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.