Monday, August 12, 2013

The Giving Plague (Brin)

The Giving Plague, by David Brin, 1987

I don't usually review short stories, but I downloaded this for free onto my iPad and read it with my Kindle app in the same way that I read a lot of books. And since I re-launching my reading list blog, it doesn't hurt to start a little smaller.

First off, if I hadn't read the afterword, I wouldn't have realized that this story was written over 25 years ago. It hasn't dated. What makes that notable is the fact that it was written at the height of the AIDS epidemic, when the public was finally aware of what the disease was and what it was capable of doing. It's not an "AIDS story", but you can see how a plague of that kind influenced it. (Another way of putting that: if it had been written a few years later, it might have been inspired by, say, the ebola virus.)

The story is narrated by a biologist who makes a discovery about a new virus spreading through the population with an unusual property: it makes people more altruistic, starting with a desire to donate blood, which is how the virus seems to spread. Research and ethical questions follow and do consequences and possibilities of accolades and Nobel prizes.

An interesting little story, which isn't dated at all. If anything, now that AIDS is being tamed, it has to make you wonder what could come next that AIDS seem like a case of chicken pox.

"The Giving Plague" should be available for free for ereaders. The story can be found in its entirety on Brin's website in HTML form, usable by any browser.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

My Reading List Is Coming Back Online

I've been away from the blog, but not away from reading. Granted, I still don't read as much as I'd like, but mostly because I don't allow myself the time. Moreover, there are too many things sucking time away -- most of them online, but some just on TV.

I will NOT write reviews for the things I've read over the past four years, except for the things I've read more recently. This may tend to get boring, seeing that I'm reading the next book in a popular series, followed by the one after that, but I'd rather write about something from recent memory.

I've noticed that people have stumbled across entries for specific books through online searches. I looked at those entries, and some of them are pretty sad. They date from the time after I wrote little reviews in my little notebook but before I stopped keeping track of the books. After a while, the details fade. Now, you may think that with good books, the details shouldn't fade that much, but if you've read a dozen books since then, it's not hard to imagine that names and details might get muddied or confused.

Right now, I've tracked my most recent books on GoodReads, but I usually just give a star rating, without comments. The reviews there tend toward "it was good/bad" amd what was good/bad about it, and not capsule summaries, which is a good thing, really, because who needs 50 or 500 capsule summaries of the same book. Would anyone read them? It would be quicker to read the book! (That reminds me of the time I discovered that the Cliffs Notes for some book in high school was actually longer than the book itself.)

I'll probably go in reverse order, except for series, until I go back far enough that I don't remember anything. New books as I finish them.

And for those you who found this page because of my comics blog, welcome.
Those of you who didn't know I had a comics blog (where I make math comics, I don't write about other people's comics), check out (x, why?).