Friday, June 30, 2017

Almost Infinite Complexity, Chapters 17-36

Perhaps all this needed was a little change in mood. After muddling through the set-up, I was treated to an attempt at a hostile takeover of Hell, a tour of the suburbian Hell, a hopeless romantic with a bad case of one-itis for his Dulcinea, Cooper's arrest, a fluke discovery of the almost infinite;y complex equation, Thisbe's death, and Old Scratch offering Cooper a real job--manager of Hell. With the exceptions of Thisbe's bumbling investigation and Gormley's antics, this middle section held my interest.

Thisbe comes off as an idiot. Granted, this isn't because of lack of intelligence, but because of lack of perception. She leaps to a conclusion based on her obsession with Dean. After all, the guy she likes couldn't be at fault, so the sinister man must be the loser chasing her. Everything afterwards comes from the rationalizations used to justify her false read on the situation. And, frankly, the effect makes her look stupid. But then there are reams of quotes online talking about how easy it is to fool the smart. It's almost a relief when she's removed from the board.

Not that all Thisbe's problems would go away if she turned her affections to Cooper. Thisbe's a bit of a bum magnet, and none of the choices available to her are good ones, especially the pedestalizing Cooper. It's her own fault, really, and tragic in the proper moral sense. But then she is bait to damn Cooper's soul, as Old Scratch waves the possibility of reuiniting with her in front of Cooper to sweeten the job offer. Of course, Cooper, the romantic idiot, is drawn in.

I've enjoyed the little nuggets of wisdom hidden in the text, whether it is the skewering of religiousity, or pointing out the insane love for science by those who have never fired up a Bunsen burner in anger--echoing my own experience with the IFL Science crowd.  Most of these little aphorisms are short enough that skimmers will miss them.

The dialogue is a little too natural at times. As JWM pointed out last time, people actually do talk like this. Because of the sequential nature of storytelling, most dialogue is streamlined, removing the verbal punctuation, excessive grammar, and constant interruptions that characterize a conversation. And, as linguist John McWorter has pointed out in his lectures and books, most speakers don't wait their turn, but instead talk over each other. Equation captures many of these elements, and, in the process, also illustrates why most dialogue is idealized. Because many speakers really do work their mouths while their brains think...

What's left? Well, the Devil's bargain is on the table; time to see what the fine print is hiding...

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