The Immigrants by Howard Fast, and Habitus by James Flint (December, 2012)

Hello all!


With Christmas nearly upon us, and also this being End Of The World Day (thank you, Mayans for scaring us all) I bet you’re wondering where I get the time to read so much. The trick with doing something you love is to make the time for it, which is what I’ve been trying to do in amongst all the present-wrapping and setting up the tree and the lights and OH it’s so much! December is always a whirlwind for me.


And now onto the books. I finished reading The Immigrants in about five days. Once I got past the introduction things seemed to smooth themselves out in terms of the plotline, which had been jumping to and fro for the first hundred or so pages. The characters were fleshed out, and the interactions they all had fit their personalities quite well. The thing I admire the most about this book is the way that Fast uses the history of San Francisco to add the element of realism to the story. He weaves the fictional characters amongst the real-life events, and it adds another level of believability to the entire story.


I also like a good epic novel, and The Immigrants certainly fits that role. It tracks through the ups and downs of the Seldons and the Lavettes, in amongst the financial crisis of 1929, World War One, and of course Dan’s escalation to the top of Nob Hill. Overall, the book is well-written but I did find it harder to connect with the characters on an emotional level, simply because of the way that Fast chops and changes between characters so fast. I was only able to get a very small glimpse into the lives of the characters, and the speed with which Fast did the changes made it feel like the characters were never given a chance to really develop. I also feel that Dan’s character needed further development. Most of what we saw of Dan was him working, arguing, or being rebellious. That’s all well and good, but his character would have been more believable if he showed more emotion.


So, that’s The Immigrants. After that, I spent a good twenty minutes trying to figure out what to read next. Lost for motivation, I gravitated back towards my bedside table and picked up War and Peace. I struggled with that for about ten minutes, then decided that I would leave the war until winter and picked up a book I had been meaning to read since I bought it two years ago. That book is Habitus, by James Flint, and it is probably one of the more intriguing pieces I’ve dipped my nose into lately.


Habitus is essentially about the lives of three individuals, who exist during the time of the Space Race and the Computer Revolution. The word ‘Habitus’ actually means ‘the physical and constitutional characteristics of an individual, especially the tendency to develop a certain disease’ (, but the book isn’t about diseases. It’s about how the interactions of these three people intertwine with the development of computers, and what these new and amazing pieces of technology can do for them.


As a piece, Habitus is very strange. It isn’t laid out like your average book; it has chapters (of a kind) but they are segregated into three groups with the headings written in binary code (zeroes and ones). Again, like The Immigrants it does a lot of dancing between the characters, but here the characters seem more rounded and less like a rough sketchbook portrait. It’s also the debut work of James Flint, but I haven’t seen any of his other pieces around the place. Perhaps I’m not looking in the right places… anyway, it’s certainly a book that lives up to the reviewer comments on the back. It had me laughing myself silly in some parts, and hopefully will do so in many more because I’m only halfway through.


Also, there’s a lot of weirdness with Laika the dog and Sputnik II, but I think this only adds to the mood of the piece. I hope it continues to be a source of enjoyment as I complete it.


I’d best be off, have to do my enrolments for next semester.


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and I sign off for another year.




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