Friday, November 26, 2010

Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson

            What a treat!  This story was interesting due to Stephenson’s gritty description of the chaotic world our society has evolved in to.  I really enjoyed the conversations Hiro Protagonist (punny name) had with the librarian about the languages and religions.  Stephenson had to have really done some home work.  The thought of a inner language that is deep in us has crossed my mind once or twice while feeling the “oneness” effects of psychedelics.  The whole comparison of language as software and viruses to our computer brains was an interesting take that fit for a devout hacker like Hiro. 
            The characters and environment are very rich and appealing to me but the story is rather straight forward.  Some megalomaniac millionaire uses religion and drugs as a disguise for his world domination plot.  The only real difference was the scientific and historical explanations that made incantations seem plausible.  There was never really a point in the reading where I was shocked at a turn of events.  It has a high-speed-thrill-ride feel that keeps you going as you bounce between Y.T. and Hiro.
            I’ve been thinking about science fiction as a whole lately after we read that parasite worm story by Octavia Butler in class.  I think science fiction is an excellent genre to showcase present problems with metaphor or allegory.  I think readers can be more objective in their views because the situations are far off, fictional, and exaggerated.  It is much harder to be objective about dilemmas when you are directly involved with emotions and welfare muddying up thinking.  I’m not sure exactly what the human condition is but I think it impedes here.  This is basically a long-winded description of my thoughts as I break it all down in my head.  What I’m trying to describe is probably already known as satire.  The use of satire in science fiction has been made well known by Kurt Vonnegut.  I suppose it is rather fitting I mention him while I am just babbling on about this because his writing often feels like a tsunami of thoughts on paper.
            I haven’t figured out what social issue Stephenson is trying to depict through Snow Crash.  I find the drastic difference in social class to be interesting.  Pristine, guarded burbclaves and dismal shopping center ghettos.  Both ends of the spectrum are described in a negative and sarcastic manner so it is hard to identify any side Stephenson is taking.  He could even be trying to discuss religious topics.  Nothing seemed to distinctly stand out.  It was all a blur of poverty, awesome weapons, neon lights and air pollution I also enjoy how a mafia boss can be such a beloved hero and member of the community.  I hated how the Fido died.  Fido was so pure. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Samuel R. Delany—Babel 17/Empire Star

            I only read Babel 17.  It was highly enjoyable.  Delany definitely knows his way around language.  Rydra Wong is a great heroin.  She has her mysterious past and compassionate vulnerabilities.  Her personality and best selling poetry makes her quite agreeable with just about everybody she happens to warp into.  I like how she can fit herself into all the different social classes so seamlessly.  General Forester’s battle-hardened heart falls for her instantly, and she is able to mingle her crew with the Baron Vor Dorco’s high society.  She is a true cosmopolitan.  This is where I like to try to make a joke about being a true COSMICPOLITIAN or something.  Delany would know all the Greek root words and be able to make a better joke.  I don’t want to look it all up just to find out it is not even that funny. 
            I was confused while reading the parts where Rydra switches into thinking in Bable 17.  I think this was the intended effect because Rydra feels fatigued after thinking that barrage of information.  It is like a tidal wave of free thought.  I like all the connections that are going on there.  Somehow she is able to transcribe all the seemingly chaotic thought into a very useful grid or something.  I wonder what would happen if I was able to get a different view of all my thoughts.  If there was a way to see all the subconscious thoughts streaming together all at once.  Maybe I would be able to find serenity and inner peace.  I’d probably just get a birds eye view of a beautifully orchestrated mess of anxiety, fart jokes, and porn.  I doubt my thoughts would be as useful as Babel 17.  Somebody as brilliant as Rydra Wong would not be impressed with toilet humor and Sienfeld reruns.             
            The whole struggle with the Alliance and Invaders is left pretty vague.  It seems to have been going on for a long time but any information about is just mentioned by characters in passing.  The war has been going on for so long it is just a normal part of life.  I think it might have been going on before Rydra was even born.  I can’t imagine what that kind of thing would do on a person’s upbringing.  I live in beautiful, sunny Florida, in the wealthy and safe United States of America.  I have no idea what it is like to be in a war zone.  I imagine somebody in a less fortunate situation would have a better idea.  Like a kid growing up in one of those place the Rambo movies are set in.  The Alliance seems to be like the Americans.  We may be at war, but the battles are in some distant galaxy, and right now I’m watching wrestling in a bar getting hammered.  

