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[techbooks] REVIEW: "Standing Wave", Howard V. Hendrix

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKSTNDWV.RVW 990915 Standing Wave , Howard V. Hendrix, 1998, 0-441-00553-5 %A Howard V. Hendrix %C 200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 %D 1998 %G
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 21, 1999
      BKSTNDWV.RVW 990915

      "Standing Wave", Howard V. Hendrix, 1998, 0-441-00553-5
      %A Howard V. Hendrix
      %C 200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
      %D 1998
      %G 0-441-00553-5
      %I Ace/Penguin/Putnam
      %O 800-788-6262 www.berkley.com/berkley www.penguinputnam.com
      %P 386 p.
      %T "Standing Wave"

      To say what this novel is about would be to deny its buddha-nature.
      Or something. The plot, such as it is, seems to be primarily a
      structure for stringing together endless pseudo-profound lectures.

      It is very hard to get into the book as such. Indeed, a sizable chunk
      at the beginning reads like a collection of short stories, seemingly
      intent on presenting a random set of future technologies in order to
      buttress the claim of the work to be called science fiction. As in
      the endless novel that is being written by "Peanuts'" Snoopy, these
      threads are eventually related, if not woven together, but much of the
      book does read like a series of intercut novellas, tied to each other
      by random coincidences.

      How about the technology? Well, it's very hard to comment, since
      trying to nail down an idea in this book is like trying to pin jello
      to the wall. However, one technology that plays a large part in this
      roughly fifty-years-hence future is the infosphere, a sort of
      supercharged Internet. A great many of the plot devices used
      throughout rely on functions that simply are inconsistent not only
      with existing telecommunications, but with basic ideas about
      information processing and transfer.

      I suppose I have only myself to blame: when the jacket copy talks
      about "philosophical ore" and "thoughtful science fiction" it should
      be a warning. While there is a limited amount of technology in this
      book, there really isn't any science. Oh, certainly there are
      mentions of quantum physics, "bubble" cosmology, topological
      transformations, and a number of other high level topics, but these
      topics are not explained or examined in any real sense. Even the
      title is a mistake: the author confuses the concept of multiple or
      reflected wave functions interacting in such a way as to create a
      certain function at a stationary point, with the idea of moving (and
      self-reinforcing) solitons. As is usual in works of this calibre, the
      author hasn't even mastered simple math. An analysis of the number of
      options of holding up fingers on a hand figures that there are only
      five, rather than the correct thirty two.

      This is newage science: vague ideas gleaned from popularizations and
      tending to rose coloured mysticism. There is a kind of continual
      namedropping of technical terms from a variety of fields. This is "X-
      Files" science, or possibly worse: a few pieces of jargon
      misrepresenting the basic foundations and holding to the more
      egregious philosophical and pseudo-scientific attitudes of our age,
      such as the belief that evolution has some objective, or that a
      sufficiently large aggregation of unsorted facts or events will
      somehow create something magical (and wonderful). In opposition, one
      is inescapably reminded of Stephen Crane:

      A man said to the Universe: "Sir, I exist!"
      "However," replied the Universe,
      "the fact has not created in me a sense of obligation."

      or Mark Twain:

      Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world
      owes you nothing. It was here first.

      Word play seems to be very important to the book. There are a number
      of deeply buried puns such as a book entitled "Myth's Edge and Nation"
      that refers to miscegenation. This should give you an idea of the
      level of profundity we are dealing with here.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKSTNDWV.RVW 990915

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      E Pluribus Modem
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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