Bridge #Writephoto

Thursday Photoprompt

beneath-the-bridge

 

From her hideout she could see that the water had receded: the shadow of the bridge was playing in the morning sunshine, the world was silent. Did the horror come from the sea, as in a Lovecraft story? Or did it wait for the high tide to reach its victims?

She knew she could not stay where she was, for it had been safe just for one night, but soon she would have to leave, and resume her journey. Was she on her own, or was there any other survivor? The walk from the wreckage had taken the whole previous day, till late in the night. She’d seen no-one, just heard the horror, the shrieks of agony.

Then the hideous shadow appeared, reflected by the water, approaching slowly, across the bridge…

T-Rain, and a girl named Zula: a reading of Neal Stephenson’s Reamde #amreading

Neil Stephenson 77f9262fbf.jpg

Every other thing that he had done for the company – networking with money launderers, stringing Ethernet cable, recruiting fantasy authors, managing Pluto – could be done better and more cheaply by someone who could be recruited by a state-of-the-art head-hunting firm. His role, in the end, had been reduced to this one thing: sitting in the corner of meeting rooms or lurking on corporate email lists, seeming not to pay attention, growing ever more restless and surly until he blurted something out that offended a lot of people and caused the company to change course. Only later did they see the shoals on which they would have run aground if not for Richard’s startling and grumpy intervention.”

Reamde is a tough, long, and interesting novel. I had to interrupt my reading several times during this year, and this made following the plot as hazardous as the story itself. I acquired Reamde initially as an e-book. The version I had was poorly edited, and after some four hundred pages I could no longer find my way through the various geographies and characters. Finally I purchased the paperback (in the Atlantic Books edition available in the UK.) This helped me to come back on tracks, as the good ones were getting deeper into serious trouble, and the bad ones were… getting more horrible than ever.
Richard Forthrast is a wealthy entrepreneur, and the soul at the core of T-Rain, a world-class multiplayer (MMORPG) game and metaverse, that transcends all predecessors. Richard is the head of the Forthrast clan, an expanded family of gun-totting characters who include his adopted niece, the beautiful Zula, a refugee from Erithrea. The world of T-Rain is, one day, disrupted by the double event of an internal war – the Wor – and the advent of what turns out to be a deadly virus, Reamde. The plot then develops into two parallel, but eventually convergent, lines: what happens in T-Rain, and what happens in “reality”: much of the book’s interest arises, in this reader’s view, from this double narrative, the journey in T-Rain, and the journey in this world, from Idaho to the Philippines, via China and various airfields and oil tankers, and back again, as Bilbo Baggins used to say. Both are rich in deadly traps, of the explosive and other varieties, such as magic spells.
A good first tier of the book is devoted to a description of T-Rain, its design, history and creators, a medley of British and US genial weirdos, recruited by, and under Richard’s influence. I must admit having lost the thread more than once (a fuller understanding would require a second reading, at least.) The real world’s thread centres on Zula and her companions, and their odyssey. For Reamde, the virus, cuts across the machinations of a criminal gang from the East, whose extortion racket is disrupted by the virus. The consequences of the gang’s brutal intervention, and a chance meeting with a bunch of jihadists, make up the second half of the novel, as the separate trails slowly converge back to the US-Canadian border, and Richard’s eagle nest.
There are hints of Snow Crash, Stephenson’s earlier novel that introduced a proto-virtual world, and multiple references to the world of hacking and virus developers. There are peripheral characters, some roughly inspired by the “war on terror”, and of course, the very nasty, and yet noble jihadist, the infamous Jones.
I only caught up with the female characters, all three of them, once I had acquired the paperback, having to backtrack through the 1044 pages! I think, now, that sometime I will re-read Reamde, when I have some uninterrupted three or four weeks of quiet vacation (maybe when we visit Seattle?) Stephenson lives in Seattle and his geographical knowledge of the region is evidently vast. I struggled with the trails through the mountainous area above Richard’s Schloss! A map would be as useful to the reader as it would be to Zula and her friends.
Reamde is, in turn, hilarious and tragic, a great read, and a milestone for Stephenson’s aficionados.

