First up, a quick declaration of interest. I am (slowly) working on a novel which looks at the possibilities of life extension.

I almost didn’t read Suicide Club for that reason.

But, I am really glad I did choose to read the novel. Heng can certainly write. Her prose is a thing of beauty and she can really hit the emotional high and low notes when she chooses to.

The narrative carries you along from a 100th birthday party at the outset through the ongoing investigation following a minor road traffic accident, covering off some family history, which is revealed later, with a massive emotional impact, to not be quite what we were led to think it was.

Heng creates a world which is believable, the descriptions of the crowded streets of New York are suitably claustrophobic. But, an area which could have been improved upon is the wider world building. I was not totally clear about the social structures in this near future world. Exactly what difference there is between the lives of those who have longer life and those who do not? At one point the narrative makes reference to the general population “wouldn’t touch a lifer” but it is not really clear why this might be the case. Where would this level of fear come from?

There is reference to the areas outside New York being unpopulated due to low birth rates, but it is unclear why this is the case. While I do believe writers should show rather than tell, I think Heng could have painted the wider world around her narrative in a richer way and this would have enhanced what is already an excellent narrative.

There were also a couple of instances where I was not clear why people with the potential to live forever might not want to. I guess everyone has their own reasons, but if Heng could have made it much more apparent why someone would go to the lengths required in her imagined world of healthcare, I think this would have strengthened the narrative.

Overall, the minor issues I have with the story, do not deter from the narrative enough to make it anything less than a good novel. Heng is a good writer, her style brings you along and the emotional ups and downs are enjoyable.

Her vision of life extension is based in the world of medicine and health care improvements, while my part written novel is very much not in this vein (I was worried this book would be too close to my creation, which is why I was considering not reading Suicide Club).

If you are looking for a novel which is sci-fi light, but depicts a future world with a deep emotional story, Suicide Club could be just what you are looking for.

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iPad vs Kindle

January 31, 2012

One steaming hot July 4th I ended up waiting for a transfer at Dallas Airport.

That day in 2007 I saw a Kindle for the first time. I was in the transfers section of the airport for six long hours.

There were ads for the device on the transfer side, but the shop selling it was in the regular departures side. I looked longingly through the glass at the Kindle.

I flew out of Dallas that day, with fireworks exploding in the rouge Texas twilight sky. But with no Kindle in my hand.

I have to admit, I still do not own a Kindle. By the time they arrived in the UK the economy had bombed and I was less keen on buying gadgets.

Now tablet computers have really come into their own. The iPad does so much more than display books – it costs a lot more than the Kindle too. But the Kindle only shows text.

I am thinking it is now time I put right the injustice of Independence Day in Dallas* and got my hands on a digital reader (I do have a Kindle app on my android phone, but the screen can only display about three paragraphs at a time). But the BIG question is:

Kindle or iPad ?????

Advice please…

(*I have been in the USA for Independence Day twice and may describe the other time at some point…)

This news feature discusses the movement towards digital text books and learning in the developing world and the United States.

Cost could be a major driver here – when it is cheaper to give a child a tablet /laptop (whatever) than it is to provide them with text books, exercise books, pens, then the move willl become widespread and the days of paper’s dominance in schools will go the way of the blackboard and chalk…

Apparently in America innovative changes in ICT are happening in local government enabling cost reductions.

Cloud computing and other changes in the ICT world are bringing benefits to US organisations.

Details to be found in this insightful article.

 

More about those robots

November 16, 2010

The world is changing and what we have seen in sci-fi movies will become reality soon enough.

How many times have we seen on-screen cars which drive themselves?

Well our friends at Google have been experimenting with one on the roads of California.

I have mentioned robots before and how they are set to change our lives for the better – in ways beyond which cars / phones / PCs and the internet have already.

When my solar-powered car will drive me about and I can read or sleep en route I will be a happy man.

Right Google, what about a teleport?

Censorship or protection?

October 14, 2010

I am not good at accepting censorship. I wrote my university dissertation on American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis (researched while studying briefly at an American higher education establishment). The book uses murder and mutilation as a metaphor for the damage unchecked capitalism does to the poor. The main character is a Wall Street banker who by day manipulates money markets to his own advantage and by night stalks the streets of New York on a killing spree.

My book, The Joy of Ex, contains swear words (even the C word), sexual content, adult themes (altho their is an advisory warning printed on theĀ  back cover) – so I am ok with edgie and adult content.

Right now in the USA, where almost 20 years ago, American Psycho caused proper uproar, there is an ongoing debate about children’s access to books.

Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mocking Bird and the Twilight saga are all being battled over at schools in the land of the free.

(This is a serious issue, the other day an episode of Private Practice (spin off from Grey’s Anatomy showing what the character of Addison Montgomery did next) on Living had a storyline about a young girl who got Hep B (or something similar) from a boy who had bitten her neck and had done it to other girls, even though he said he only loved her… or some such – the upshot of which was don’t bite your friends just cos you like Twilight.)

The main message I took from Catcher in the Rye when I read it as a teenager nearly 20 years ago, was don’t be a faker. (definitely not kill a rock star). While from Mockingbird (again, about 20 years since I opened it up), which is about lots of things, I particularly got the message we should not judge people (which always makes me wonder if Harper Lee meant the irony of having a court room drama with that message).

As for Twilight, I am way out of the target demographic and havent read any of it, altho the movie trailers seem to be about love and relationships. Maybe when my son is old enough to read it, I’ll dip in so I can discuss with him, but I think my vampire / human love story of choice is still Buffy / Spike. (apologies to Sookie and Bill and probably Cordy and Angel too)

I am sure the parents who are raising these issues about what books their children have access to in school libraries have genuine concerns, but I am not sure censorship is ever the answer.

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