Google I/O is on right now and the keynote address yesterday left me goggle-eyed and drooling. Basically, we're on the cusp of a personal AI in every pocket. Of an honest-to-God holodeck in every home. Or field. Or wherever you want one.
The video below is nauseatingly slick, for all that it'll rob you of less than three minutes of your life. But look out for the bit where the little boy is interacting with Google Assistant -- at about 1:06. It's mind-blowing. Anybody who says this is "just Siri" or "just Amazon Echo" is badly missing the point...
Absolutely everything in this video is possible right now.
MORE REVIEW GOODNESS
I'm delighted to say that great reviews for The Call keep pouring in. Belfast's Culture Hub magazine compared my work to sources as diverse as Goya and The Manic Street Preachers. The verdict? "Highly Recommended".
Why, yes, since you ask. I am happy :)
- Current Mood: cheerful
Some time ago, I wrote a post about meeting Michael Swanwick at Boskone. I gushed a little about his novel, "The Iron Dragon's Daughter".
For some, like John O'Neill of blackgate.com, that wasn't bloated, long-winded or gassy enough. He persuaded me to write a full review.
Well, it's up right now -- on the actual INTERNET!!!
Don't be too astounded!
Hopefully tomorrow, I'll have another Reading/Watching post...
LuxCon? I really have nothing to say that I haven't said in previous years. A lovely Con run by lovely people. They always have the coolest guests of honour. This year's English language GOH was Belfast's own Ian McDonald of whom you have seen me rave on this page more than once. It was great to hang out with him and Wolfgang. It was even better to eat frites and to star on the winning team of the table quiz -- take that Mancunicon!
I've just completed David Mitchell's Black Swan Green.
It's yet another one of those books about growing up in the '80s, with all the usual elements -- you know, the music, the video games; awkward discos; casual racism; dodgems. So, yeah, more of the same except that it is astonishingly well written with tremendous characterization. I loved it by the end and especially appreciated the slight aftertaste of magic realism that threw everything else into relief.
Whether you're a refugee from the '80s, or simply a wannabe, Black Swan Green carries Peadar's highest recommendation.
I also found time to reread Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter. More of that another day...
But I can share this evening's review of The Call from the very influential blog, The Wertzone.
"It's a short novel at 320 pages, but it moves fast, is extremely bloody-minded and has a body count that might make even George R.R. Martin wince. It's also very smart, with its premise and "rules" interrogated by the characters as much as by the reader, and tremendously adult. It may be marketed as a "YA" book but it does not pander to presupposed juvenile tastes. It treats its audience with respect and credits them with intelligence."
Yeah, any paragraph that has both my name and GRRM's in it is one I'll be taking out of the scrapbook in years to come and fondling in a very creepy fashion...
The interview seemed to go down well and Ian was still speaking to me afterwards, which is always a plus. And necessary too, because later that night we had to perform an hour of improv comedy together along with Jo Playford and Roz Kaveney.
Those two events left me entirely without energy for the next few days, but that's all good. I spent my time wisely, by dining in great company, by manning the Dublin 2019 desk, and, for the first time in more than a decade, by playing a game of D&D with Adrain Tchaikovsky and a hilarious, wise, insane, bizarre band of adventurers. You know who you are and may the Gods of Chaos have pity...
No sooner had the game given way to silence, than another group, the infamous "Czech M8s", tricked me into taking part in a table quiz. Did we win? No. Did we come last? A little. Define "last". In some cultures, losing by a huge margin is considered a sign of modesty and beauty. *cough*
On the final day, I found myself on a panel about "Reading My Enemy". Nick Larter kept the whole thing flowing smoothly. The audience challenged us with great questions, and before I knew it, I was pelting for my room in order to check out in time.
The hotel staff smiled in the appropriate manner. They set out a decent vegetarian breakfast too, which shocked me -- in a good way.
Nor did the heart of Manchester itself shy away from providing magnificent food of all kinds. I had an amazing desert in 1847, for example. Rich, delicious and even decadent. That last word in particular is not something a vegan gets to say very often, but there you have it.
