My brother, Steve, is once again organizing Esperanto-Tago, a day for everyone with a blog to post about language problems from their own perspective, bilingually–in their own language and in Esperanto.
Two years ago, all kinds of people posted on all kinds of topics–immigrants, children of immigrants, people whose native language has a small number of speakers, people whose languages are not supported by the culture where they live. Everybody has some language problems, if only wanting to connect with people with whom they don’t share a common language.
At the Esperanto-Tago page there’s support of various kinds, including support for hooking non-Esperanto-speakers up with volunteers willing to translate their post into Esperanto.
If you’ve got a blog, think about the language problems that you face, and consider writing a post for Esperanto-Tago.
So, Toby had a little contest, where he asked for captions for this picture of Pat Rothfuss in cat ears.
I’m not normally a contest sort of guy, but the prize this time was a copy of Sly Mongoose. I’m a fan of Toby’s work and had bought Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin in hardback, but my income has been a bit constrained since I became a full-time writer. I’ve cut back on book purchases, and Sly Mongoose was among the things I’d have liked to buy but hadn’t. So, I entered (with the caption shown), and I won!
When the book came, I set aside Anathem to read it right away. (Seriously. As I said, I like Toby’s work.) Here’s some thoughts.
I’m always a little cautious of books about a hyper-competent hero. It’s a kind of story that’s hard to do well. To provide some dramatic tension you either need hyper-competent villain or else you need to cripple your hero.
There’s nothing wrong with doing those things–you just need to do them in an interesting way. Toby’s efforts to cripple Pepper (both physically and emotionally) serve the purpose in a craftsmanlike way. But his villains are where the story really comes to life.
The floating cities of Chilo are in opposition, because it’s a hard place for humans to live–some are doing pretty well, while others are just getting by. In the greater universe, the Ragamuffins are in opposition to the Human League, because they have different visions for human progress. They’re both opposed to the alien Satraps (because they have a really different vision for human progress), but not every human is, because the aliens have a lot to offer an individual human. I’ll let you read the book to find out just whom the zombies are in opposition to (although I expect you can make a pretty good guess).
Because I’m me, I always notice whether a novel has the economic underpinnings done well, and Toby does a great job with that–the tough life in the floating city of Yatapek, and the better life in some of the more prosperous cities. It’s good stuff–illuminating the story, while staying in the background where it belongs.
If you like space opera, big battles, spiffy weapons, cool aliens (and cool alien places), and stories of tough people doing their best in difficult circumstances, Sly Mongoose is one of the best new books out there. Zombies are just an extra special bonus.
[Updated 2011-03-30: Because a lot of people come to this post on searches about Patrick Rothfuss, I wanted to mention that I talk a bit about him and his writing in my post Characters who learn.]
Ron has kindly let me host his fascinating peak debt paper on my site.
I take a quick look at the paper in my Wise Bread post on Peak Debt:
Is there a limit to how much Americans can spend? Clearly there is: All they earn, minus savings and service on their existing debt, plus new borrowing. Since the Bureau of Economic Analysis puts numbers on those very items, it’s possible to see just how close we are to the edge. In a fascinating paper, Ron Laszewski does exactly that. The results are rather depressing.
Whether you read my Wise Bread piece or not, if you can follow the math, I urge you to read Ron’s paper itself: peak-debt-pd-020708.
The posts after this are mostly old news—a side-effect of using a blogging tool as a site-management tool. I think it’ll be fine going forward, but getting the site set up entailed creating a flurry of posts to get all the old stuff into the right categories.
If I’d known what a distraction it would turn out to be, I’d probably have left the old site up for a while longer. I think there was only one day that I didn’t get anything done on the novel, but I there was nearly a week there when I was spending at least as much time on the website.
Still, it’s good to have a functional website again.