Ziring Book Pages - 4th Quarter '96 Reviews
These are the reviews from the fourth quarter of 1996. For
newer reviews, go back to the
main book page.
- Infinity's Shore
by David Brin -
Bantam Books (ISBN 0-553-10173-0 hc)
- This is book two of Dr. Brin's eagerly-awaited new trilogy. The first
volume, Brightness Reef,
was a stunning introduction, and Infinity's Shore carries the narrative
forward like a cresting ocean wave. A lot of the open questions from the
first volume are resolved, but many new ones are raised. Some fascinating
new characters are introduced, but most of the players here are old friends
-- deepened and realized more fully than in any of Brin's previous work.
The trilogy is built around the circumstances of the fallow world of Jijo,
and set against the tapestry of Brin's "Uplift" universe. The
crew of the starship Streaker (from the classic Startide Rising)
plan their daring escape from the planet, while the inhabitants struggle
against a mighty invader. The story is told in the first-person from the
individual viewpoints of a few main characters, the balance between the
various characters is very good, and their respective views of the events
taking place on Jijo is fascinating.
Is there any downside to Infinity's Shore? If there is, it would
be the extensive background that the reader needs before diving into the
story. Like any sequel, the first few chapters of this book contain lots
of flashbacks and other devices for filling in the background material;
it's good, but it probably isn't quite enough. To really enjoy the wealth
of themes and metaphors in this book, it is helpful to have read volume
one. Ambitious readers who go to the effort of consecutively reading Sundiver,
Startide Rising, The Uplift War, Brightness Reef,
and Infinity's Shore will be well rewarded -- and left with a fierce
anticipation of the trilogy's final volume.
- Conclusion: Highly recommended, go buy
the uplift books right now
- Graphics and Web Page Design by Lemay,
Duff, and Mohler - Sams.net Publishing (ISBN 1-57521-125-4)
- There are a lot of books around these days about HTML, web graphics,
web site design, and related topics. Sams.net's newest offering is very
flashy, with an almost magazine-like design and published in full color.
Two of the authors are professors of industrial design, and the third is
one of the most well-known names in web-oriented books. The book is packed
with useful advice, well-chosen examples, technical guidance, and helpful
tips. Organized as a series of lessons, the book guides the novice-to-expert
web page author though both design and production issues. It comes with
a companion CD that includes a softcopy edition of the newest edition of
Lemay's HTML book.
All this seems great, but the book doesn't quite fulfill its mission. There
are three reasons for this. First, the technical information in the book
is somewhat vague, sometimes incomplete, and occasionally inaccurate. Second,
the lesson structure is overdone, detracting from the real meat of the
subject without adding significant value. Third, the mission is just too
broad -- it is not possible to pack an entire course on web page design
and production into 340 extensively illustrated pages.
There are bright spots to Graphics and Web Page Design. Chapter
11 on avoiding the ten most common web page mistakes is very good, and
Chapter 8 about web site structure is invaluable. The reference book on
the companion CD is also very good.
- Conclusion: Recommended, but buying several more-specialized books
is probably better
- The Nature of Space and Time Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose
- Princeton University Press (ISBN 0-691-03791-4)
- The qualitative
structure of space and time is the subject of this detailed little volume.
Seven lectures comprise the debate recorded in the book: three lectures
each by physicist Stephen Hawking and mathematician Roger Penrose, and
one joint lecture. Each makes a convincing case for their point of view,
employing fairly little mathematics and relying for the most part on qualitative,
You can hardly go wrong owning a book by two such giants in the field of
cosmology, but the reading is not easy or simple. While the two Ph.Ds eschew
complex formulae in their presentations, they assume that the reader is
familiar with a broad range of modern physical and cosmological thought.
For the non-physicist, a basic introduction such as Hawking's A Brief
History of Time might be considered a prerequisite.
- Conclusion: Recommended, but some background may be necessary.
- The Mathematical Universe by William Dunham - John Wiley &
Sons (ISBN 0-471-53656-3)
- The great idea, history, and personalities that make up the universe
of mathematics is a very broad subject. Dr. Dunham approaches surveying
that territory for the reader in a very pragmatic way: alphabetically.