Anyway, I haven't named many names here. I hope my friends know how I feel about them. If not, ask! Answers will be provided within 21 days.
August 30 is the on-sale date.
- Current Mood: accomplished
But the truth is that I swap favourites around in my head every single minute of the day.
One of those books that often flies to the very top, however, is Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter. It's the story of a girl stolen off to a fantasy world that somewhat resembles Middle Earth. Or would do, if Middle Earth had developed modern technology.
It's a land where sentient, Iron Dragons rain fire down on the Kingdom's enemies. Where grinning elves, sporting machine guns, pose for photos on piles of dead orc civilians. Where a shy boy nervously asks a girl on a date -- to a public evisceration.
It's witty, humourous, beautiful, shocking and amazing. It's all the adjectives, and if we allowed adverbs in this part of the world, they'd be in there too, fighting for a place at the top table.
So, yeah. Much love.
Now, imagine my reaction when, by complete chance, I found myself sitting opposite the author at a table at Boskone. I didn't embarrass myself. I didn't! Calmly, without shaking, I got him to sign his latest book. I admitted a slight admiration for The Iron Dragon's Daughter, and for its equally brilliant semi-sequel, The Dragons of Babel.
He smiled. Gave no indication of impatience. Wore a dangly earring. He mentioned in passing that he might just be writng a third Dragon book.
"Yes, yes, very good," said I, a man of the world.
But already, I'm counting down the days...
And what have I been up to since my return with magic in my eyes? Reading, of course. Watching, indeed.
As expected, I greatly enjoyed Adrian Tchaikovsky's The Tiger and the Wolf. Many of you will too. He achieves that wonderful trick that Bernard Cornwall got so right in his Winter King trilogy, of making the divine seem both real and delusionary all at the same time. The characters believe it. The readers believe it. But there's very little actual evidence for the miracles we witness.
The book is set in a world where bronze is just starting to give way to iron and where every single human being has the power to shape shift into the spirit animal of their tribe. Tchaikovsky -- or, as I call him, Adrian -- takes full advantage of this, filling every action scene with tactics based on both human and animal abilities.
The characters are great. Emotions? Yes! Moral dilemmas? For sure. Complex relationships? You will find them here.
But as with people, so with books: when I've used them up, taken the best from them, I move right on, whistling and skipping, with a song in my heart.
Up next is the Boskone anthology, The Grimm Future, in which I have a story of my very own. As you might guess from the title, the tales within are based on those collected by the brothers Grimm.
Halfway through, it's been fun so far. Atmospheric. There are lots of... forests. Giants.
Just a quick note to say... Better Call Saul. Seriously, one of current TV's most loveable and pitiful characters. Slyly funny. Ridiculous. I'm glad Netflix are only releasing one a week, or I'd have the whole thing watched already and be pining for more.
The Knick is back for season two. It's still good. Still messed up. But now that the novelty factor of season one is wearing off, I'm wondering if I can still call it "great"? Definitely worth your time, though.
Vinyl, a new show about the record business in the 70s takes about 45 minutes to get into. But now that I've seen a good two hours, I find myself falling in love. We follow a bunch of hardened, drugged up cynics -- think, to a lesser extent, "Wolf of Wall Street". But after a while, you begin to realise that the main character -- a total waste of a human being -- genuinely ADORES music and everything about it. It gives heart to something that could have been just another Entourage.
Can't wait to see more!
Also, Better Call Saul is back!
I very much enjoyed Prentice and Weil's Black Arts. It's a YA fantasy about a thief in Elizabethan London. I know, I know, you think you've seen this movie before. But this has a delightful creepyness about it -- just read the prologue in the Amazon free sample chapters.
I also like how when the main character messes up, the consequences are often very severe. It brings out the peril, I find, oh yes.
Next up, will be Adrian Tchaikovsky's The Tiger and the Wolf. I always look forward to his work, until I find, all too soon, that I'm looking back at it.
I got the first draft of The Cauldron done in time for Boskone! I'm delighted with myself, although I left so many messes behind me that fixing them will have me cursing like a sailor for months to come.
I'll see some of you very soon. And some of you much later.