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400 Years Of Freethought
Samuel Porter Putnam
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Jon Meacham
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
Philip Pullman, Jacob Grimm
Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson
Jennifer Michael Hecht
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Paul E. Johnson, Sean Wilentz

Reamde: A Novel

Reamde - Neal Stephenson This is a thriller, which Stephenson says has no supernatural or fantastical elements in it at all. He says he tried to make the characters interesting, so it was more than just a bunch of people running around shooting. But really, there’s an awful lot of running around and shooting. Several times, I felt like I was reading a Ludlum novel. Which is okay, but not normally why I rush right out and buy Stephenson’s books whenever a new one comes out.Along the way, though, there is a little bit of interesting technology — or at least a view into the multiplayer game world for those of us who don’t normally hang out there. The gold-farming aspects are also interesting, and a lot more might be done with them, from the perspective of colonialism, hacker disruption, etc. Didn’t Cory Doctorow just write about this too?There are also interesting moments when Stephenson seems to be talking about things within the plot, but might also be talking about writing. For example: “What they considered normal. This was always the hard part. If you knew what was normal to the enemy, then everything became easy: you could lull them to sleep by feeding them normal, and you could scare the hell out of them by suddenly taking normal away.” Yeah, this could be about the terrorists in the story, but it could also be about writing stories. Cool! Here’s another one that seems to be about the multiplayer game-world in the story, but could as easily be about the story-world of a novel: say Lord of the Rings — since that’s one Stephenson refers to regularly in his stories: “The people who called themselves Evil weren’t really doing evil stuff, and the people who called themselves Good were no better. It’s not like the Good people were, for example, sacrificing points in the game world so that they could take the time to help little old ladies across the street.” “We didn’t give them the opportunity to help little old ladies across the street,” Richard said. “Exactly, we set them certain tasks or quests that had the ‘Good’ label slapped on them; but, art direction aside, they were indiscernible from ‘Evil’ tasks.” (Stephenson, Neal (2011-09-20). Reamde: A Novel (p. 227). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.)Stephenson also invokes the maxim hinted at repeatedly in the Isaacson bio of Steve Jobs: “As hire As, and Bs hire Cs,” (p. 744). And he mentions Utilikilts on p. 694. And, as a treat to his fans, he throws in this: “The opening screen of T’Rain was a frank rip-off of what you saw when you booted up Google Earth. Richard felt no guilt about this, since he had heard that Google Earth, in turn, was based on an idea from some old science-fiction novel.” (p. 38). I suspect that’s a reference to Hiro Protagonist’s virtual office in Snow Crash, which along with Gordon R. Dickson’s Final Encyclopedia is my idea of the ultimate data interface. Chiseled spam! More on that subject and why Tinderbox doesn’t meet the need, soon.