November 8th, 2007

tea - it's good for you

Good morning

Since high school, one of my greatest pleasures has been kicking back in a coffee shop with a book and a cuppa. It's the easiest way for me to concentrate on readings for a class, for some reason -- the distractions of the semi-public place are easier for me to handle than the distractions of home. So why it took me so long to figure out that a laptop and some wireless would be just as compelling, I have no idea.

This particular Panera is one of the best places I've found. The coffee is good and the refills are free, the breakfast pastries are tasty (I am addicted to the four-cheese souffle, and the cinnamon crunch bagels), and the people watching is excellent, too -- picture windows all around, and it faces a busy intersection with three train stops. So people and trains and cars are always flowing by. As long as I don't sit too close to the door (as I have today, unfortunately), I could hang out here for hours.

I haven't yet had much success with serious writing here, though. Whenever I come here, I end up surfing and/or writing on LJ. Then again, I haven't really tried to buckle down and work on fic in public much; if I'm in the right mood I bet it works really well. A holiday is coming up; maybe that would be a good time to check it out.

SpecFicChallenge #1: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

I've gotten out of the habit of reading hard sci-fi. I read a lot of it in high school and college (as much as I read a lot of anything in college) because my dad and then my friends were fans of the genre, and although I enjoy reading it, I'm really more of a fantasy girl. But then, a few weeks ago R was talking about this book as though it were something that he assumed that I'd read, and when I admitted I hadn't, he recommended it highly. I bought a copy, and then I gave it to T because I was reading something else and he was complaining about not having anything to read. Then he finished it, and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to read something he'd read recently and picked it up.

I liked it, quite a lot, and would easily recommend it to science fiction fans, a little more cautiously to eveyone else. Vinge throws you into the story without a whole lot of preamble or even exposition -- the reader is left to figure out the universe's technology and backstory on their own, which I found an intriguing exercise for the most part but occasionally it was a little frustrating; there are things about the science that I still don't understand. But it's a compelling story, both on the "universe in peril" level and on the "what will happen to these characters I've come to know and love?" level. It's a thoughtful look at what an interstellar society might look like several hundred thousand years from now, and it presents one of the most fascinating alien races that I've ever encountered in science fiction; I hesitate to say too much, because figuring out what was up with them was an excellent "A-ha!" moment, but if anyone else has read it and would like to discuss in comments, I'm more than game.