Walter Jon William's agent must despair over his refusal to stick to a marketable niche. The book before this one was cutting-edge Singularity-level pure science fiction. This Is Not a Game isn't describing new technology as much as a culture forming around something that could be done with today's technology. "Alternate reality games" already exist, but the story describes them as a major cultural activity, more popular than MMOs are now. MMOs are key to the plot as well. We get drawn into a tense mystery as our heroes and villians draw on their game fans to help them deal with real life problems. This one does have a sequel coming out and I'm looking forward to it.
I love the common science fiction theme of the small merchant ship wandering about and getting into adventures. Fantasy equivalents are scarce, so I was happy to stumble across Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy. Our heroes are folks trying to make a living, and sometimes having a very rough time of it. I still feel for the family putting up with the daughter's complaints about having to eat porridge, that being all they could afford until their ship came in. Though for something starting out on such a small scale the eventual plot twists of the trilogy were epic. As in "naming a key plot thread would be a spoiler" epic.
A Game of Thrones
kd5mdk's reaction to seeing me buy this book was "Don't get too attached to anyone." I'd heard that before. There's a lot of fans of this series out there so I've been wanting to check it out but the warnings have made me hesitate. Now that I've read it I understand both sides. It's a very well done book. But I just don't care enough about these people to go through hundreds more pages to find out what happens to them.
Be the Solution
An inspirational tract encouraging people to create new enterprises (profit or non as appropriate) to go solve a piece of the world's problems themselves. I'd love to do something like that. Unfortunately this book had no practical advice on how to do that. Something it completely avoided discussing was how to figure out if your attempt to do good would actually do some harm. There were examples of failed do-goodism such as fishing quotas but no ideas on how to test your idea for harmful consequences. But the spirit of doing something yourself instead of asking the government to do it is something I'm all for.
Hackers and Painters
Paul Graham's book does have a test for an idea's impact--see if anyone will pay for what you're offering. If not, find something else to offer them. It has lots of useful advice on how to do a start-up. Step one: Be a single, childless 20-something with a technical degree and no life. Step two: Find another one like you. I enjoy reading the rest, but I'm not getting much use out of it personally.