The 67th World Science Fiction convention is Anticipation 2009, being held at the Palais des congrès in Montreal.
It’s a big convention, and will be held from August 6th-10th. The Academic Track is run by Dr. Graham J. Murphy from Trent University, and Chrissie Mains, an instructor at University of Calgary and Mount Royal College in Calgary. My paper, “Modernizing the Difference Engine” has been accepted, and I will be attending Anticipation in August.


Last week, I finished reading Mainspring, a clockpunk novel by Jay Lake.  It is a quest/coming of age story, and while the introduction to the quest seemed a little abrupt and cliched, this didn’t detract from the story. Awkward mechanics in the opening hook can be dangerous, but it was over quickly enough to focus on the story at hand.

The quest is rather simple. Hethor must rewind the clockwork that keeps the Earth rotating around the sun. The consequences of failure are absolute.

The story includes several steampunk elements. Victoria reigns over the British Empire. Airships fly over the land. The main character is not quite a scientist, but as a clockmaker’s apprentice, he carries many of the same traits.

Like many steampunk stories, Mainspring provides a platform for social criticism. The most obvious case in Mainspring is the place of religion and faith. Mainspring takes place in a world created by a higher being, in which the artificial construction of the world is obvious for all to see. In the world which Lake has created, formalized religion has a more prominent place than in today’s society. As evidence of a higher power is clear for all to see, it is much more difficult to deny. Mainspring is critical of some aspects of formalized religion. As it becomes more organized, the basic tenents of the faith have become obscured. Thrust out of society, Hethor must come to terms with his faith.

Mainspring also provides a criticism on gender inequality, as Hethor encounters several independent women on his journey who surpass his expectations. The expected roles are defined by the dominant religious views in the world.

A final theme explored in the book is that of British colonialism. Hethor is press-ganged into the Royal Navy, and joins a colonial expedition to the south. The projection of Britain’s power into new areas is one that clearly mirrors our own history.

Mainspring is a very enjoyable read. I look forward to seeing what Lake has been up to in Escapement, the sequel to Mainspring.

Book meme

So, I came across a book meme that I thought I’d contribute to.

What was the last book you bought?

A Canticle for Liebowitz, by Walter M. Miller Jr.

Extraordinary Engines, edited by Nick Gevers

Name a book you have read MORE than once

Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?

Not fundamentally, but there’s a great deal that has changed the way I think.

How do you choose a book – eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews

Recommendations, reviews, and awards definitely have an impact. The publication history of an author, or similarities to another author already on my reading list helps as well.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

I prefer fiction, but I catch the odd non-fiction as well.

What’s more important in a novel – beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

This is an interesting question, as entirely different styles of writing can be considered beautiful. There is ornately crafted prose, heavy with imagery, as well as simple but effective prose. Plots can be unique, or run of the mill, but still interesting. What I need most in novels that I read is an interesting idea or concept. Something that keeps me thinking about it after I’m done reading.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)

Alessan from Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay. Definitely a memorable character.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?

Blindness, by Jose Saramago

Neuromancer, by William Gibson

Steampunk, edited by Vandermeer and Vandermeer

Extraordinary Engines, edited by Nick Gevers

The Savage Humanists, edited by Fiona Kelleghan

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?

This happens on occasion. Since I usually read more than one book at a time, the more compelling books are finished first. A few books never make it back to the top of the queue.

Your Turn

What are your favorite books? Play the meme if you want to (by copying the questions and answering them on your own blog). Or answer here.