HICSS Book Club 2005
Notes from our annual book club meeting
Every year at the Hawai'i Interational Conference on Systems Sciences, a few friends get together and talk about books. We swap stories about books we liked, and why. This note is the minutes from the get-together of Dan Russell, Wendy Kellogg, Christine Halvorsen, Tom Erickson, Katie Solomon, John Thomas.
Christine: Jennifer Government , Max Barry. Amazon review:
In the horrifying, satirical near future of Max Barry's Jennifer Government, American corporations literally rule the world. Everyone takes his employer's name as his last name; once-autonomous nations as far-flung as Australia belong to the USA; and the National Rifle Association is not just a worldwide corporation, it's a hot, publicly traded stock. Hack Nike, a hapless employee seeking advancement, signs a multipage contract and then reads it. He discovers he's agreed to assassinate kids purchasing Nike's new line of athletic shoes, a stealth marketing maneuver designed to increase sales. And the dreaded government agent Jennifer Government is after him.
Dan: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Cory Doctorow:
"My girlfriend was 15% of my age, and I was old-fashioned enough that it bugged me. Her name was Lil, and she was second-generation Disney World, her parents being among the original ad-hocracy that took over the managment of Liberty Square and Tom Sawyer Island..." I grew up near Disneyland and always dreamed of camping out on Tom Sawyer island overnight, so this neo-fantasy SF hit me right between the eyeballs of my mind. A collision of future techs, an envisionment of time to come... brilliant. It'll unstopper your writing style for weeks. [ DMR ]
Tom: The Briar King, Greg Keyes
The Briar King, Greg Keyes's latest elegant entry into the world of high fantasy, lays the groundwork for what promises to be a mesmerizing four-book series--the Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone. Keyes spins his tale in a meticulously crafted fantasy realm on the brink of apocalyptic change. The Briar King, a legend cobbled from children's stories and rural folklore, is waking from his slumber to an unknown but cataclysmic end. Dark agents are afoot in the land, stirring war and edging an ancient prophecy closer to fulfillment. In destiny's path are a king's woodsman, his headstrong lover, a bookworm priest, a cocksure swordsman, and the embattled (from within and without) kingdom of Crotheny. Keyes masterfully intertwines far-off courtly intrigue with the personal quest of the woodsman and his brave companions who seek to unravel the secret of the Briar King before all is lost.
Wendy: Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America, Garrison Keillor
"I AM A Democrat, which was nothing I decided for myself but simply the way I was brought up, starting with the idea of Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which is the basis of the simple social compact by which we live and also You are not so different from other people so don't give yourself airs, which was drummed into us children back in the old days when everyone went to public schools...." (First sentence of book)
Katie: Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, William Cronon
John: Under the Banner of Heaven: A story of violent faith Jon Krakauer
In 1984, Ron and Dan Lafferty murdered the wife and infant daughter of their younger brother Allen. The crimes were noteworthy not merely for their brutality but for the brothers' claim that they were acting on direct orders from God. In Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer tells the story of the killers and their crime but also explores the shadowy world of Mormon fundamentalism from which the two emerged. The Mormon Church was founded, in part, on the idea that true believers could speak directly with God. But while the mainstream church attempted to be more palatable to the general public by rejecting the controversial tenet of polygamy, fundamentalist splinter groups saw this as apostasy and took to the hills to live what they believed to be a righteous life. When their beliefs are challenged or their patriarchal, cult-like order defied, these still-active groups, according to Krakauer, are capable of fighting back with tremendous violence. While Krakauer's research into the history of the church is admirably extensive, the real power of the book comes from present-day information, notably jailhouse interviews with Dan Lafferty. Far from being the brooding maniac one might expect, Lafferty is chillingly coherent, still insisting that his motive was merely to obey God's command. Krakauer's accounts of the actual murders are graphic and disturbing, but such detail makes the brothers' claim of divine instruction all the more horrifying. In an age where Westerners have trouble comprehending what drives Islamic fundamentalists to kill, Jon Krakauer advises us to look within America's own borders. --John Moe