Brandon Sanderson - Warbreaker

            I guess I totally nerded out on this book.  I disregarded all my other responsibilities and read the whole story in about three days.  There was a pile of empty Dr. Pepper cans and Little Debbie wrappers around my computer.  It probably looked like the aftermath of a marathon World of Warcraft raid or something.  (Please don’t tell my boys about this.)
            The book flowed easily because the writing was straight forward and I could just keep scrolling down to the next plot twist.  I enjoyed who the younger sister, with less formalities and manners, wound up being better suited for the Godking job then her overly prepared sister.  It is an interesting thought that someone can prepare their whole life and still wind up helpless.  I forget the proper sister’s name, but I love it when she constantly second guesses herself and her motives.  She sneaks into town with the strictest morals and quickly finds out the harshness of poverty-stricken reality wipes out the certainties of her religious ideals.  Her internal debates are fascinating.  There is even a split second, when she is really down in the gutter, where she envies the prostitutes.  When she originally enters the town, she is far superior, casting judgments on the most moral and modest townsfolk.  She is not in town very long before life deals her a few bad hands and she is forced to reevaluate her stance on some of her beliefs. 
            I also fell in love the character, Lightsong.  He is the god that is most focused on but he also has the best attitude of all the gods.  Most gods are in such extravagant luxury that they never think to question it.  They are blinded by their plush lifestyle.  Lightsong is a relatively young and rebellious god.   He can’t make himself content just because he has a team of people to a appease his every whim.  It is not because he wants more.  He seems to question the order of things and seeks out flaws or irrationalities in the whole religious system.  These qualities are ideal in a leader.  I think many leaders often start off with that mindset, but a few years in their plush throne, numbs that instinct.  Lightsong’s entire conciousness has been luxurious yet he has some subconscious instincts that irk him.
            There was enough interesting moral dilemmas that the characters had to face to keep me captivated through the whole 800+ pages of this brute.  There were some extreme conspiracies going on.  Hopefully, our governments won’t have to be completely under-minded to get people to consider others’ points of view.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman

            This has been my favorite book so far.  Gaiman has the narrative voice I was left wanting from the previous reading.  I love the little things he adds to his descriptions.  I remember laughing out loud when he says that Fat Charlie’s son has the sincerity that only small children and gorilla’s have been able to master.  Those little things may not really do much to move the plot along, but as the reader, it enhances the experience for me.  It must take more consideration to add things like that or make sure an analogy works with the thing it describes.  This was much more the witty narration I was looking for and I fell head over heels for it.
            I am a sucker for Fat Charlie.  I relate to him very much.  Part of me wants to be Anansi, the life of the party, the karaoke king.  However, the other 99.9% of me is more inhibited and would pass out right next to Fat Charlie on stage.  Maybe I was split apart as a child.  Maybe there is another half of me somewhere.  What if I am the cooler of the two halves, the Spider side?  That poor bastard other half must be absotively pitiful. 
            The whole thought that everything is created through song is interesting to me.  I think it is a good way to say that we are all beats in a larger rhythm.  Simply the cowbell in a  much more intricate Milky Way Philharmonic Orchestra.  The moments when Fat Charlie has his epiphany and is able to sing to all the mythical beasts is pure beauty.  I do not remember exactly how his song went; I was too overwhelmed with the thought of that moment.  It is a perfect culmination of a dramatic climax, a character finding peace in his own skin, and multiple resolutions.  I could not believe how strongly this scene in the book hit me.  I am kind of at a loss for words about that.  Because of that, I feel like I should thank you for requiring this reading.  I always feel appreciative when somebody makes me laugh a really satisfying, gut busting laugh, and this book left me feeling in a way that I should be similarly appreciative.  I want to check out more of Gaiman’s writing when I have more time over winter break.

