6 October 2008

Books I've read lately are Wyrd Sisters, which I'd actually read before, Night Watch and Making Money, all by Terry Pratchett, The House at Pooh Corner, by A A Milne, and The Extremes by Christopher Priest.

There doesn't seem to be much point in reviewing Terry Pratchett's disc world novels. Some I like better than others, but they're all good, a few are great, and every body loves them, so anything I have to say about them would be redundant.

Making Money, however, is particularly topical just now, with the current financial crisis spreading across the world.

"... Unforunately, people have rather lost their faith in banks."


"Because we lost their money, usually."

The only other book I've read about money is Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, which I loved. Stephenson is a very different writer to Terry Pratchett, but they both love information and they both reward the reader by providing a damn good read and a sense that there is a lot of really cool knowledge out there in the world. Pratchett, though, treats the knowledge lightly, almost tossing it aside in favour of jokes so that sometimes helps to know something of what he is talking about in order to appreciate his humour.

For instance, a vague awareness of the problems inherent in the notion of time travel helps when reading Night Watch, in which Vimes finds himself twenty years back in his past. Where a lot of people struggle with the paradoxes of time travel, Pratchett in this book shows how history might take care of itself.

Money, of course, is inherently amusing because so many people think that it is the real world, and so, every now and then when people stop believing in it, there is a crash. Then there is a kind of panic until people can be persuaded to believe in it again.

The problem with money is that it only works while it is in motion. It has to keep moving. This means that people have to keep earning money so they can buy things, and even be persuaded to buy things they don't want, so that the money never stops moving. If it stops moving, if it goes into a trunk under the bed, it is lost to the economy. It is out of circulation. Someone has stopped believing in it. There is an empty gap where it should have been, and the banks get cranky.

On a finite planet, how long can the economy be expected to keep expanding? Some one cleverer than me would have to work that one out.

The House at Pooh Corner is, of course, one of the classics of children's literature. Still, there were moments in it when I thought of Dorothy Parker's review of Milne: "Tonstant weader fwowed up." She was writing a review column under the heading "Constant Reader "at the time. Other stories in the book had me in stitches, though, and it was fun doing the different voices for the kids.

The Extremes by Christopher Priest was picked up from the library because it was high time I read some of Priest's work. My saner half suggested that this was not the best Priest book to start with, and he was probably right. I read it all fairly easily, and it is a very readable book, with only an occassional lull here and there. It is one of those stories, though, which, at the end, you realise you don't know what happened.

The plot of The Extremes concerns a woman named Teresa who has been trained by the FBI using extreme virtual reality scenarios. These scenarios involve sudden mass shootings. Teresa's husband was killed during such a shooting. After his death, she takes leave and visits an English town which had been subjected to a similar incident.

At the end, it is up to the reader to work out exactly for how much of the book Teresa was actually inside a scenario. So it you like that sort of puzzle, this is the book for you.

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