But Mochizuki’s papers, which totalled more than 500 pages, were exceedingly abstract and cryptic even by the standards of pure mathematics. That has made it tough for others to read the proof, let alone verify it. Moreover, the papers built on an equally massive body of work that he had accumulated over the years, but that few were familiar with.
I love this. It reminds me of the history of the works of James Hutton, the British geologist that was one of the first to truly understand how long it took natural forces to shape the earth.
Encouraged by his friends to expand his theory, in the touching hope that he might somehow stumble onto clarity in a more expansive format, Hutton spent the next ten years preparing his magnum opus, which was published in two volumes in 1795. Together the two books ran to nearly a thousand pages and were, remarkably, worse than even his most pessimistic friends had feared. Apart from anything else, nearly half the completed work now consisted of quotations from French sources, still in the original French4. A third volume was so unenticing that it wasn’t published until 18995, more than a century after Hutton’s death, and the fourth and concluding volume was never published at all. Hutton’s Theory of the Earth is a strong candidate for the least read important book in science (or at least, it would be if there weren’t so many others). Even Charles Lyell, the greatest geologist of the following century and a man who read everything, admitted he couldn’t get through it.
What I like about this, is that it reminds us that besides the plains facts, there are many other ‘soft’ forces at play that influence how information is transmitted and received. Sometimes cultural barriers and mere human psychology can be all that is preventing insight and acceptance of new knowledge to occur.
I often think on this when I think about the vast Chinese internet ecosystem. Separate and isolated in many ways from the western internet, yet vast and full of people that likely have many interesting things to say.
What additional power of collaboration are we missing out on through the language and culture barriers.
And back to science and technology. How much potential development is being wasted and ignored, because of an inability to clearly communicate ideas.
As part of my book collecting initiative, I decided some time ago that I needed a proper version of the Bible on my shelf.
There is so much choice out there, I spent a long time looking for one that fit my specifications: It had to be the KJV original text including The Aprocrypha, needed to be hardback with real leather and black if possible, and a readable typeface. there where lots of 1611 reproductions using the original typeface, but its almost unreadable.
The new 1611 KJV Deluxe Edition boasts high-end binding and genuine black calfskin leather. Also available in cloth binding, the Deluxe Edition is here just in time to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Version.
For 400 years, the Authorized Version of the Bible—popularly known as the King James Version—has been beloved for its majestic phrasing and stately cadences. No other book has so profoundly influenced our language and our theology. Over time, however, the text has suffered subtle and occasionally troublesome alterations. This edition preserves the original 1611 printing. Word for word and page for page, the text with its original marginal notes, preface, and other introductory material appears as it first did. The sole concession to modernity is a far more readable roman typeface set by nineteenth-century master printers.
• Original preface and translator’s notes
• Essays on the enduring importance of the KJV and pre-1611 translations
• Handsome page design with “illuminated” initials and clearer type
For those of you who may be wondering why on earth an outspoken Atheist would want a Bible on his shelf, and go out of his way to find just the right one, I could not put it into words better than Christopher Hitchens did in his May 2011 piece on the KJV Bible for Vanity Fair (http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2011/05/hitchens-201105 ):
“Though I am sometimes reluctant to admit it, there really is something “timeless” in the Tyndale/King James synthesis. For generations, it provided a common stock of references and allusions, rivaled only by Shakespeare in this respect. It resounded in the minds and memories of literate people, as well as of those who acquired it only by listening.
…. A culture that does not possess this common store of image and allegory will be a perilously thin one. To seek restlessly to update it or make it “relevant” is to miss the point, like yearning for a hip-hop Shakespeare. “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward,” says the Book of Job. Want to try to improve that for Twitter?
It wasn’t until only recently that I started to appreciated both an aesthetic as well as an intellectual gap in my life. My mother owned a huge collection of leather-bound classic literature from the UK publisher Heron, who has since gone out of business. I never appreciated these book while growing up, preferring them instead as a convenient means of hiding candy wrappers behind to avoid being found out I was helping myself to more than allowed.
