Yesterday, commenter Free Lunch asked:
Paul - are you reading this on an Android phone? How would you rate that experience?
You know, I really like reading on Aldiko. I keep the font a dark brown instead of black (for some reason, that makes a huge difference with the contrast; black feels too sharp to me on a screen) and I make the background a grey-ish off-white. I put the brightness control at the top of the screen so I can dim it as I read—about 25% brightness seems to be where I'm most comfortable. I enjoy the experience of turning the page just by tapping the screen, too, and the response time is good. My main problem has to do with the number of words that can reasonably fit on each page (and that's a problem with my phone's size and not the app) and the seconds-long black screen lag time between chapters. I don't know if I'd want to read poetry or philosophy or a really dense, difficult work of fiction on the Aldiko, but for some light, entertaining genre fiction, it's a really pleasurable experience.
Anyway: About Chapters 3 and 4. Wow, this book shifted gears motherfucking quickly (I guess killing and resurrecting your narrator will do that.) The most surprising part to me was how much Jules asserted himself as a person, and how little I like the person he's become in just two chapters. He's already tried to sabotage another person's work (even if that person was the one who had him killed, it still seemed low) and he coerced his friend Dan into endangering his Whuffie by helping him do it.
And Dan seems to have changed, too. Just yesterday in the comments, Soupytwist said "I love Dan. What a mess!" She was dead-right; Dan was the best part of the first two chapters for me. But in these first four chapters, he's gone from the daring, charismatic Keep-a-Movin' Dan to a dramatic failure to a mostly silent sidekick who clearly has something going on in the background.
I'm hoping to see a lot more more from Dan and from Lil, who's starting to show a personality (the flashback of how Jules and Lil met was well-played, I think. Doctorow isn't afraid to make their relationship kind of creepy, which is admirable and believable in a world where people who can live to be thousands of years old also interact with people in their early twenties who are, technically, adults.) I like the touch of men appearing older and women appearing younger; it's a clever reminder that everything might be different but some things, like gender perception, are still complex. Debra and Tim are great characters. I like how friendly Tim seems, and how driven Debra is. I also like that even Jules has to admit that their new technology is frankly awesome.
Given the changes between chapters 1 and 2 and chapters 3 and 4, I honestly don't know what to expect next. I hope that Jules will be a little more likable, or that Dan will be a little more sympathetic. And I'm still waiting for a little more explanation about how the society functions; gfish in the comments yesterday explained the ad-hocracy a little clearer than Doctorow has. I don't feel in the dark about things, but I'd like to see the world fleshed out a little bit more.
Re-reading these last three paragraphs, I think I sound overly negative. I'm enjoying the book quite a bit; the tech writing is both believable and full of wonder, which is a hard thing to do, and the characters are interesting if weirdly uneven. I'm just really curious to see if Doctorow can smoosh the whole thing together into one cohesive whole. I'm hopeful. I'll be back to talk about Chapters 5 and 6 here at 2 tomorrow. If you'd like to catch up—the book's not very long, you can download it for free over here in a bunch of different formats—you could probably read all the way from the beginning to Chapter 6 at the Sorrento tonight.