Darwinia Yay!

What with all the noise about a new Wright game that plays itself, some stupid photorealistic racing game, and the totally bland PC game selection on the shelves, I almost missed Darwinia by Introversion Software.
I like these guys, their previous game was Uplink, an interesting and original game about computer hacking. Darwinia has the same kind of geeky sensibility, set in a simulated work where viruses have enslaved the AI creatures who live there.
In the UK you can find Darwinia in stores, but in the US you can as yet only get it through mail order. I’ve just placed my order. You should go buy it, too — these guys are only going to survive with grassroots support. If you’re not sure, there’s a nice demo to whet your appetite.

Handicapping the Great 20th Century Novels, part 2

A handy gizmo for Handicapping the Great 20th Century Novels.
I have made some major improvements to the interface, mostly dealing with adding and removing handicapping categories.
I have also been adding new books to the list, it now includes a full list of Pulitzer Prize winning novels, as well as Newbery Medal winners. There are 287 works in the data set.


I recently read the first two books in the Dune series, Dune (1965) and Dune Messiah (1969). An interesting feature of the Dune story is that the books only cover key events in the adventures of Paul Muad’dib — in the first book: Paul’s adolescent exposure to Dune, the attack by the Harkonnens, Paul’s transformation into the Kwisatz Haderach, the spectacular defeat of the Emperor. Then the story jumps forward twelve years, years which are presumably full of exciting action sequences that we never get to see, because they only serve as exposition to get to the next interesting part of the story.
There is also a rich backstory for the characters and the story universe. Through the story we get hints at how Paul was trained as a child, of the actions of the Bene Gesserits, of a long distant galactic colonization. This backstory is both detailed and vague, providing room for new elements to be pulled into the story as needed. For example, the Bene Tleilax (or Tleilaxu) have little importance in the first novel (which was originally a serial), but become central to the plot of the second novel (also originally a serial).

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