampunk Wodehouse. If you think you want to read that, you most certainly do. The narrator is pretty much a complete Rif character [the sort of character I nearly invariably play in role-playing or assassin games], going off on random tangents, holding on way too tight to his obviously ludicrous ideas. I could not stop laughing. FIve stars.

"Zoo City", Lauren Beukes. It's South African noir with animal familiars. It ended up feeling like maybe a little less than the sum of its parts, and the end was a little more violent than I care for, but solid. Three and half stars.


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