Books

Four Thousand Weeks

Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman

I’ve just started to read Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman, which was recommended to me by a couple of people on micro.blog last night. I’m intrigued by some reviews mentioning parallels between Stoicism and the philosophy described in this book, so it has leap-frogged its way to the top of my reading list.

The last few years have been tough with pressure of work, despite being great fun, forcing my life balance far out of kilter. Perhaps “Four Thousand Weeks” will give me a new perspective on the, maybe, 750 weeks I have left. πŸ“š

The Orthogonal Universe of Greg Egan

I’m close to finishing the Audible version of Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan πŸ“š and have already bought the sequel. This is “hard” science fiction at its best. Egan has built a universe with remarkable properties simply by changing a minus sign to a plus in one equation that controls space-time geometry. As a result light’s speed varies with frequency, high speed travel causes travellers to age faster rather than slower, and plants emit light.

The physics has been worked out with great care and there is a lot of explanation in the book, backed up by Greg Egan’s website which has over 80,000 words of additional explanation, along with a hundred or more diagrams demonstrating how the orthogonal universe works.

However inventive the “Riemannian” orthogonal universe is, the book wouldn’t hold the reader’s attention without some interesting characters and an exciting plot - and it has those in spades. The dominant species in this “powderpunk” world are physically very different from us but have very recognisable cares, ambitions, and interests. (I was going to say “steampunk” but given the noticeable lack of any liquids in their universe this wouldn’t makes sense.) They are highly intelligent and appear to have no religion making their unique form of reproduction an interesting and rather disturbing social dynamic.

I’ve really enjoyed this book and can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes some light physics with their entertainment.

Why I won't be watching "The Watch"

I’ve just seen the first trailers for “The Watch” and I have issues…

I first heard about “The Watch” from a post on Instagram by the script writer, Simon Allen, who thanked more than sixty people involved in the production, but somehow forgot to mention Terry Pratchett. Now I see why… this is not the City Watch we know and love. As Rhianna Pratchett says it shares no DNA with her father’s Watch.

For me the real joy of the City Watch is the characters, and the trailers suggest that the TV series is only paying lip service to the books by reusing the names without any understanding as to who the characters are. For example, one of the key attributes of Carrot is his enormous strength - he is described as “six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders”. He is not slim - he has the physique of a dwarf… but on a rather larger scale.

The raison d’Γͺtre for Lady Sybil Ramikin is that she isn’t an action hero, but a rather substantial wagnerian aristocrat more interested in dragon breeding than… well, anything really. Casting a slim, glamorous actress as Lady Sybil entirely misses the point and the joy of the character.

To be fair I don’t think anyone could make a decent live action version of the City Watch books. Like Dickens, a good part of the pleasure of Sir Terry’s books is the language used, the turns of phrase, and the subtle allusions that will never translate to a screen of any size. For many a Discworld fan, who like me, have lived with the inhabitants of Pseudopolis Yard for three decades, any attempt to bring Ankh-Morpork to life is always going to be a disappointment compared with the great city in their mind’s eye. πŸ“š