Robert Charles Wilson – Spin

is a scifi book which I’ve just finished, and I’m so excited that I have to write this short review. I’ve read other Wilson’s books, namely Darwinia and The Chronoliths, and they have quite a lot of common features with Spin. They all describe the world as we know it after it was hit by some unpredictable and completely mindboggling event. In Darwinia, a continent disappears and is replaced by an unknown land, in Chronoliths, gigantic statues from the future begin to appear around the world. Wilson manages to plausibly describe what these events do to the world, how the society and individuals react, and how everything is trying to stay normal. Also the main characters are a bit similar in their nature. However, while Darwinia was interesting and The Chronoliths engaging and massive, except their dissapointing (lack of) ending, Spin is simply perfect.One day, the stars and the Moon dissapear from the sky. The sun comes up, as warm and blinding as ever, but there’s no activity to be seen on it. As we find out, the Earth has been wrapped in a kind of capsule, which simulates the Sun and gravity of the Moon on one hand, and slows down time inside on the other. One minute inside is about a thousand years in the rest of the Universe.

And that, as strange as it may sound, is of course only the beginning of a brilliant book. When I read half of it, I was breathless already, as it was about at that stage that The Chronoliths ended. But this time, not only is there another half of the book, but it’s even getting more and more interesting, everything falls logically into place and things get explained in the end – I didn’t believe that it was possible. There is even a kind of elegant happyend.

Politics is mixed with a plausible depiction of human relationships in the shade of upcoming Apocalypse (the Sun outside goes through its natural life cycle, which doesn’t concern us since it takes billions of years, but suddenly in the book it becomes a key issues), the longing to lead a normal life is contrasted with apocalyptic cults and the chaos of the end of days. It is unbelievable, how many topics Wilson managed to include and touch in his book, and how compact and solid it stays all the time. It is believable, it is thrilling and at the same time it makes you think.

Well, simply thumbs up. One of the best books I’ve read lately. Robert Charles Wilson – Spin @ Amazon.

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A few recommended books

I’ve been reading quite a lot throughout the summer, and thought I could recommend books that might be worth your time. I’ve been discovering America however, as they are mostly classic ones. Nevertheless, if you haven’t read these, I suggest you do some catching-up too. And, by the way, if you’re not into science fiction, these might be just the right books, as it is good science fiction. I’ve got hold of a few Ursula Le Guin books. I remember trying to read one when I was about twelve, and it didn’t seem to be my cup of tea then. Not this time however – she’s got me so good that I’m preparing to read everything she’s written. I read The Lathe of Heaven first, and I was astonished. It’s about dreams and how little we know about these everyday miracles.

The Word for World is Forest is a bit more moralistic, or how to put it, but it reflects Le Guin’s understanding of human nature woven in a classical topic, the clash of technology and nature.

The last book worth recommending so far is called The Dispossessed. Again, it’s a book with interesting and quite utopian ideas, as a large part of it takes place in an anarchistic society, which is being contrasted with a depiction of capitalistic system.

The second author is John Wyndham I loved his Day of the Triffids when I read it years ago, but I never got to read anything else from him – until now. Chocky has been a surprise, I definitely didn’t expect the kind of plot it puts in front of you – family and relationship issues, parents raising their kids… but throw one unusual thing into the mix, in this case a kid’s imaginary friend, and you have an interesting story with a message.

Last author I’ve been catching up with is Neal Stephenson. I’ve read The Baroque Cycle Series a while ago, and now I got to his older works, The Diamond Age and Snow Crash. While Snow Crash seemed like it is trying too hard to be a cyberpunk novel, it turned out as very interesting, since the cyberpunk world (which I got used to in no time anyway) serves as a background for topics like memes, human mind and Sumerian civilization, which I wouldn’t expect. The Diamond Age takes place in a more advanced world where nanotechnology is the common way of producing everything, and where there are no nation-states – people can belong to different organisations with different possibilities, goals and power structures. The world is depicted in utterly convincing and believable manner, and for me, the actual storyline was less of a priority – and while I had that with other Stephenson’s books, I don’t think it matters at all. They are simply incredible.

