Saturday, 22 November 2008

The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier

This is probably the most optimistic book I have every read and maybe one of the most important. If you have ever despaired of any hope rescuing the citizens of the world poorest countries from the cycles of poverty, corruption and violence into which they seem forever condemned then you should read this book. Paul Collier, an academic at Oxford provides in this short readable text, an analysis of the reasons why some countries are trapped into poverty. More importantly he suggests solutions. Most importantly of all his analysis and his solutions are not based on emotion or political rhetoric they are based on solid academic research. Yes there are traces of academic snobbery and perhaps even hubris in Paul's book but the fact remains that it is a hugely important and authoritative work. Read it.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Newton's Wake by Ken MacLeod

Hit and Miss. This technological singularity novel does a great job of describing a somewhat chaotic, anarchic post singularity universe. The survivors who have not given themselves over to post human state (the "rapture") live in a world littered with the technological debris of repeated singularities some malevolent, some benign. A case in point is a vast wormhole network ("The Skein") which is controlled by a feudal Scottish Clan who are the main protagonists of the story. While the universe McLeod constructs is rich and intriguing the story itself is a let down. It is quite confusing at times and even after I had figured out what was going on I felt that the confusion arose from lack of clarity rather than any great depth of storyline. Ultimately it is quite unsatisfying. If McLeod writes another novel in this rich universe he has created I will be tempted to try it but he will will have to do a better job of storytelling to satisfy this reader.