Accelerando (Charles Stross)

Erm, what to say about this book. Probably “Wow!”, but my head is a little overstuffed with new concepts to be sure. This book pretty much explains the progress from modern day along to post human spread amongst the universe. This could be read as a precursor to “glasshouse” although I’m glad I read glasshouse first. For some reason this book didn’t have a table in the front explaining the future system of measuring time. Part way through the book time is measured in seconds and kiloseconds instead of our current seconds, minutes and hours. By the end of the book, T Gates and A gates (that featured in glasshouse) seem logical outcomes of our society, along with a new definition of life and consciousness that lasts beyond centuries (not that they are measured the same way any more).

It’s a story that has many threads of sub story within it and an ending so open I’m left in anticipation of finding out what happens to the cat. A good read, if a little hard work in places.

Family trip to Dickens World.. hmmm

Yesterday Nicola and James’ school had a teacher training day, so the four of us drove to Chatham to visit the newly opened Dickens World. My summary: One visit is enough.

The boat ride had audio that couldn’t be heard (I’m assuming there was some meaning to it), and involved getting very wet. So wet that as we got out two members of staff were drying seats for the next person. The saving grace was they were handing out cheap plastic poncho’s, although they ran out after us so people later that day would have been using our wet ones. My impression would be the ride was designed by committee, the splash not big enough for thrill seekers, the other 10 minutes of floating not good enough to be of any interest (for entertainment or education).

Faggins Den is a children’s play area, I can imagine it was packed when the place was full but while we were there it was comfortably quiet. Unfortunately only half a dozen chairs for waiting adults (with what I would guess is a capacity of 50 chilldren) but good fun for the children for a half hour at least.

The haunted house was a projection system of Dickens ‘ghosts’, the characters in many of his stories. It did have some interesting commentary on how the characters had come about though. As our group moved from one screen to the next, we missed the cue to move on and missed half of one presentation.

The Olde Curiosity Shoppe, was the gift shop on the way out. The normal array of theme park souvenirs, more modern shop floor area with plenty of room to expand and not very much of curiosity value.

Dotheboys school was probably more fun if there was a member of staff on hand to control the room. We wandered in, played a game of snakes and ladders on the touch screen desks with the children (they had to answer questions about Dickens novels to go up the ladders or to prevent themselves going down the snakes). Nicola got bored after 5 minutes and went to look at the touch screen on the ‘teachers lectern’, little did we know that one controlled all the others and she stopped all the other players in mid game and restarted their screens – Sorry everyone!

The Britannia Theatre was probably the most informative bit. It’s a 3D glasses cinema screen and it gave a 10 minute run down of Dickens life and works. I didn’t know he’d travelled so far – travelling for months and years at a time across Europe and America. At bit different to travelling now, in the 1840’s the only way to travel to America was by steam ship – not a quick way of travel. Someone compared it to the 3D screens at Eurodisney and the like which have water, steam and vibrations. This is nothing compared to them, only the screen and no physical effects. I liked it, although I’d have liked it for it’s content without the 3D glasses which gave me a little eye strain (Yes, I know, I sound like an old man).

So, one trip with the children is enough for me. I’m glad I went but I (pun alert) won’t saying Please may I have some more (pun ends). Perhaps I had (another pun) too Great Expectations (how predictable was that pun!). The general decor, lighting, theme parkesque leaning buildings were all well done. There’s a large central plaza which I guess handles space for hour long queues, the odd fictitious shop front and creative themed sign – all well done. As for value for money, it cost us as a family of four 40. That’s OK I think, compared to Thorpe Park (88) it’s a shorter day so pretty comparable.

The children have asked to go back to the Canterbury Tales. It’s an attraction in a converted church in Canterbury. We haven’t been there for a few years so it will probably make an interesting contrast. Canterbury Tales is only 26 for a family, although that cost would have to be countered by running the gauntlet of shops with Rhonda. I guess the “Marks and Spencer” experience would double that ticket price….

I jest. Seriously, I’m still reading Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities”. I first started it at the school library in “H” Block as a young teenager. Now, half a time later I have it on my PDA and am a good way into it. I find it a hard style to read (harder still on a PDA screen) but the story itself is …. satisfying. Not sure I can describe my feelings fully. Sometimes heart breaking, sometimes fascinating (the description of leaving Dover by horse drawn carriage), hard work to read but satisfying.

So is it worth visiting Dickens World? Yes, but if you’re travelling a long way plan to visit the Chatham Historic Dockyard too.

3001 (Arthur C. Clarke)

3001 – The Final Odyssey.
It may have helped if I read the previous 2 books. It may have helped more if I had seen more than snippets of the film (I only recall something about a computer called HAL that takes over). So, despite starting the series with the last book first, I loved it! 3001 is the year the book is set in. Arthur C Clarke manages to bring back a character from the first book (2001, set in 2001) in a truly believable way. The monoliths that (I guess) featured heavily in the first 2 books reveal an unexpected purpose to our thousand year old central character. The whole book is full of imagination of how our future could turn out, good things and bad. A high rootie-rating for this book, definitely worth reading (i really must get round to creating a rating system!)