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Any amazing novels I've missed in the last few years?
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Author:  FZA [ Sat Jan 24, 2009 2:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Any amazing novels I've missed in the last few years?

Hey guys,

Seriously stuck for some inspiration. Haven't read a novel (in any genre) that's really knocked me for six in years. IE one of those books you just end up having to finish in 1 sitting, eyes burning at 3am in the morning as you furiously turn the pages.

The last few books I can remember that have done that to me are:

Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller
Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Beach by Alex Garland

Has there been anything published in the last 3-5 years that are worth seeking out?

Thanks all

Author:  Ali_L [ Tue Jan 27, 2009 12:42 pm ]
Post subject: 

Try The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

I read it twice in a row and then wanted to read it a third time, but was keen for other folk to read it too so I passed the book on at that point... :D

Author:  Tony [ Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Any amazing novels I've missed in the last few years?

FZA wrote:
Haven't read a novel (in any genre) that's really knocked me for six in years.


Tried any SF by Charlie Stross, Ken MacLeod, or Adam Roberts?

Author:  Dave Mathew [ Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:50 pm ]
Post subject: 

The books that I remember reading all in one sitting are:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon;
Terrorist by John Updike (RIP)
All About Us: the Chas 'n' Dave Story by Chas Hodges

All of them brilliant in their (very) different ways!

Author:  Pete [ Sat Jan 31, 2009 2:21 pm ]
Post subject: 

Did a best books of 2008 entry on my blog if that's any help:-

http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuse ... =466103010

Author:  RossWarren [ Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:35 am ]
Post subject: 

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Author:  Bob Lock [ Tue Feb 17, 2009 6:41 pm ]
Post subject: 

I second Ali's choice of 'The Road', has to be one of the best books I have ever read.

Author:  George Berger [ Wed Feb 18, 2009 2:54 pm ]
Post subject: 

I have heard so many good things about THE ROAD that I'd like to read it NOW. But my books are in storage until next week.

Author:  George Berger [ Sun Mar 15, 2009 9:56 pm ]
Post subject: 

Most of my books are now in my new apartment. THE ROAD os in a nice bookcase and I'll read it soon.

Author:  George Berger [ Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:42 pm ]
Post subject: 

BLINDSIGHT, by the Canadian marine biologist Peter Watts, is the best SF book that I have read last year. It's format is a first-contact plot, wherein a ship from earth, Theseus, encounters an alien vessal that calls itself Rorschach. This takes place at the edge of the Solar System. I shall discuss one main section of this fascinating hard-SF book. It is difficult.
Theseus is commanded by Jukka Sarasti, a genetically reconstructed Vampire whose enhanced reptilian (limbic) brain areas--especially his amygdala--enable him to take quick decisions guided by cognitive areas that are in some respects superior to ours. Sarasti is proud of his ability to understand and act decisively, but his predator nature is barely under control.
Siri Keeton (another crew member) is a 'synthesist.' A radical but necessary brain operation and implant-assisted restructuring in his youth gave him the ability to collect, relate, and report factual aspects of any situation he encounters, while having little understanding of them and no empathy with anything at all. He calls himself a 'Chinese Room,' after philosopher John Searle's use of a similar human in an argument against computational theories of mind. Searle's person manipulates syntactic inputs and emits appropriate verbal responses, while in fact (Searle claims) understanding nothing. For he only handles input in terms of grammatical rules that govern actions that can be performed on supposedly meaningless syntactic items. Siri and Jukka clearly have radically different self-images. I omit all discussion of the rest of the crew and of the biologically interesting nonhuman inhabitants of Rorschach. They illustrate some interesting ideas of the author.
Now comes my interpretation of the difficult but crucial part of the text (Dr.Watts offers no explanation in motivational terms for what follows). Rorshach probably is a threat to Theseus, and perhaps to the Earth. A tense confrontation develops. As danger mounts, Jukka's stressfull awareness of the problem causes him to partially lose control of himself. His emotion-regulating, memory-laden amygdala momentarily takes over, convincing him that Siri is seriously underestimating the danger and that something must be done about this at once. He irrationally lashes out at the synthesist, injuring the synthesist's hand while urging him to comprehend their dangerous situation. Keeton cannot understand this reaction of course, and his resentment partially determines the rest of the story. Thus I hold that Jukka simply could not stand Siri, because their minds work so differently that Keeton is an enigma to him. At least one earlier scene suggests that I am correct.
The pages that follow explain Dr. Watts' ideas about these various sorts of minds. If Siri understands nothing and can empathise with nothing, is he CONSCIOUS at all? We can ask this question even though Keeton's verbal responses and behavior are entirely appropriate at all times. In recent philosophical literature, such a nonconscious (and perhaps nonsentient) yet intelligently acting being is called a ZOMBIE, and the question has been asked if such a being can be coherently thought of. If Siri is a perfectly performing zombie, then what would some sort of CONSCIOUSNESS add or subtract from his ability to navigate the world with success? Is consciousness necessary here? Does having it (whatever 'it' is) assist or impede intelligent action? Is it a biological fluke or does it serve some naturalistically useful functions? Finally and most importantly, if Siri is a zombie and this tale is coherent, might not JUKKA and all of US be zombies as well?
BLINDSIGHT treats all these questions (and many more) in great detail. I submit that all the contorted and to me unreadable discourses of the philosophers and scientists have gotten us no nearer to the answers than has Peter Watts' inventive account in this wonderful book.
(My thanks to Jonathan McCalmont, Jesper Svedberg, and Tiemen Zwaan, for helping me think about this material.)

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