The Golden Compass - Phillip Pullman

I’m sure this is a great story.  I’m sure that I would really enjoy it if I gave it enough time and got into it.  The four chapters I read just were not doing it for me.  I know four chapters is hardly anything and I am basically judging a book by its cover.  Maybe I am intimidated because I have the edition with the entire trilogy bound in one giant paperback volume.  Who knows?
The first thing I thought while reading it was: Why does the young hero always come from some horrible past.  They are always orphans with extraordinary character and spunk.  What about a protagonist for the everyday child?  We need John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen to write a children’s fantasy novel.  There is a fantastical world with magical events about to unfold and these stories always start with some kid from the bottom.  It could be the whole fascination with the underdog, but if you got a prepubescent kid slaying dragons and restoring the world’s faith, isn’t that extreme enough?  Do they really have to have murdered parents and a horrible childhood on their resume to qualify for the job of protagonist?  Where does that leave all the regular kids who are tucked in their safe little beds reading these stories past their bedtime?  Their parents are not even divorced or dead.  They have no hope at living a life anybody will want to read.  A dull desk job is all that awaits them.  No grand call to destiny.  Just wither away their existence all because their parents took good care of them. 
I was also considering the narration in this story.  I see why an author would choose to use third person to capture all the details of an environment, character’s feelings, and their interactions.  It seems like a better way to cover the vast array of details a writer would want to shove in their imagined world.  I think I like Tolkien’s third person narration style more, with his meandering thoughts and side notes.  It seems to have more personal voice than straightforward reporting.  Pullman offers some descriptive material that is biased or opinionated but it is just not doing it for me.  I would love see it exaggerated much more.  If you are going to write a children’s novel make every descriptive metaphor a fart joke or slap stick humor.  I guess I just want to feel like my narrator is a character in itself.  I would prefer a narrator who seems emotionally invested, overly cynical, and a little more than half drunk.
Now that this is on the Internet, hopefully somebody will write a story with this type of narration.  That would be top notch.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien

                      I read the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was in middle school.  I remember I had borrowed the books from one of my dad’s friends and it was a big deal because they were some special editions or something and it took me about a month to read each book.  Anyways,  back then I did not really realize the scope of Middle Earth and all of Tolkien’s labors.  I was just really focused on hearing this popular tale and being able to pass some test that checked my comprehension.

I had not realized that Tolkien had put so much effort into developing this idea of Middle Earth, and languages, and all the inhabitants.  I am glad to revisit the Hobbit because I do not remember the voice it was told in before.  I like to imagine it, as a lonely old man who has some story the he knows you are craving to hear.  The old fellow is happy to have company and chit chat so he lets himself get side-tracked with family history or any other fun facts that may enter his mind but are not absolutely vital to the story (It is a little funny to note that the gentleman that I originally borrowed the books from had a model train set up throughout his garage, but I digress, and that seems to be the exact kind of side note the old Narrator would mention.)  I like this kind of narration for the tale because it adds that kind of feeling of attachment to the story.  If I were a reporter trying to get some scoop from some random old grandpa in a nursing home I would be frustrated and bored to tears with his ranting but, I am reading the book for pleasure and there is no rush.  There are too many details to try to soak up as the tale unfolds so I feel like I might as well stop and smell the roses from time to time.  I really do not have much personal interest in the Took ancestry but, when Tolkien mentions in passing how a Took simultaneously clubbed an ogre’s head off and invented golf, I am delighted.  Those little things give the writing so much down homey charm that nonstop-action-packed-thrill-rides lack.  The whole development of every aspect of Middle Earth seems to be an act of love.  Now that I know that Tolkien was an orphan and a soldier, I wonder if this realm was his escape of sorts.  That seems like a really easy psychobabble answer.  He could have just been a Star Trek nerd a few years premature.  Either way, I am impressed he cultivated this idea his whole life and, I am glad it wound up making him money and our entertainment.

Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice

            Unfortunately, I had seen the movie before I read the book for this class so everything I am envisioning as I read is narrated by Brad Pitt.  I have the same problem with Edward Norton Narrating all of Chuck Palahniuk books in my head thanks to Fight Club.  Other than that, I would say Anne Rice has got a good thing going here with Louis reflecting on all of his vampire existence.  I like the emotional aspects of vampires and the toll that immortality takes on a soul.  If a vampire even has a soul.  The plight for humans seems to be that life sucks and we do not know what happens afterwards.  Our happiness is Depending upon how much your life sucks and what you hope happens after death.  Vampires are stuck in this life for God knows how long in a constant state of suck.  Humans can at least hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel with whatever religion they subscribe to.  I imagine you suddenly loose any sense of urgency when you are going to be around until the end of the world.  The only real deadlines to be met are coffin time by sunlight and feeding. 
            What I do not get about vampires is why they value human blood as the highest.  If you go with the thought that vampires are a myth created by humans then it makes sense to make our blood the most coveted to increase their fright factor.  However, whenever I over analyze it I think about how a human bite wound is more dangerous than a dog bite because of all the filthy things we have growing in our mouths.  In composting, human fecal matter is the most difficult and time consuming matter to use due to it’s high toxicity.  It stands to reason that human blood would not be the purest around.  I  agree that the fresh blood of youth would be desirable but, maybe from seal cub or kitten.  I think Lestat once said he was dizzy from the blood of a wine drunk guy or something and he did not enjoy it.  In modern society, if a vampire wanted to keep a low profile, the easiest people to prey upon would be the homeless and hookers.  Their disappearance would go largely unnoticed and most authorities would probably say good riddance.  The only problem is that in modern society most of those people have some sort of addiction or transmittable disease.  I do not want to put a negative generalization on down trodden people but I would definitely need some substance to cope with the horrors of homelessness or prostitution.  I guess being undead makes you invulnerable to diseases but I am wondering if a vampire could pick up a meth addiction from feeding off a addict.  Then the vampire would have to quench his need for blood and crystal meth.  Vampirism would take marijuana’s place as the gateway drug. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

