Monday, March 1, 2010


One of the things I have been doing in enjoying reading eBooks on my Pulse using Android App Aldiko. This is a pretty good eBook reader than can read any ebook on your phone microSD card or download new ones from the network via Wifi or GPRS/3G. One problem with Aldiko is that it keeps the phone awake so you need to quit it before you leave the phone is in standby or its byebye battery.

Using the phone is great becuase its small enough to fit in my jacket pocket, I'm carrying it anyway so can read at any spare moment and I can easily hold it in one hand, like a paperback. Take note, iPad designers. In fact, my wife, Marian, has an iPod touch and it does a similar job with the Stanza app. Also, there was a limit on the number of books we could import to China in our personal goods shipment, and of course a weight limit imposed by what my company would pay for, so eBooks bypass both of these restrictions.

Anyway, I've been reading some of the classic (i.e. free!) literature from Project Gutenberg because its high quality I'm cheap. Actually, there's also some modern stuff on there too, although this seems to consist mainly of scifi and romance novels. But maybe they know their market....

Here's a brief rundown of what I've read so far:


The Master of Ballantrae
Perhaps its shameful that as a Scot I've not actually read any RLS in book form before (although I did watch Muppet Treasure Island!). This is quite an interesting book and enjoyable in form although its more about mental anguish than pirates, despite the setting and plot.

This Kurt Vonnegut short story is an interesting speculation on a future where someone has to die to allow a baby to be born and voluntary euthansia has its own advertised hotline.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Not seen the movie of this, and this short story is another intriguing "thought experiment". Actually, you can see where Audrey Niffinger got her inspiration from in F. Scott Fitzgerald's work for "The Time Traveller's Wife". By the way, what is it with Rachel McAdams and ultra-weepies?

The $30000 bequest
This Mark Twain short story is again a thought experiment on what averice can do to people even when the money involved is entirely fictional and also in some ways could become a satire on the modern "virtual life" of social networking

The Napoleon of Notting Hill
GK Chesterton's story begins with an entertaining comment on predicitions of the future then proceeds to suppose one itself where democracy has been replaced by a depot-by-lottery. The new king then plays a joke on Britain by dividing London into fiefdoms and in doing so re-establishes nationalism which had supposedly been eliminated. There's an interesting exploration of the virtues and terrors of nationalism which the absurdity of the story highlights.

Life on the Mississippi
Not finished this yet, but its a fascinating autobiographical insight into Mark Twain's life. Perhaps American kids would have devoured's Twain's entire ouvre at school, but its mainly unknown to me apart from breif snippets of the Huck Finn stories on TV and the movie of the Yankee in King Arthur's court.


Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
OK, so off the classics into modern stuff. Cory Doctorow presents a story of self-destructiveness and what is effectively mad code-writing that will be familiar to any one who ever programmed. But its set in the future where money has been replaced by respect or "whuffie" and the whole future-tech-predicition thign just has a bit too much prominenence for my liking. And the plt end up pretty depressing, really. Perhaps it ends up as a tale of subtle high-school-like bullying more than anything else.

Eastern Standard Tribe

Cory Doctorow presents a story of someone's own self-destructiveness getting them into an insane asylum this time. However a somewhat happier ending brought about by the cleverness of the protagonist means that I enjoyed it more than Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Also, the technological futrue thing is far less prominent and more time is spent on characters, which is good. In short, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest meets Ocean's Eleven. Or something like that.

I, Robot
Cory Doctorow again with a short story on how Asimov's 3 rules would never hold up in a market-driven economy filled with crime. Interesting, but one of those short stories where you wish there was a bit more time to cover the story.

How to Disappear completely
Another story of self-destructiveness, but not by Cory this time. I got a bit down after reading this one, perhaps too many stories of self-destruction in a row. But not too bad, really.

Stories for Parents, Children and Grandchildren
A "toilet book" collection of very short stories, old wives' tales, ancient wisdom and bon mots. Not too bad if you like that kind of thing.

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