Photo: [By Ryan Somma – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ideonexus/6191024454, CC BY 2.0, Link]

My reading of Cryptonomicon

The Tower… #writephoto

This week, the photo prompt is a tower, stark against a clear blue sky… what secrets does it hold…and what mysteries might it conceal?

scotland-trip-jan-15-107

She crouched behind a short spiky bush, and waited for a sound. There was none, not even the usual discrete footfall of small creatures in the dark. A hawk could be seen, circling silently around the dark silhouette of the tower.

“So,”she thought,”This is where you died, so long ago even the stones have forgotten your name, the colour of your hair, the strength of your arms…” She relaxed her grip on the sword: there was no-one there, perhaps not even the spirit of the hero, who, in eons past, had died defending her ancestors, in this forsaken and deserted place, alone against multitudes of demons.

But she had to find out. Cautiously she started moving toward the ruin, one step at a time, a fluid and silent motion that only supernatural eyes could have observed.

Yet she sensed some presence, somewhere, closer to the tower, cloaked in darkness. Now she heard the voice of an owl hunting.

#VisDare 114: Prepared #WritersWednesday

PreparedOn this far-away horizon we fly, age-old balloonists, at peace. I long thought, in the moonless nights, reading, dreaming, of those eons ahead of us – the universe ‘s infinity, the long journeys, our transformation, progressive, imperceptible, on the shores of time.

Old-fashioned I am – we are – in the eyes of the past centuries, albeit not our own: fashionable we might become, on those alien planets we visit in the midst of our everlasting sleep.

Explorers, yes, young still, without the edge of possible awake, for we will never return, to the old world, to the mother ship: lost we are, willing prisoners of an endless tale, one many times recounted – till now.

Now, we live the dream, sliding by foreign stars, through the intricacies of space, as we were convinced we would, one day, not by magic, but driven, prepared, accepting the fate of those who deny their own mortality…

#FiveSentenceFiction: S(team)punk

CaptainShe’s a great captain: in her world, perhaps the most decorated of them all, besides being a beauty.

Sailing is her life, through the eery oceans of virgin planets, observed by multiple stars, and by alien, voracious and concupiscent eyes.

Adulated by her crew – and what a crew! of crustacean giants, sea spiders and weird creatures from the depth…

She’s feared by her rivals, but does she have any, or just jealous dwarves?

For she, who will conquer them all, is inviolable, the true mistress of Space.

#VisDare 89: Aware

AwareThese days, he rarely visited the old town: he wanted to forget the ghosts, even if he sometimes missed the tortuous streets, the medieval houses, the narrow lanes at the back of secret and overgrown gardens…

But today, he wanted to go back, to smell the ancient timber, admire once again the tortured roofs, and those long gone courtyards.

There, near the templar church, in one corner, he knew he would meet her again, the cloudy shadow of a timeless beauty… and those eyes…

#VisDare 87: Elite

EliteThe ferns have grown around it, without knowing it is there, it must be difficult to find.

In the midst of the forest, our beloved world, where we were blessed by our human love: it is a small monument, to that that could not survive us,

Except once we changed,

Into the ghosts that now haunt those woods:

Forever inseparable, so discrete, so silent, that the most attentive walker would not notice us.

#FiveSentenceFiction: Forgotten

2001They approach slowly, through the landscape of rocks and dust, their steps forever silent.

It is as was written: the crater pocked by the impact of smaller asteroids, through millennia, and the uniform grey dust.

Their leader holds the white torch high, in their radio they have heard:

The slow rumble, punctuated with short burst of sharp notes, the sound of hyperspace messaging…

And the monolith rises in a shower of dust and rocks, dwarfing the scenery around them: the Sentinel has woken.

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