Through the writing of Christopher Hitchens, who I was clued onto by way of the “New Atheist” wave of books and who frequently likes to quote the classics, I started to realize that I had missed out on a rather important part education. It was in his autobiography, where he frequently relates how his love of literature was fostered by his educators at Eaton, that I started to realize that a knowledge of the classics, who through their influence have left an indelible stamp on our culture, should be part and parcel of the repertoire of the educated mind. I resolved myself to address this problem, in style of course.
Those of you who have followed my Flickr photo stream know quite well that I have always liked to photograph the books I own. I was quite proud to have such a great collection of Microsoft Press books on my shelf. Even though I probably never got round to reading more than half of their content, a truth that is slightly embarrassing to me. The monetary expense of keeping this habit was really of little concern. It was the look and impression it gave that really did it for me.
So when I started to look into options concerning my future collection of classic literature, going the way of eBooks was almost immediately off the table. It would simply defeat the point. I wanted a collection similar to what my mother had. Something that you would only ever had to buy once, an investment, and could be proud to display and eventually pass on. I had already indulged in this line of thought when I purchased my Tolkien books.
As it turns out, very few publishers do collections like the kind Heron did. The ornate and luxury leather bindings, the India paper, etc. In the UK, several companies dealt in second-hand Heron collections, and then there where certain titles from Oxford University Press, and then there is of course the famous Folio Society. But I quite stumbled upon forum threads that described subscriptions one could apply to, and receive a new book every month, randomly, from a number of pre-selected sets. That idea instantly exited me. Anticipation every month, not knowing what you will get, and setting yourself in a forced one-month timetable to get the book read before the next one arrived. It was perfect.
A number of publisher do subscriptions like this, but only the US-based Easton press did a collection of high-quality leather-bound books, that could also be purchased in this subscription model. I could find no other publisher that did this. Granted, I would have preferred a UK publisher, more from a cost perspective than anything else. But so few seem to be in the business of ornately bound classic literature.
So today I received Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. This is the first of the collection, the specially priced introductory volume, after which the first few books are known. The next book will be Treasure Island, but after about the third book, it becomes random.
I am very pleased. The quality is as advertised. Its so well and firmly found, that I will almost be afraid reading it. This is not the sort of book to casually read, certainly not in bed. The act of reading properly, especially something of this caliber, should be something one invests real time in, applies ones self fully to. I intend to. This collection will not lie un-read on my shelf. In fact I will refuse to retire the book there until it has in fact been read.
Finally, I will share with you the introductory letter I received with the book.
I am proud to present you with a work of genius. This single immortal edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is just the beginning of an exquisite library that will benefit your family for generations.
Before you join Huck and Jim on their journey down the Mississippi, I would like to welcome you to The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written and point out some of the deluxe features of the beautiful volume you hold in your hands.
Your edition of Huckleberry Finn features superb materials and craftsmanship. The premium-quality, genuine leather is dyed with a lustrous brown finish, then carefully drawn over raised spine hubs in the finest tradition of bookbinding.
The elegant spine design is stamped in precious 22kt gold. The cover features a deeply impressed, beautiful illustration. Gilded page edges, polished mirror-smooth, add a distinctive touch, and they protect your investment from humidity and dust.
It’s safe to judge this book by its cover because the luxury and quality continue inside…
Inside the covers are shimmering moire endleaves, dyed a deep gold. Endleaves of this quality are prized by lovers of fine books — not only for their elegant appearance and feel, but for the strength and stability they add to the binding. For your convenience, a beautiful and practical satin-ribbon page marker is dyed to match.
Distinguished artist Thomas Hart Benton made eighty-seven illustrations for this edition of Huckleberry Finn, heightening the enjoyment of reading this all-time classic. For each of them he made an entire drawing in brown wash, and then covered it with a black outline. In Thomas Hart Benton’s NOTE BY THE ILLUSTRATOR included in this edition he writes, "This whole project has been a big, slambang emotional indulgence for me." Opposite the title page is a powerful frontispiece portrait of Mark Twain, painted in watercolors by Hodges Soileau.