For each letter of the alphabet, a topic important to mathematics and loosely
associated with letter is presented (one chapter covers one letter). Most
of the selections are insightful, informative, and concise. For example,
the topic for the letter 'E' is Leonhard Euler.
The alphabetical approach works, but not especially well. The chapters
do refer to one another, but in general the book is a collection of 26
separate essays, some of them better than others. The sense of the majestic
sweep of mathematical progress, and the tension and fervor of the participants,
is not conveyed. (A better treatment is Davis & Hersh's The Mathematical
- Conclusion: Recommended for math history buffs
- Creating Great Web Graphics Laurie McCanna - MIS Press (ISBN
- This clever
and helpful little book presents dozens of techniques and recipes for creating
images -- in particular, images suitable for use on web pages. The reader
is presumed to have access to either one of Adobe Photoshop or Corel Photopaint,
professional-level imaging tools. While fairly specialized and technical,
the book is enjoyable to read because of McCanna's light prose, and because
of the excellent layout and color printing.
The only possible complaint I could level at this book is that it is a
little too specialized. Web page designers looking for a little more general
treatment might want to seek out Seigel's Creating Killer Web Sites.
- Conclusion: Recommended for serious web page designers
- Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook by Scott Adams
- HarperCollins (ISBN 0-88730-788-4)
- This is Scott
Adams' second business text, and is more clearly humor-oriented than his
1995 book The Dilbert Principle. This book provides guidance for
managers in how to:
- Look like a Manager
- Identify Potential Managers
- Pretend to Care
- Use their ESP
- Reorganize, and
- Enjoy Downsizing.
As a manager, clearly you need help with your difficult tasks. Dogbert
provides it, in the form of very clear guidance on a wide range of topics.
Many of the recommendations are supported by Dilbert cartoons that show
the beneficial effect of, for example, creating a false sense of urgency.
This is a funny book, but it works best for somebody how can relate closely
to Dilbert's cubicle-filled workplace and his frustrations. The book is
fairly well organized, but the themes become a little heavy at times. The
cover illustration is hilarious. The Dilbert cartoons support the text
effectively. Adam's distinctive wit is more clearly exposed in his prose
than it can be in the dialog bubble of the daily strip. But ultimately,
this second book is not as good as its predecessor.
Conclusion: Recommended for hard-core Dilbert fans
- IDORU by William Gibson - Putnam's
Sons (ISBN 0-399-14130-8)
- It is difficult
to describe a book written by William Gibson at his best. Somehow, you
just know the quality of the vision that unfolds as you turn the pages,
just as the protagonist Colin Laney knows a nodal point when he finds one.
The basic plot outline of the book resembles that of some of Gibson's other
books: a couple of main characters caught up in events bigger than themselves,
winding their way through a technically advanced and frentically paced
The other main character, Chia, is a Seattle fan of the band Lo/Rez. She
finds herself in Tokyo trying to track down rumors of impending marriage
between rocker Rez and Japanese entertainer Rei, the Idoru.
As the forces surrounding Chia and Colin Laney surge forward over the real
urbanscape of Tokyo and the virtual realities of the net, the book becomes
a real page-turner. Prophetic, gripping, and insightful, Idoru shows
the edge that made Gibson famous.
Conclusion: Don't miss it
- Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card
- Tor Books (ISBN 0-312-85395-5)
- This new novel from Card is the conclusion of a long and involved story
that begins with the classic Ender's Game (1977), and continues
in Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide. The story centers around
Ender Wiggin, a child in the first book, and middle-aged in the other three.
The plots, characters, and themes in all of Card's work are complex, and
the Ender book are no exceptions. Children of the Mind takes up
right where Xenocide leaves off; and the resolution of the big open
issues from Xenocide dominate this new story.
- Synopsis of the plot of this book would be very difficult, but basically
it involves two sets of main characters each involved in related quests
to save a world and a friend, and also for their own identities. Understanding
the plot and characters of this book pretty much require you to read the
other books of the series first - for a fourth book of a series, only
a modest amount of background material gets introduced. Children of
the Mind is well written, thoughtful, and deep. Unfortunately, it is
also somewhat slow-paced and introspective. It's a good book for fans of
Ender Wiggin and his friends, but probably not worth the price of the hardcover
- Conclusion: recommended only for solid Card fans, everybody else
should wait for the paperback edition.
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Ziring, last modified 1/17/97.