Further reading

Last weekend I did no work at all, despite being at home, as it was our wedding anniversary, and Beloved and I wanted to spend some time together for once. He did succumb to the lure of motorsport at various points, bless ‘im, though this gave me a chance read a bit more of the books I was on about earlier.

I’ve got an admiration verging on envy for people who can read a book every couple of days (though I’m less attracted by the consequent need, observed in several friends, to extend their houses to accommodate their books). However, even when I do allow myself more than the usual twenty-minutes-before-sleep to read, I make slow progress. In my defence, I should say that Alistair Reynolds does not write short books (though they’re not as long as some British SF writers I could name).

I’m now about three-quarters of the way through The Prefect and I’m really enjoying it. This hasn’t been true of everything of his I’ve read, an admission I feel faintly embarrassed making, both because his combination of big ideas and human stories is what I look for in my SF and because I was flattered, and a little stunned, when a critic recently compared my work to his. Much as I wanted to like everything he’s done I really didn’t get on with his earlier stuff, but recently he’s started producing some corkers. Century Rain, with its noire edge was the turning point for me, and if The Prefect delivers half what it’s promising at the end, it’ll surpass it.

I’ve been making slower progress with Sheldrake’s A New Science of Life. About a third of the way in and he’s spent most of the time demonstrating how many changes and developments that occur in the physical world can’t be explained by scientific causality. A lot, apparently, which is interesting, but as Beloved, who is a statistician by training, explained over dinner*, he’s quite selective in his examples. Of course, he’s hardly going to be able to fully explain even these selective examples, and nor does he aim to; all he can really do is demonstrate a pattern to the underlying mystery, i.e. that once something occurs it is more likely to occur in the same way again, and give it a cool name – Morphic Resonance.  If he starts to posit why this is so, then he risks being hoisted aloft in triumph by the Intelligent Design posse, despite his avowed attempts to keep his reasoning rigorously scientific.

(*For some reason we always end up talking about brain-expanding scientific concepts over our anniversary meal; so much so that I think I may be developing some sort of Pavlovian hardwired link between astrophysics and champagne).

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