Whatcha reading?

Whatcha reading?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Flow My Tears the Policeman Said: Philip Dick

This book followed the idea of the future as in "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep". This time there are 6's in the community as well as the new 7's who have empathy. At the end of the book the 7 is seen crying over his sister's death as well as the likely death of a 6 which he was responsible for framing in order to save his reputation over his sister's death. The US becomes a police state where students are locked up and one has to have all sorts of documentation and identification to stay out of the prison camps. The main character, Jason Taverner, is a 6 and a well known tv entertainer. Being a 6 he has a charming personality which draws everyone to him, his voice is hinted as being, just ok. He fights with a past love interest and she injects him with strange monster-like parasites. He wakes up at a hotel room and calls his girlfriend to pick him up, she doesn't know him. His boss doesn't know who he is either- He races around trying to figure out what has happened that he no longer exists, while trying to remain under the police's radar with forged documentation he obtains. He then meets up with the Police General's sister who is into drugs- she has a record of his, she knows he exists. She then overdoses and dies and suddenly people recognize Taverner again. The drugs created a parallel universe where he wasn't a celebrity. He is tried in her death, but found not guilty and his life goes on as before.

Wild Men, Ishi and Kroeber in the Wilderness of Modern America: Douglas Cazaux Sackman

This was a historical non-fiction story about Ishi, the last of the Yahi tribe. One day he just came out of the mountains into San Francisco and decided to see what the white men had done. He had lost everyone, his wife and child having just drowned in a river. The story switches back and forth to what they learned about Ishi's life and that on Kroeber until the two meet. They form a friendship and Kroeber tries to fight for the First American's rights by keeping watch over Ishi in a world where he couldn't communicate and fighting for Native land that was taken over by the National Park Service. In the end Ishi dies of tuberculosis and Kroeber tries to follow Ishi's tribal traditions in his death by cremating him, which was not actually the Yahi way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Riptide: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

This was an Indiana Jones/Treasure Island sort of enjoyable novel. The story begins with person after person trying to retrieve Pirate Red Ned Ockham's legendary treasure and either going bankrupt or dying from the pit's traps. In addition to Gold and riches there is supposedly "St. Michael's Sword" which is powerful enough to kill anyone who looks at it. The story then focuses on two little boys whose grandfather lost everything purchasing the island and trying to get the treasure. When their dad is away they go to the island to play and the oldest boy dies from one of the traps set to guard the treasure, the youngest boy ("Hatch") lives with this guilt the rest of his life. As a man Hatch is approached by a treasure seeker and allows them to dig on the Island. The equipment doesn't work right once it gets on the island and they find a mass grave. Unable to come to a conclusion on why all the men in the pit died from different diseases and why everyone is getting sick, they press on. Finally they uncover and decipher the pit architect’s journal and realize the Sword was made from a meteorite and radioactive. This explains the deaths, the equipment malfunctioning, and the legend that anyone who sees the sword dies. In the end there is a battle between the Head of the expedition and Hatch in one of the tunnels. The "bad guy" has gone crazy from his exposure and once the sword is knocked down a shaft he follows it to his death. The book doesn't really tell you how hatch survives after the exposure, but he does and the treasure stays buried...for now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? : Philip Dick

This was a sci-fi Book about the future when life on earth becomes nearly uninhabitable after WWT- World War Terminus and the left over radiation poisoning. Almost all of the animals go extinct and having a real animal is a status symbol. Some people own electric animals which they try to pass off as real. People were given the choice of leaving Earth and moving to Mars where they would get their own android "andy" or staying on earth and being sterilized because Earth wasn't believed to be able to support another generation. The androids then got a mind of their own and started coming to earth. The Main character, Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter of androids. Oddly enough he owns a robotic Sheep, which is acceptable, but robotic humans, androids are hunted down and disabled. Rick is sent to test the "empathy" tests to determine who is human and who is an android. Deckard displays issues with empathy throughout the book, his drive for having an animal is just for the status symbol and he thinks about how he should have left his wife years ago. He teams up with another bounty hunter he met by accident when meeting up with an "andy" and is surprised that the other bounty hunter is human. After "terminating" the female android Rick becomes empathetic and doesn't think he can do anymore, but he buys a goat on impulse and needs the work to pay for the goat. He retires the last 2 androids and learns an android killed his new goat by throwing it off the building. The money he got from "retiring" Andy's that bought the goat ended up killing the goat. In the end he finds a toad and is slightly disappointed when his wife shows him it is an electric toad, but he says he would rather know the truth. Rick is a great example of a dynamic character.