To add depth and insight to your reading, a revealing introduction was written especially for this edition by renowned scholar-historian, Pulitzer-Prize winner and all around professional writer Bernard DeVoto. In it he states, "No American book has more America in it, or more delight. Like all great works of art it is unique." As the editor he also made sure that this would be the most accurate text of the novel ever published.
As you turn to the first sentence, you will note the strong, clean, open typeface. The paper was specially milled for this edition, using acid-neutral stock of archival quality, a key element for permanence and durability. And each page has been securely sewn in place for added strength, not glued like ordinary hardcover editions.
The finished result: A luxurious edition fit for Mark Twain’s masterpiece. From its charming beginning to its heartwarming conclusion, Huckleberry Finn takes you on an unforgettable coming-of-age journey that is at once comedic and deeply profound. Ernest Hemingway said, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." We at Easton Press hope and believe you will enjoy the finest edition of Huckleberry Finn ever published. Your next volume, Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, Treasure Island, is carefully being completed and will be shipped to you shortly.
I found it initially hard to get into this book. The opening chapters felt a little too much like a direct rip from the last few chapters of Orwell’s 1985, and are not the most pleasant things to read. In a way of course, this is a good thing. The treatment of Marcus and the behavior of both his school and DHS genuinely angered me, and set me up emotionally to want to see Marcus succeed in his revenge.
And after Marcus actually starts to get into his plan, sets up xnet, things start to gather pace, and from that moment om the book was impossible to put down.
The book goes into quite a bit of technical exposition explaining various concepts to the reader in almost a “fourth-wall” break with the reader. I understand why these need to be in there, and they where not too in-depth to confuse, but they do take you out of the action sometimes, and interrupt the flow here and there.
I felt a little here and there that Cory (the Author) would think of a cool plot device to use, but then realize that he had not built up the foundational backstory to support that plot point. he would then insert it right there and then, as a flashback or as a bit of outside exposition. The best example of this is the sudden retelling of the history of the vampire LARPing, and the bizarre inclusion of Charles, to set him up as some kind of comic-relief villain. I felt this didn’t work well at all, and while I our initial introduction to Charles sets up the character in a interesting way, he feels a little bit too stereotypical. Almost like a character from Happy Potter.
In fact I feel that way about a lot of the characters. Marcus’ father, his school authority figures, the sub-teacher, Charles, and the entire DHS cast seem a little too one-dimensional to be totally believable. The Marsha character especially so, who, again, seems to have been included only to enable the escape arc. Only Marcus and Ange come across as plausible people, while other potentially very interesting characters like Van, Daryll, Zeb and Marcus’ mother remain chronically underexposed. A lot more could have been done there, I was especially disappointed with how little attention to Van was given, especially in the prologue.
As for the storyline itself, the lockdown that DHS (why always only DHS) manages to impose on the City seem rather extreme and unbelievable in places. Almost a little too simplistic and certainly too fast considering the timeline. (A space of a year). The story almost makes you think that people critical of the governments invasion of the private sphere, and the excessive security measures no longer exist. The ACLU for example, doesn’t make an appearance till the very end of the book, and while other protests are mentioned in passing, it is hard to believe that all these rapid and extreme changes could be implemented in such a short space of time without a massive social upheaval. Also the effects of the terrorist attack itself seem to take a serious backseat. of course the book is not about the terrorist attack itself, but one need only look at the immediate social after-effects of 9/11 to get an impression of the societal trauma that takes place after such an event. A felt this was somewhat missing from the story, and going into that a bit more, might have gone a bit towards making, for example, Marcus’ father a somewhat more believable character.
