Sunday, May 3, 2009

Review: Schismatrix and The Alchemist

Recently finished two books:

Schismatrix by Bruce Sterling. This book is full of science fiction ideas about technology and society that seem believable and fresh today even though it was written nearly 25 years ago (1985). It has the same trouble with fairly flat characters who seem to exist more to show off particular technologies or social ideologies than to undergo actual growth and change that pervades most of Sterling's work. But it is a remarkable book nonetheless, one that I think I struggled to understand when I first read it as a teenager. Reading it now for the first time in over a decade, I have a greater appreciation for the imagination the author displays. At the same time, the clunkiness of the narrative stands out a bit more.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. This is a short novel about a shepherd boy who seeks his destiny, which begins as a journey in search of a hidden treasure amid the Pyramids and ends as a quest to learn the secret Language of the World, which is the key to spiritual and psychological transformation, which in turn is the true goal of alchemy. It has the tone of a fable and presents a lot of interesing insights into the character of human feelings and emotions and how we treat each other, as well as some thoughtful ideas about the nature of fate. All in all, a nice story that makes you think about your own dreams and what you are or aren't doing to achieve them.

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