other stuff


books, books, books

21:01 25/10/2004

Dear Reader,

over the last several weeks I have been able to get through a reasonable quantity of books. All have been of the highest quality. The number of books to read in my Summer Reading List has been shortened and I have read some of the books that inspired The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It is perhaps those books in particular that I enjoyed the most, King Solomon’s Mines, Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

However, it is not these books that I wish to talk about now. No, it is rather the latest book that I have finished, Silicon Snake Oil by Clifford Stoll. This was a most interesting book, describing the problems that the author could see with the Internet and the consequences of this new technology at the time of writing in 1994. At first, it was not the most thrilling read, indeed I often found myself scoffing at the points that he made. However, as the book progressed, Stoll appears to have found his voice once more as he relates anecdotes, tying them into the points he wishes to make.

The earlier chapters deal primarily with technical issues, what I would consider implementation issues. which whilst in 1994 may have been relevant, I now consider to be obsolete. The later chapters are much more interesting, dealing with the effects on society rather than on the network itself. Indeed, in his conclusion, Stoll sums it up rather well.

At first, I wanted to think about technical issues. But I found myself returning to the same themes: real life and authentic experience mean much more than anything the modem can deliver.

All in all, the book was very enjoyable with good ideas, which are still very relevant to this day. Many of his ideas resonated with me and there is still much to be afraid of with regards to the effects the Internet and computers are having on our societies.

The other book, I wanted to talk about is Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. This was a book that I have been meaning to read for a while, but also one that I have to some extent been dreading. My dread was well founded it would appear. The book is superbly written, truly a masterpiece and a classic, but it is also the one book that has instilled a true sense of terror, horror and disgust in me. I have no intention of ever reading this book in its entirety again. It was singularily one of the most unenjoyable experiences of my life, a great and worthwhile experience but completely lacking in enjoyment. There is no fun to be had in this book, it is truly horrifying!

When one hears Big Brother these days, it is synonymous with surveillance. That as far as I am concerned is nothing!! Surveillance was the least of the problems of Ingsoc, there were far greater issues that I am far more scared of than somebody watching me constantly. While I understand that the constant surveillance or appearance of it was a large part of the means that the Party was able to achieve its goals, I was more worried about the goals themselves and the other concepts that they introduced such as Newspeak and doublethink! Most frightening was the basis of society in Oceania on hatred and fear and the complete lack of hope. Those things fill me with more disgust and horror than anything else I have ever come across!

Nineteen Eighty-Four continues to be a relevant book for today’s society. Indeed, post 2001 it seems ever more relevant, which is not the nicest thought going. I watched Fahrenheit 9/11 the other day, in which Michael Moore reads a quote from the book. I find it interesting, not only because one can see so many parallels between the world of 1984 and the world we live in, but rather because shortly after September 11th 2001, I remember vividly seeing some panel on CNN or Fox News in which a guest made a distinct warning of what was to come, relating the US directly to the world of Oceania. It’s very sobering to see some of what he warned against coming true.

The Writer.

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