And then I’ve read Clive Barker‘s Imajica once again. Its often described as a monumental epic, and it really is monumental. While Barker is renowned for horrors and weird stories, Imajica is more of a fantasy/alternative reality thing (there, I’ve said it…). It’s got nothing to do with sci-fi, but it still is connected to the previous books with a red line – it is again a book which points out how little we actually know about ourselves and our own perception of the world, and what other possibilities there might be – now, or in the future – without us actualyl noticing anything, our perception caged by seemingly relevant pieces of information, fed to us first from the outside and later hungrily sought after by ourselves, when we’ve shaped our perception accordingly.

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Training with Aliacte

I took part in a two day training of my Dad’s company, just for fun. I only knew it’s going to be about positive approach, and I was quite curious what it will look like – I could always leave, right?
However, Masha, a very energic lady who did the training, is very, very good in what she’s doing. Not only I felt (and still feel) motivated, but I also learned what I hoped to learn – new ways of how to bring people’s attention to the really important things in life and how to explain these topics without resorting to anything that may sound somehow “spiritual” in any way.
I always find it interesting to watch people’s reaction to matters like general approach to life, taking responsibility for one’s actions or self-exploration. A surprising number of Dad’s employees already knew much of what Masha was telling us, and they enjoyed how well she could present thoughts which people usually find difficult to express. But it was also nice to watch reactions of older people, who most probably never got a chance to hear these matters explained so clearly. In a one on one talk, some of them would even object. However, seeing how their colleagues all agree that what Masha is saying is true made them stop their protests and actually listen. And at the end, it was possible to see that they were deeply moved and that the training made them reconsider how they think and how they live their lives. Damn, I’d like to be as good as Masha in this :)
I would definitely recommend this training to practically everyone – I don’t know about Aliacte in general, but Masha is really good.

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Alice in Ricany

I spent the Friday evening somewhat unexpectedly in Ricany cinema, where Embryo, 000333 and Perplex organised a visually focused event. Primarily it was about Alenka, the Alice in Wonderland themed movie from MB and 03, and there were also new fluorescent paintings of similar origin. Other films included a very interesting Czech comedy classic Happy End, which is actually shot backwards, and it was projected in the normal way (backwards) and backwards (in what should be the normal direction) in two instances next to each other. There was also Krakatit, remixed with some custom visuals from Embryo, which really got me good, and Perplex’s Russian hallucinations. Alenka is nice, and the fluoropaintings are amazing.

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DIY Carnival 3.5

DIY Carnival 3.5 in Prague, partly a street rave, partly a protest against the prime minister Paroubek and minister Bublan, who still don’t want to give in after the messed up Czechtek party, was pretty good. Photos are here.

I have come to Vltavska metro station to take a tram up to Hradcanska and then go by foot to Strahov, where the carnival should start. Since there was a football match this evening on Letna, there were a few young guys who came out of the metro with me. Outside on the tram station, we heard a cry and about 200 bald fans of FC Banik Ostrava appeard running to the station around a corner. As they spotted the Prague fans, they went straight for them and started beating them up. You could hear sirens and police cars started to arrive in large numbers. What a start for the carnival. Since I wasn’t dressed like a football fan, the violence swept past me without anyone taking notice of me or any of the other people waiting for the tram, and so I went to Strossmayerovo Namesti and took a tram across Letna to Hradcanska. I was a bit afraid I might encounter more “fans” on the way, and I did, but without any incidents.

I went from Hradcanska to Strahov, and from a distance I could hear overlapping beats of the soundsystems. Masks were often very nice, as you can see in the pictures, some of them were really funny or original (like the snowsleigh, dragged behind a car, metal on which got so hot from the friction that smoke started coming from the wooden part of it). The parade was more then a kilometer long, and went from Strahov down to the river, through the city center and onto the Stvanice island, where it ended. It was quite a walk.

Police took control of traffic, sometimes diverting it and letting it mix with the parade on main crossings in the center. Most drivers were obviously having fun watching us go by, tourists in buses passing along cheered, people were coming out of shops and houses, sometimes joining the parade. Atmosphere was great and I believe whoever joined had a good time. You could see some drunk people, but there weren’t as many of them as we had feared before. At the Stvanice island the music went on for some time.

The atmosphere was similar to the atmosphere on the demonstrations during the summer (reason for them was police action against the Czechtek teknival, worth checking out), but it wasn’t some kind of rigid political protest – it was more like a show what this subculture is about, and although I don’t think it got to all the prejudiced people, who support the police actions, I thing it did have an effect. Despite the fact, that there was almost no media coverage whatsoever – which is unbelievable, for several thousand people marched loudly through the center of Prague, but true. Anyway. Hope to see you next time.

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