The Sirens of Titan: Kurt Vonnegut

This was a fascinating novel in that EVERYTHING is important. The story wraps every occurrence and every object up in a way that the reader isn't left wondering "why" or "what if". Malachi Constant is the richest man in the United States and seems to also be the luckiest man on Earth. He is invited to materialization where a man, Winston Niles Rumfoord, living on Mars telecommunicates? with his wife, Beatrice. Winston tells Malachi that he will move to titan and have a child with his wife. After leaving the house both Malachi and Beatrice are ruined financially. Malachi joins the Martian army and Beatrice is on the same ship as Malachi on the journey to Mars. Malachi rapes Beatrice and they have a child, Chrono. Both Malachi and Beatrice have their memories erased and they forget about each other. Malachi becomes known as UNK and ends up strangling his best friend because he was commanded to and couldn't remember his friend stony after having his memory erased the 7th time. Stony tells him where to find a letter and UNK finds a letter he has written himself about remembering he has a family and best friend. Chrono ends up finding a piece of metal that becomes his lucky talisman. The family joins back up together and with the help of Rumfoord they travel back to earth where Rumfoord has started his new religion "Church of God the Utterly Indifferent". He then makes fun of both Beatrice and Malachi in front of his followers and they head to Tralfamadore where Beatrice lives in a palace like the Taj Mahal and Chrono lives with the bird population. Malachi lives in the spaceship Salo owned and was waiting for the replacement part for, which is actually Chrono's lucky talisman. Beatrice dies and Salo, with his fixed spaceship, drops Malachi off on earth (where he will die on a park bench waiting for a bus) before taking his message on to distant gallery (the message was a single dot that meant "greetings" which he spent thousands of earth years trying to deliver). Salo hypnotizes Malachi before he dies so he believes Stony came back for him in a spaceship. The story revolved around the idea of free will, or the lack of free will and that all of the earth’s history centered on the manipulation of the Tralfamadorians so we would become civilized enough to make a replacement part for the spaceship delivering the important message of “greetings”

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Star Begotten: H G Wells

This was a short story by H G Wells about Martian invasion. Wells inserted a line that the idea was like "War of the Worlds", but has the character's give other Sci-fi authors credit for the story, as though one of the great authors wrote it, but they can't remember who and don't even guess Wells. We follow the protagonist through his childhood and it isn't until his wife is pregnant that he goes to his club and has a conversation which changes his life. He and some scientist buddies ponder the idea that Martians are trying to change the human species through cosmic rays that would slightly change the baby in a mother's womb to part Martian. The idea is that they would have known their planet wouldn't support life for much longer and would need to relocate. They would be more accepted if they had relatives on the planet they choose to move to. They think the Martian/human half breeds would be taller than the average man, and less inclined to take ideas, like religion, at face value just because they are told to believe. They would be interested in making life better, but wouldn't take action. While they are coming up with this list, the reader knows the protagonist must be part Martian, but it isn't until the very end that his wife questions him and we find out that we are all part Martian, but don't want to believe it.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Little Brother: Cory Doctorow

I had to read this book for a class, so though it wasn't something I would normally read, it was interesting. I was originally turned off from reading the introduction (I read the free online copy, which I was very grateful for because I would have been disappointed had I paid for it)the author was pouting about TSA and England's version of TSA. The protagonist's voice was obviously that of the author trying to get his point across that DHS is evil. It worked in the story though because the character was a 17 year old boy, so you expected him to be arrogant and self righteous. A boy is a hacker and nearly expelled from school for his deeds and those of his classmates. One day he skips school and happens to be near a terrorist attack on the San Francisco bay bridge. He is taken in for questioning and becomes part of the problem instead of the solution once he is released. He starts a website where kids log in to wreck havick on their community- Marcus's own father gets searched due to Marcus's antics and his peers get tear gassed. Marcus's message is "you can't trust anyone over 25" with the idea being to think for yourself and not take up your parent's ideas. HOWEVER the book pushes his message onto the peers that the government is out to get you, so it isn't really telling people to think for themselves. Marcus becomes a terrorist himself, but the book pushes that you should side with him. You never hear if the bridge bomb terrorists were caught...if it was mentioned I may have zoned out- there were very long sections describing out different systems work and such. There was a part in the beginning that hinted at an amazing show if you put a frozen grape in the microwave. I envisioned a lot of kids blowing up frozen grapes in the microwave and leaving their mothers to clean up the mess. There was also this idea that women are easily manipulated because it is women that support Marcus, his mother, his girlfriend(s) and a teacher. Doctorow warns about a world where government agencies are constantly trying to keep up with technology to ensure the protection of citizens; A world where the teenage population is intent on the disintegration of society. He furthers his message by making the reader think of previous works with ideas he wants to express without having to build too much on those ideas in his story. Doctorow also uses the term "Little Brother" to parallel that of "Big Brother" from 1984 (Orwell) to show an omnipresent government. Marcus's computer name is Winston, the protagonist of 1984, triggering the memory of this book makes the reader automatically believe Marcus is an innocent boy targeted by the government. The reader finds out Marcus is a Hooligan whose cyberbulleying antics get his own father searched and peers gassed. The name "Clockwork Plunder" is to make us think of Clockwork Orange where there is extreme youth violence. The obvious difference is that these youth do not participate in physical violence, but a "cyber violence". Like in Clockwork Orange these characters too take a drug (turkish coffee/caffiene) to "sharpen them up". Marcus several times claims he is working for the Bill of Rights and speaks for freedom, though his actions result in taking freedoms away from others. "I can turn innocent people into suspects and turn guilty people into innocents" (86). Doctorow even states in his story" Let's call these spoiled children Cal-Quaeda.They do the terrorists' work on the home front. When...California gets attacked again, these brats will be as much to blame as the House of Saud" (87). Creating triggers to these other works make the reader confused on who we are supposed to be supporting. This is how the characters around Marcus feel as he rallies them to take action. Though I don't agree with "Marcus the hero", the end of the book leaves us wondering what sort of world we are living in and whether our actions help or hinder our society.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Left Hand of Mars: Ursula K Le Guin

