I felt amazingly fortunate today. During my ride to and from work, and while I had free time otherwise, I was able to listen to an great podcast and read an awesome book…both free. Vive la Chris Anderson!

The podcast was a Long Now SALT presentation by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, perhaps best known for the book The Black Swan. I’ve followed his work for a couple of years now, and this talk was vintage Taleb; uncompromising, challenging, and unabashedly controversial. Great, great stuff. I keep bumping in to authors and lecturers that help me crystallize beliefs from intuition; Nassim Taleb is one of those people.

The book is Farthing, by Jo Walton. I was lucky enough to catch it as a free ebook (for my N770), given away by Tor Books as they drum up interest in their new website/fiction portal (an ebook a week, folks…check it out!). Farthing was already on my wishlist, and I will definitely be buying it (for the author’s sake, and as an evangelizing borrow-book).

It’s an old-fashioned English murder mystery…set in a alternate history post-WWII Great Britain where Churchill was deposed and a Nazi offer for peace in 1941 accepted. Germany controls the continent, and an increasingly fascist-leaning Britian grapples with the tensions and intrigues of THIS new world order.

The background is revealed naturally, as the novel progresses. The pace is great, the characters are cast beautifully into the English class system, and the story seems to be progressing well (I’m 3/4 through). I can’t wait to finish…and this is book one of an at least three book series. Joy.

Both the podcast and the book are some of the best works I’ve come across in recent memory; to hit high points in both my primary mediums at once is a great thing. Thanks very, very much to both Nassim Taleb and Jo Walton for their great work and their generosity in making it available gratis. I predict that you’ll find it well worth it.

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