The tie-in to the 1960’s counter-culture and civil-rights movement,was obvious and necessary to give us context. And maybe I have the wrong impression of the US population, especially the Californian baby-boomer generation, but would this not be the exactly worst kind of population group to impose such as harsh lock-down on? You would think that of all states, and of all counties, it would be exactly this one who would still have the principles of 1968 firmly locked in memory. What I am saying is, I find it difficult to believe that the inhabitants of San Francisco would take all this lying down, as the book suggest. It would surely not only be the rebellious teenagers on the xnet who where organizing revolt in such a case.
But on the whole, the story itself appealed very much to me. As a sysadmin all the concept where familiar to me, and it was great to see some of the fundamental ideals and ideas of the “darknet” being given a good run through. After Marcus breaks the story to the press, you know exactly how it will all end, but that doesn’t make it any less rewarding to see him vindicated.
What appeals to be most about this book is that I was emotionally very engaged with it. I directly shared Marcus’ anger and despair at was going on, the same way I get angry when I read about copyright legislation, and what the TSA forces on people at US airports. Many of the sentiments expressed in the book are also my own, including my disdain for the attitude that many people have of just sticking their head in the sand over these issues, and the authority figures who revel in the power these laws and rules give them. All of this is unsurprising considering the author, who I admire and follow even outside his novel-writing.
Despite some of its flaws, this is going on the list as one of my favorite books.
It arrived yesterday, and I am very impressed and very happy!
First, the pictures:
I am very impressed with the quality. The paper is a bright white and high quality. Illustrations are color printed and the maps are highly detailed, and the detail is not lost as the paper quality is so good. Each book is held in its own container that is tough cardboard.
Round about 1993, I went on a ski trip as part of my local scout troop. We when to the Czech republic, and had a really amazing time. I was about 13 at the time.
The older members of this troop, guys in their early twenties, one night organized a game on one of the mountains, amungst trees and deep snow. I cant remember what they called it exactly, but it was a simple role-playing game involving Orcs, Elves, Dwarfs, Men, and a curious folk of tiny people they called Hobbits. I honestly cant recall what race or character I got to play, and what exactly the rules where. I do however recall that I was fascinated by the depth of detail with which they spoke of this world, and how a set of books could be the basis for something one could get so passionate about to create a role-playing game with. I now of course understand these guys where obviously LARPers, and obviously big Tolkien fans.
The concept of “fan-dom” was not alien to me however. I was at the time, a huge “trekkie” and had even brought, as I recall, the Deep Space Nine technical manual with me on the ski trip. It was, however, the first time I realized that there where other worlds around, that people could get as passionate about, as i was about Star Trek. This was also not the first time I had heard of Tolkien, Middle-earth or Lord of the Rings. Through my Star Trek fan-dom, I had, in fact, already come across a curious song, written and recorded by Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock on Star Trek. Nimoy has recorded a number of albums in the 1970’s, and amongst those, a curious song called The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins. I remember seeing a clip of the music video of this song on one Star Trek documentary program, and being completely embarrassed about it. It was complete camp. Here is a Youtube version if you really want to see. I can not watch the dancing girls for more than 5 seconds before my brain shuts down.
Anyway, moving in geek-circles, especially later on the internet, one could not help but come across Tolkien and Lord of the Rings. I became aware of what it was, and that it was considered more or less compulsory reading for any serious fantasy fan or geek. Despite this, I never really got into it. Around about 2000, my mother bought the Silmarillion. The 1998 edition with art by Ted Nasmith.
This was probably due to the first Peter Jackson movie stirring up the first media hype. It was only then I realized my mother also had Lord of the Rings, a 1980 single-book printing.
I thought it first useful to start reading the Silmarillion, to understand some of back-story before I got into the other material proper. This was a mistake. The Silmarillion is proper literature from the beginning of the last century, and for someone who had hardly read anything yet, starting there proved to be a bit of a burden. I remember saying that getting through it was about as hard as understanding the bible properly. I switched gears and read The Hobbit and then proceeded to start on the Lord of the Rings some time later. By this time, the first Jackson movie had already been released, as i remember quite well I was so surprised at the difference in length in the “Council of Elrond” scene. But for some reason, I gave up not long after they set off from Rivendell. I never got back to it. I have always regretted this. Its been a serious bad mark on my geek-credibility that I am not more versed in Tolkien. The amount of in-jokes alone that you miss online and in games that reference Middle-earth.
