Archive for Terry Pratchett

a journal of the [downplayed] plague and [endless] pestilence year

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2022 by xi'an

Read another novel by Fred Vargas, the early This Night’s Foul Work which carries the usual Vargas’ themes more focussed on the psychology of the characters than on the police work, with no pretense at realism (from police work, to ignored regulations and procedures, to superhuman abilities of the improbable villein), and a rather simplistic (and surprising for a CNRS researcher) vision of regional idiosyncrasies. Again. (Maybe I am being thin-skinned because Normans are the targets this time.) Adamsberg, the main detective gets positively (or rather negatively) sleazy when spying on a romantic rival.

Read [in planes] The Traitor God sounded like an interesting plot when I picked it: a rogue mage, having left its order and city ten years ago, and coming to the rescue of old friends in trouble. However, the blob-like evil behind said trouble got particularly grotesque and absurd, till a ridiculous finale that was only the premise to a second volume. While sounding similar in concept, Paladin’s Grace proved much more enjoyable [in the same planes], if pure mindcandy (and hence hardly at level with a Hugo or Nebula Award). More a form of fantasy sleuthing than anything of a cosmologic scale (and no explanation as to why the god died), with a perfume-maker as the scientific police equivalent!  (But this is definitely not Süskind’s Parfum.) A bit heavy-handed on the romance part, though, with endless internal debates of both central characters. And also read The Maleficent Sevens, whose most redeeming quality is its title, as otherwise, I found little to enjoy there: the characters are not compelling, even in their maleficiency (facade grim only if this qualifies as grimdark fantasy), their motivation for (re)banding together is unconvincing, the magical abilities and actions hold no coherence, usual plot u-turns aplenty (like walking dead, krakens, subterranean demons), the naval battle is beyond stretching belief, contrary to the other (anti)heroes, the orcs are discriminated against in being the only ones to miss salvation in the final chapter, the dialogues are far from witty (far far away from Terry Pratchett if this qualifies as comic fantasy).

In contrast with my earlier light encounter with COVID, I attended a COVID funeral in Normandy a few weeks ago, which, besides the deep sadness of seeing a relative depart, made me question the general laisser-faire attitude about COVID, despite the dozens of thousands of daily cases (in France) and more than an hundred death. With hardly anyone wearing a mask in public transportation for instance. (In a cruel if not unexpected irony, some people attending the funeral later tested positive.)

Watched Hokusai in the plane to Santiago, and back, which I found a little bit stiff in its historical reconstruction and somewhat missing in getting the uniqueness and genius of Hkusai’s paintings. But interestingly bringing to light that paintings and sketches became somehow prohibited unless restricted to actors and courtesans, after the demise of the Tokugawa shogunate, during the Meiji Restoration. And un-enthusiastically completed the House of the Dragon, still lacking in scope. And in dragons.

good omens and bad jokes

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , on July 7, 2019 by xi'an

Following the news that members of a religious sect had petitioned Netflix not to show Good Omens as they deemed the story blasphemous, mistaking Netflix for Amazon Prime!, I could not resist but engage into watching this show. While having skipped reading the original book. as I am fairly tone-deaf when it comes to Terry Pratchett’s novels. And sometimes to Neil Gaiman’s as well. The story itself reminded me very much of the later Tad Williams’ Bobby Dollar series. Which did not impress me either. While I found the concept amusing and the construction of both central characters rather tolerable, the whole story is far from funny as a whole, even though a few lines are hilarious. I find it rather hard to feel any sustained interest in the general story and any worry for the characters. Especially since, to quote the Guardian review, “every character apart from the main two is tissue-paper thin”. And it once again comes to my feeling that satire does not carry that well into fantasy…

The CS detective

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on October 29, 2016 by xi'an

A few weeks ago, I received a generic email from No Starch Press promoting The CS Detective, and as I had liked their earlier Statistics Done Wrong, I requested a review copy of the book. Which I received in Warwick while I was there, last week. And read over my trip back to Paris. As it is a very quick read.

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” T. Pratchett

The idea of the book is to introduce some concepts of tree searching algorithms through a detective-cum-magic story, a very shallow story if somewhat à la Terry Pratchett. (While this reference does not appear in the book, there are enough mentions made of turtles to suspect the filiation. Even though it is turtles all the way down. Hence I could not swear Frank Runtime was 100% inspired from Sam Vimes. But it rhymes.) I cannot say I am a bit fan of this approach as the story is an hindrance rather than an help, I do not find it particularly funny or enticing, and I keep wishing for the next concept to appear to end the current chapter and its inane plot. Of course, once the story is set aside, the book contains not that much in terms of search algorithms, because they all are limited to discrete tree structures. Namely, exhaustive, binary, breadth- and depth-first, iterative deepening, best-first, search algorithms, along with the notions of arrays, queues, stacks, and heaps. This fills about 50 pages of technical vignettes found at the end of each chapter…

So I end up wondering at what age this book would appeal to a young reader. Trying to remember from my own experience with summer vacation riddle and puzzle books, I would think the range 10-12 could be most appropriate although mileage will vary. Since the author, Jeremy Kubica, animates the Computational Fairy Tales blog with stories of the same flavour, you may start by tasting and testing this approach to popular science before getting the entire book

Mort de Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , on March 13, 2015 by xi'an

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