Sunday, May 27, 2012

Book Break, Redux

This is a brief followup on the post Book Break, below. If I am scarce on the blog, it is because I am determined to finish the books mentioned in that post before the library reclaims them.

Regarding Complexity: A Guided Tour, I finished reading it today. Dr. Mitchell discusses at least a dozen different examples of "complex systems" by various measures of complexity and occasionally by consensus. Although the book is well-written and well-organized, I felt a sense of vague disappointment that there are not more acknowledged (and thus explored) commonalities among different types of complex systems. I freely admit that many of the ones discussed were previously unknown to me. And after all, the field is only a few decades old, and even then under a variety of names. I am glad I read the book.

Most distressingly, there is apparently a grudge in at least some of the scientific community that led the staid but generally respected journal Scientific American to publish what appears to be little more than a "hit piece" against the entire field of complex systems, a slur of the sort we encounter so often in politics in conservative rags both newsprint and slick-cover. Mitchell herself complains of selective quoting by the author who interviewed her, as if he had a conclusion already in mind and shaped his information-gathering and -filtering to "justify" that conclusion. If that is true, it is a hell of a note for an old-line popular scientific publication.

I began Carole Nelson Douglas's Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta this evening, and it's a mainstream Midnight Louie mystery, her latest, apparently available only in hardback. (Ahem. People like me who are on a limited budget: visit your local library now; buy the paperback when it comes out.) If I recall correctly, Midnight Louie appears in four "playing card series" novels, two compatible books Catnap and Pussyfoot, and Bast alone knows how many alphabetical series novels running from B to V (and yes, she intends to go through Z). My recommendation: start with Catnap and Pussyfoot, then read perhaps three or four of the alphabetic novels. You will then have sufficient character and long-term plot arc background to read the latest ones.

Men who cannot abide the very thought of reading a romance novel should avoid the Midnight Louie series; the series began more as romance than as mystery. Gradually, mystery and adventure came to predominate over romance (but not to replace it!) as the series continued, and I find even the early novels inoffensive on that score. Most of the books are page-turners, though compared to other writers of cat mysteries (e.g., the late lamented Lilian Jackson Braun), Douglas is rather longer-winded... expect to spend several evenings reading any of the middle and later Midnight Louie series novels.

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