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Title: A Network Orange
Authors: Richard Crandall, Marvin Levich
Publisher: Copernicus Books
Copyright: 1998
ISBN: 0-387-94647-0
Pages: 138
Price: $29.95
Rating: 85%

Big Words Loved Unwisely

"Messages must at all costs avoid complexity or qualification, which require more extended exposition and therefore risk the possibility of a tardy reply. No Penumbra of obscurity or vagueness can hover over the content." --A Network Orange, p 74

This passage criticizes the kind of discussion that often goes on over BBS's, the equivalent of the modern day instant message or chat room. Forgetting, for a moment, that BBS's have pretty much faded from the modern Internet radar, this typifies the prose you find in A Network Orange, where big words are loved "unwisely but too well." It's a dense book, despite the low page-count, great for reading before bedtime.

That's not to say that there's not a good bit of interesting information in A Network Orange. It seems well thought out, and fairly objective, though there are some examples which don't fit because the thinking that went into them was too narrow. For example, the author decides that since an image of the moon on the retina only stimulates about 100 cells that there must be some preprocessing and interpolation going on, as a 10 x 10 pixel image of a disk would be jaggy. It leaves one wondering, "well, what if cells don't produce rectangular picture elements?" That would change everything, no preprocessing, no interpolation, just the ability to handle a more complex shape, and no requirement that each cell have the same shape picture element. That kind of thinking is absent from A Network Orange right through.

The same chat that the author decries above as striving towards the epigram rather than in depth discussion, just shows that he hasn't been on the net lately. Anyone who has joined a serious mailing list, where the prime objective is not scoping the opposite sex, will dispute the conclusion that the network does not facilitate learning. One can make relationships with people with a wide variety of experience, much wider than is available in the local community. A prime example is a list like MomWriters where mentoring is a primary function and the membership ranges from the beginning writer to ones who regularly appear in the Six Sisters. Discussions on this list are often educational, and the relationships forged allow question and answers, and in depth discussion to expand into email and even instant messages. Rather than striving for the witty epigram, the posters are sharing their experience and information. The one-liner is actually prohibited.

In short, essays in the A Network Orange are interesting, but you may not agree with the conclusions. A Network Orange will either make you read with your dictionary close by, or it will put you to sleep... or both.

M. E. Tyler's work has appeared in national magazines and high-profile web sites. A former software developer, Tyler has an eclectic technical background, programming for both the Mac and Windows and working as a Web site developer. Tyler was the ebook review editor for ForeWord Magazine and the editor-in-chief for ForeWord Reviews, and is the regular book review columnist for Writer's Exchange and for eBook Web. Tyler owns Private Ice Publications, a niche publishing house dedicated to publishing the best sports fiction for women.