Friday, November 18, 2005

Geek love

This comes via two different blogs and originates at The Guardian's technology blog: a list of the 20 top "geek" books. I've bolded the ones I've read. One asterisk means I own it but have never finished it. Two asterisks means I'm reading it (well, Watchmen) right now. I've added senile comments as well. Dizzyheads should chime in!

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Douglas Adams
Am one of maybe three people who enjoyed the movie version; am listening to the old radio shows these days on iPod. I actually read the first sequel, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, first—I started reading it at Kmart!
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four -- George Orwell
3. Brave New World* -- Aldous Huxley
I'm so embarrassed that I haven't read this that I should just read it.

4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- Philip Dick
I'm still not sure why the movie is called "Blade Runner"—I don't think the phrase comes up in the book.
5. Neuromancer -- William Gibson
Why haven't I read any Gibson?

6. Dune -- Frank Herbert
Had sizable impact on the young Ed, though strangely, of the sequels, I only finished Dune Messiah.
7. I, Robot* -- Isaac Asimov
Never finished this one—but did read and enjoy IA's robot detective novels (with the oddly named "R. Daneel Olivaw"—surely an anagram for something!)

8. Foundation -- Isaac Asimov
I wonder what it would be like to read Foundation again? Oddly, I think I have Foundation's Edge with me here in New York.
9. The Colour of Magic -- Terry Pratchett
10. Microserfs -- Douglas Coupland
11. Snow Crash -- Neal Stephenson
12. Watchmen** -- Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
13. Cryptonomicon -- Neal Stephenson
14. Consider Phlebas -- Iain M Banks
15. Stranger in a Strange Land -- Robert Heinlein
I was just thinking about this one—I bought a copy in 7th grade, and it fell apart as I read it. I remember finding it slightly tedious—possibly much of it was over my head. I did enjoy some other Heinlein, later.
16. The Man in the High Castle -- Philip K Dick
Perhaps his best? I read this soon after reading Do Androids..., but liked it more later (during my big PKD phase, c. '95-96)
17. American Gods* -- Neil Gaiman
18. The Diamond Age -- Neal Stephenson
19. The Illuminatus! Trilogy* -- Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
This was part of the legendary Bloomingdale library book sale haul!

20. Trouble with Lichen - John Wyndham


Blogger Jenny D said...

Oh, I just commented on this at Return of the Reluctant (the other Ed's blog...), but will offer you the more personal and amplified thoughts here!

The only ones I haven't read are Microserfs (no plans to read), Watchmen (ridiculous I haven't read it, will procure ASAP), the second half of Consider Phlebas (I LOVE LOVE LOVE Iain Banks but strangely find his science fiction i.e. Iain M. Banks novels virtually unreadable, not sure why this is) and the second and third parts of Illuminatus. Particular recommendations for you: (1) I can't believe you haven't read Brave New World! It's great! Ludicrously English-classized, of course, but great! (2) I think "Pattern Recognition" is written in a better prose style than Gibson's earlier stuff, though those early ones were so influential that it may be you want them in preference. (3) "The Diamond Age" is I think my favorite Stephenson novel, though I have liked all the others I've read (can't face the latest). Cryptonomicon is a great book to take on long trip where you can't bring a lot of books--it lasted me a whole weekend where I was traveling all day on Friday and Sunday, I conveniently finished the last page just as I landed at Newark. (It was one of those flights to New Orleans with a 3-hour layover in Chicago, or something truly appalling anyway.) (4) Ed, you would LOVE John Wyndham! You must get his books and read them as soon as possible! This one's great, and so is The Midwich Cuckoos, and my very favorite of course is The Day of the Triffids. They are all fabulously good.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Oh, that sounds great (Wyndham) — Day of the Triffids I've heard of! Will pursue. I have Pattern R. somewhere in the abode, will read. And BNW is somewhere, too.

Will read these all after I successfully clone myself!

MICROSERFS I highly recommend; I remember not liking the ending as much as the beginning, but it's one of DC's stronger books.

(Am very impressed by your geek rating!)

9:52 AM  
Blogger Devin McKinney said...

Ed (and anyone else) --

Read the Illuminatus trilogy as soon as you can. Don't let length deter you, because once you start, you won't stop. It's like Pynchon, only faster and funnier.

Was I alone in thinking Electric Sheep was wooden and prosaic? Should I give Dick another try?


12:49 AM  
Blogger Ed said...


Not that you asked, first exposure to the Illuminatus Trilogy was actually through the game Illuminati, put out by Steve Jackson Games back in the early/mid '80s and based on the books—which, for some reason, I didn't pursue. (The game was great fun—you built cabals linking, say, The Flat Earth Society with the Congressional Wives...I think it involved little cards and a game board.) I picked up the Ill. Tril. sometime during my mid-'90s PKD phase, and imagined I'd be susceptible to its paranoid charms...but it didn't take, perhaps because the Dickian phase was itself coming to an end. I will pick it up in earnest soon! I'm excited!

I'm sure ELECTRIC SHEEP is quite wooden—even "good" PKD reads that way to me...but once I'm in the zone, the style somehow seems perfect. I like to think that THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE is his best-written book, but I don't know—it's entirely possible it's just as wooden!

As long as we're on the PKD tip—the last one I read, several years ago, GALACTIC POT-HEALER, was probably the "lightest"—in a good sense, the way Nabs said of KING, QUEEN, KNAVE, "this bright brute is the gayest." It was a welcome entertainment—I think I'd gone overboard on the VALIS-era stuff, which is fascinating but kind of a mess. (Anyone with any interest in PKD should check out Lawrence Sutin's excellent bio.)

Memory lane...My main supplier of PKD in those days was my friend Jim, who also lent me his copy of psychologist Julian Jaynes's THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND—another potent brain-scrambler. Have any Dizzyheads read him?

12:21 AM  
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