David Wellington - Monster Island

This is a pretty interesting take on the zombie apocalypse scenario.  I like the thought that all the God-forsaken countries are the most prepared for handling the undead.  I frequently think what it would be like to live in a place where you could die on your way to the convenience store and it would not be that out of the ordinary.  I think it would do a number on your mental state to live in a place where stray bullets and improvised explosive devices where as much an everyday occurrence as telemarketers or junk mail.  I cannot imagine the stress you would constantly be under.  As much as it would suck, it would make you more adaptable and better adjusted to the horrors of flesh eating zombies. 

It seems like being forced into a childhood of military service is the worst fate in today’s world.  Maybe the sexual slave trade is worse.  I do not know.  I never want to find out.  A career in the sex industry would not be very useful in the interest of survival if an epidemic starts to wake the dead and they happen to hunger for living flesh.   Maybe you could sleep with somebody who would protect you.  The soldier kids would be well suited for preserving for preserving the species.  Their way of life would be the perfect training for survival.  A time capsule of crimes against human rights.  The meek of today shall inherit the infected Earth.  It would be interesting if space invaders came after the zombie Armageddon and found sole survivors of our human legacy to be prepubescent warriors.  That seems a little far-fetched but it could be cool if Earth was documented like that in some intergalactic filing system or library.

My favorite character is Gary.  He seems like a well-intended junkie.  I do not like to see him die and I think he is becoming bitter and evil.  He has evolved into a super zombie and is having visions of some supernatural being.  I think his near final death experience has given him a new take on his brethren and he is better able to empathize with them.  That is how he has become this sort of zombie whisperer.  It is interesting to think of zombies as victims of their addiction to meat.  It personalizes them instead of being mere faces in an unrelenting crowd of cannibalistic doom.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mary Shelley - Frankenstein

I can understand Victor Frankenstein’s ambitions and dreams of grandeur.  It would be pretty awesome to be remembered for greatness or for improving mankind’s quality of life.  I do not think I will do that and this story does intend to inspire people to go out and drive themselves crazy in labor the way Frankenstein did.  Instead, it seems to romanticize a practical life full of simple pleasures.  The message of Frankenstein’s warning is to forget about any desires of greatness because they could end up backfiring on you.  You will die and only be remembered by a handful of relatives briefly before you disappear, completely forgotten by history.  I would not loose any sleep over it.  Find some wet cement and plop your face in it if you absolutely want to be immortalized.  I would not take it any farther though.  You might wind up inadvertently killing off all those people near and dear to you.

            I think it is a pretty peculiar coincidence that Henry Clerval happens to pop up in Ingoslt unannounced a few hours after the completion of Frankenstein’s toils.  It seems like a good way to distract Frankenstein from his troubles but, I would still be haunted by the giant zombie raiding my minifridge while I went to Wafflehouse with my old chum.  I would not be able to enjoy my waffles.  I would be far too preoccupied.

            It seems to me that Frankenstein had just faced his initial fears of his monstrous creation instead of letting it snowball.  If I woke up one day and noticed an open sore on my penis I would instantly panic like Frankenstein did at his first glance of the creature.  After a day or two of agonizing over the sore festering on my genitals I would have to bite the bullet and realize it was not simply going to work itself out.  Training a giant brute with the intellect of a newborn would not be pleasant but neither is the embarrassing doctor visit with all the personal questions.  Both Frankenstein and I fucked around with something we should not have meddled with and now have to deal with it.  If that scenario had played out he could have a loyal and beloved sidekick when he returned to Geneva.  I think sticking around and showing the creature a heartfelt welcome to life would have been Frankenstein’s shot of Penicillin that would clear up all his future wretched blisters.  (The analogy about my penis was strictly hypothetical.)