In the Spirit of Perkins Gilman in Herland, Le Guin addresses inequality. In Left Hand of Darkness Le Guin focuses on sexuality and acceptance for others. Le Guin uses the idea of androgyny, which is unusual to the reader to parallel that of homosexuality, which may have seemed foreign to some readers when the book was published. Mr. Ai, who is characterized as a man 100% of the time is described by the Gethenians as “a sexual freak, or an artificial monster, or a visitor from the domains of the Void". (32) "You can see he is a sexual deviant". (156) Estraven, who learns to love Ai, says of his fellow men "They look at a man from another world and see what?... a pervert..." (159)The Gethenians are distrustful of the person they do not understand. Mr. Ai also expresses judgement to those he doesn't identify with and says “Cultural Shock was nothing much compared to the biological shock I suffered as a human male among human beings who were five-sixths of the time hermaphroditic neuters." (48) "They behaved like animals...or like women. They did not behave like men..."(49) “It seems like they were an experiment...Their ambisexuality has little or no adaptive value."(89) "There are aspects of ambisexuality that we have only glimpsed or guessed at...we may never grasp entirely."(93) Ai has trouble describing and accepting the Gethenians as equals since he can’t give them gender terms and categorize them. Towards the end Ai admits of Estraven "I saw then...what I had always been afraid to see...acceptance of him as he was. (248) Both sides expose this fear of a people they don't understand. Le Guin pushes the message that until we can accept and give equality to everyone, we can’t be fully human. Ai finally accepts the “other” and accomplishes his mission.

How to Live with a Neurotic Dog: Stephen Baker

This was an amusing humorous book about dog behavior and how you have to cope to live with a dog. I enjoyed the pictures and got it for a gift for someone...but I had to read it first!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Martian Chronicles: Ray Bradbury

This was an interesting and amusing read- originally written for news print it was a collection of short stories. All of the stories deal with life on Mars and sort of poke fun at humans and human nature. Bradbury was a master of many genres. In this book classified as science fiction, we see elements of satire. In “Ylla” a bored housewife envisions a creature coming to Mars in a rocket and fantasizes about him. The story does not immediately notify the reader that Martians are telepathic. Mrs. K has to tell the “dream” to her husband because he wasn’t attentive when the image originally played in her mind. The story states that they are no longer happily married and this need to tell their thoughts further shows how distanced the couple has become. Mr. K only knows when the rocket is due to land because his wife spoke in her sleep. Telepathy is first mentioned when Mrs. K wonders how she understood the Earthling. Ms. K is more connected with York, from another planet, than her husband. Mr. K has to voice “you can’t keep secrets from me!” (11), yet he can’t seem to read Ylla’s mind. Mr. K seems more alienated from Mrs. K than the actual alien. On the day of the rocket’s arrival Mr. K suddenly goes out “hunting”. He has to literally put on a mask to “mask” his emotions when his wife should be able to read his mind. The story doesn’t actually state what Mr. K hunts. We have to infer that he kills the Earthlings based on Mrs. K’s reaction to the shots. The story pokes fun at humans because couples, though married, live separate lives. Martians possess the power of telepathy, but don’t know what their spouse, the person closest to them, is thinking. Though the story is set on Mars and has fantastic things happening which makes it science fiction, this story is also very satiric. It sends the message that marriage is a trap with someone you do not understand.