Fast-forward to now. I am a huge fan of the movies, and own the three 4-disk extended editions, the soundtracks, etc. During my recent move, where I was forced to pack up all my books, I came across my Lord of the Rings again, which had been sitting for several years on a Shelf in my lodgers room. Of late, being out of work, I found myself without much to do. Also, I have recently resolved myself to start getting into some serious classical literature. So going back and finally actually reading Lord of the Rings seemed like a good place to start. My mothers 1972 version is pretty much coming apart now, and this past weekend I went and retrieved the 7-book set that was now in storage at my dads in Belgium.
As of this writing, I am about halfway into “Return of the King”, so almost done.
Completely coincidentally, my mother returned from the UK recently with The Children of Hurin, the hardcover version illustrated by Alan Lee.
I have resolved to finally take the plunge, and really familiarize myself with Middle-earth at large. The last few weeks I have slowly been coming to grips with the vast amount of Middle-earth material out there. Last night, I purchased a large amount of books, that more or less comes up to a complete Middle-earth collection.
First of all, my mother expressed the wish to have a boxed-set containing the 3 Lord of the Rings books, but including the Hobbit. There are several versions out there, but they are not common. I chose the 1999 released 4-book boxed hardcover set by HarperCollins, ISBN 0007105029, featuring illustrations by Alan Lee
To complete my own collection, I knew I needed the complete 12-volume collection “The History of Middle Earth”. This consists of the following books:
1. The Book of Lost Tales 1 (1983) 2. The Book of Lost Tales 2 (1984) 3. The Lays of Beleriand (1985) 4. The Shaping of Middle-earth (1986) 5. The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987) 6. The Return of the Shadow (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.1) (1988) 7. The Treason of Isengard (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.2) (1989) 8. The War of the Ring (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.3) (1990) 9. Sauron Defeated (includes The History of The Lord of the Rings v.4) (1992) 10. Morgoth’s Ring (The Later Silmarillion v.1) (1993) 11. The War of the Jewels (The Later Silmarillion v.2) (1994) 12. The Peoples of Middle-earth (1996)
To round of the collection, I wanted a good color atlas of all the Middle-earth maps. Again there are several to choose from, I went with the 2002 Houghton Mifflin revised addition by Karen Fonstad. I would have preferred the hardcover edition, but it doesn’t appear to be available.
I ordered this paperback version because its contains the nicest cover.
Sometime in the future, I shall need to buy my own, proper, hardcover versions of the Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion and the Children of Hurin. I don’t yet know which version I shall get of those. I love the illustrated versions and anything with Alan Lee is pretty much a done deal for me. However, I may one day fork up the $dollar required for this limited edition box set, if it is still available at the time.
If I want to get that one, I will have to do it in the next year or sooner, as its a 500 volume run only, and I am surprised they are still selling it.
So, I hope with these purchases to have erased my shame in not having familiarized myself with Tolkien long ago 😉 I can, once I have actually read the stuff, and read it again, walk proudly amongst my fellow geek and share the occasional inside quote.
rating: 5 of 5 stars
Amazing book. A little hard to get used to the style of the writing, I had to backtrack several times in the beginning to understand properly what was going on. You need to really keep your eye on the ball on this book to not loose track of events.
A lot of lingo to get used to, but luckily lots of it is already pervasive in internet culture, so that may be a problem more for other people 😉
I find the cyberpunk aesthetic extremely attractive. Its not the first time I have read stories in this style, “Otherland” being the example that comes to mind. I was a little surprised by how little of the story actually takes place in cyberspace. It was nice though, to see how human the main character “case” really is, there is absolutely not attempt to make him into any kind of hero. If anything, that role is reserved for his female counterpart.
The ending is, predictably, rather vague and doesn’t really conclude on anything specific. This book is part of a trilogy, and I look forward to reading the other 2.