Posted in Book review

Book review: Lexicon by Max Barry

LexiconLexicon by Max Barry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Are you a cat person or a dog person?
What’s your favorite color?
Do you love your family?
Why did you do it?

Answering those four simple questions enables someone who has been expertly trained in the art of persuasion to tag you, bag you, and manipulate you into doing anything, anything at all, simply by speaking a few words. Or so says Max Barry in this lightning-fast paranoid fantasy of a novel.

Some years ago, Emily Ruff, a teenage runaway living on the streets of San Francisco by her wits and a facility for sleight-of-hand, is recruited to enter an exclusive school for the purpose of training her to use words as weapons in the manner described above. She’s rebellious and disdainful of authority and the curriculum, but avoids being expelled because Eliot, the operative who recruited her, defends her and her capabilities to the higher-ups.

Then things go awry. And I mean awry in a destructive, deadly fashion.

Meanwhile, in the present day, Wil Parke is abducted in broad daylight and administered the test questions listed at the top of this review, but he then fails to follow the instructions he is given by his abductors. “Yep, he’s the one,” they conclude and drag him off to parts unknown, where he is informed by Eliot of a mission he must fulfill because he’s the only one immune to “the Word.”

The story bounces back and forth between Emily in the past and Wil in the present, and eventually leads the reader to the connection between them, and something horrific that happened in a remote Australian town.

In between, we are treated to multiple examples of how the information and personality traits we inadvertently reveal through conversation and those seemingly-innocuous online quizzes can be turned against us. It’s enough to make one’s skin crawl.

Max Barry has a gift for plot-driven stories that move forward at Warp 10 but still manage to give the reader decently-realized characters and generally plausible storylines. Lexicon is no different. I picked this book up at the library yesterday afternoon, spent about two hours reading it while having a pedicure, and then another two hours while waiting for my car to be serviced, then finished the last 60 or 70 pages left this morning. I thought it was great fun. And more than a little creepy.

And I doubt I’ll be taking any more of those stupid quizzes that get posted to Facebook.

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Posted in Book review

Book review: Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

Perdido Street StationPerdido Street Station by China Miéville
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Seriously, just wow.

Isaac, a scientist living on the fringes of respectability in the sprawling polluted city of New Crobuzon, works quietly on his theories and experiments in the warehouse-turned-laboratory he shares with two other scientists. He meets his friends for drinks and dinner and debate; and he revels in his secretive relationship with his lover, Lin. Lin, an artist, an outcast member of the Khepri, an insectoid race, struggles to come to terms with her self-imposed exile while she navigates a society filled with prejudice and bigotry.

Both of them accept commissions from strangers: Isaac is engaged by one of the Garudi, a bird-like race, to replace his lost wings; and Lin is employed by an underworld crime boss, an individual who has undergone so many surgeries and body enhancements that no one can determine what his original race may have been, to sculpt his monstrous life-size likeness. These commissions shatter Lin’s and Isaac’s quiet lives and lead them down, literally, into the city’s murky depths along unexpected and dangerous paths.

Perdido Street Station is astonishing, brilliant, frightening, grotesque, sickening, disturbing, and jaw-droppingly amazing. The reader is plunged headlong with Lin and Isaac into the rabbit warren of New Crobuzon’s slums and ghettos, where he lives and breathes and struggles and fights next to the human and non-human denizens of those squalid neighborhoods oozing with magic and technology and crime and grime and gore and the occasional glitter of kindness.

A book like this may not be for everyone, and it’s certainly not an easy read, both vocabulary-wise — I had to resort to my dictionary more than once — and content-wise, but it’s well worth making the effort. Don’t miss it.

(For mature audiences only. Contains adult language and explicit sex.)

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Posted in Knitting, Project planning, Yarn stash

Inspiration Saturday, after a fashion

At the time I write this, it’s shortly before 1PM Eastern Daylight Time.

I’ve been up since 4:30. That’s AM.

My husband snores like a freight train. *sigh*

© Debbie Bliss Knitting Magazine
© Debbie Bliss Knitting Magazine
But I’ve tried to put the time to good use. A few days ago, I started making a little lace shrug, using a bright turquoise cotton DK I’ve had in my stash forever. The pattern I chose (pictured left) isn’t exactly what I want, but it’s the closest thing to what I want that I found while searching Ravelry. I’m not even two inches into the project yet, and I’m already not liking the pattern. This is now the third time I’ve started something with this yarn and started hating it (the pattern, not the yarn) before getting very far. It’s rather frustrating.

Why am I so determined to make this yarn into a lace cardigan? I have a sleeveless dress that is in desperate need of a cover-up to make it suitable to wear on camera. Ultra pima 1And besides, who couldn’t use a turquoise blue lace cardi? The yarn, by the way, is Cascade Ultra Pima. It knits beautifully, and I will find the right pattern for it, or die trying.

So, while I was awake in the wee hours of the night, I started searching Ravelry again, and expanded my parameters somewhat. Free patterns or in my library; 3/4 sleeve, V-neck, buttons optional, DK or sport-weight, leave off the yardage limit, leave off the lace requirement, but specify plant fibers rather than animal fibers. Maybe I’d find a coat or a tunic-length cardigan that I could shorten and adapt to meet my yardage requirements. And I found something. Still not exactly what I want, but in my bleary-eyed befogged state, I saw past the pattern and into the nebulous realm of …

© Vogue Knitting
© Vogue Knitting
(cue dramatic music)

Design!!

Or at least major modifications.

I looked at this coat and ticked off the things I don’t like: Can’t stand the lace patterns, and it’s waaaaayyyy too long. But it has a V-neck, buttons, and 3/4 sleeves. I pulled the magazine off the shelf and read the pattern. Okay, I see the spot where I can cut off the bottom two-thirds of the coat and turn it into a cropped cardi. What about the lace pattern? Next I pulled a stitch dictionary off the shelf. And I found a lace pattern that will work with the number of stitches needed for the back…but not the front. Wait, what if I…? And here’s where the calculator came out.

A rough sketch has been made. No, you can’t see it because my drawing skills are crap. The rough dimensions and a preliminary stitch count are calculated for a cardigan in my size. The rest of the math is still pending because a swatch has yet to be knitted.

In between all this calculation, I’ve eaten breakfast and weeded the backyard (spouse helped with both).

Now, I’m hot, sweaty, and tired, but a little exhilarated. I think a shower is in order, and then I’m going to resume work on the Debbie Bliss cardigan. Because I read that pattern again, too, and realized my frustration and dislike was due to a misreading of a particular line in the written lace instructions. (This is why I prefer charts.) I’ve tinked back to the beginning of the error and will start afresh. And continue the design work a little later on.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress on all fronts.