Tag Archives: mathematics

The Atrocity Archives

Author:Charles  Stross

Laundry Files, vol. 1

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience, mostly for language

At first glance, Bob Howard seems like a pretty typical IT guy–smart, sardonic, harried by the incompetence of the computer-illiterate in his organization and the demands of his managers. That is, until you consider the fact that he works for a secret government organization whose sole purpose is to protect the world from eldritch entities invading from alternate realities. And Bob’s life is about to take a turn for the weirder as he, bored with desk duty, volunteers to be put on active service. There’s no telling what horrors he’ll run into next.

So, I’ve heard some really mixed reviews about this book, and honestly the author in general. I have to say, for myself, I enjoyed The Atrocity Archives a great deal and plan to read at least more of this series–probably some of Stross’s other series as well. It’s this delightful cross of eldritch horror, office politics, techno-thriller, and spy story, all told with this delightfully sardonic sense of humor. Personally, I enjoyed Bob’s outlook and found him an interesting character to read. And just the ideas behind this story are fascinating . . . higher maths being summoning rituals and opening doorways into other realities, programmers accidentally stumbling on said summonings, secret organizations specifically designed to deal with these. Plus just the whole office drama of the organization and Stross’s presentation of it. I have heard some folks complain about the “technobabble” used in this story, and yes absolutely this book makes me wish I actually understood more higher math and programming . . . but on the other hand, I’m not sure how much more sense it would make even if I did have more context for all the terms. It seems kind of like magic spells used in fantasy novels; like, if you understand Latin, you’ll get a bit of a heads up on what the spell does, but it’s mostly flavor text, and even if you don’t understand, the effects will become pretty clear pretty quickly. I never felt lost because I didn’t understand a term, put it that way. In any case, I found The Atrocity Archives to be a truly engaging and enjoyable book–recommended for those who enjoy something a bit more off the beaten path.

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The Calder Game

the calder gameAuthor: Blue Balliett

Illustrator: Brett Helquist

My rating: 4 of 5

Prequels: Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3

This volume is an inventive mystery combining elements of art, mathematics, word-studies, psychology, and many others into a fascinating story. In this book, Tommy, Petra, and Calder are introduced to the works of artist Alexander Calder, only to get caught up in a seeming crime involving one of his works. They are also challenged throughout the story to play the Calder Game, thinking of ideas in groups of five in ways that balance like a mobile. Seeing the individuals in the story change and grow, both individually and in their relationships, is a rewarding part of the story. I think one of the most fascinating aspects of Balliett’s work, however, is the way in which she clearly demonstrates that different people have different ways of thinking. This is something that, I think, most everyone “knows”, but that very few are actually aware of. Balliett’s writing makes it easier to really grasp how those differences in thinking alter our perceptions of the world around us. This is an excellent book for those who love art, enjoy a good mystery, and have a vibrant sense of discovery and adventure.

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