Really enjoyed this first volume of Judge Dredd reprints. As my only exposure to Dredd before this was the two movies, I wasn't prepared for how tongu...moreReally enjoyed this first volume of Judge Dredd reprints. As my only exposure to Dredd before this was the two movies, I wasn't prepared for how tongue-in-cheek the series is. It almost reads like you would expect a Sunday-morning comic strip would in a propaganda-ridden, totalitarian police state future. The only long-form arcs to be found in these early strips are the Robot Rebellion and Dredd's six-month tour of duty on the Moon. Looking forward to future volumes and some of the more epic storylines I've heard about.(less)
There have been many times when I’ve made a point to read a novel before watching a film adaptation, but this may be the first time I’ve seen a movie...moreThere have been many times when I’ve made a point to read a novel before watching a film adaptation, but this may be the first time I’ve seen a movie and then immediately ran out to buy the book it was based on. As such, there’s no way to know how this book would have struck me if I’d come to it “cold” but the novel and the film both blew my mind, so I’m pretty happy.
There are serious differences, of course, the first being structure: the book takes a nested-dolls approach to the six stories whereas the movie kept all its plates spinning at once. The film also made significant changes to how one or two of the stories ended in order to make the overall tone more uplifting. Taking the original novel in chronological order would lead to a pretty bleak experience, and yet Mitchell still manages to end the whole piece on a note of hope.
And yes, you can play the “find the connections” game if you want but I chose not to, since that’s not really the point. They’re nice little Easter eggs when you come across them, but as long as you pick up on the theme that everything we do has consequences, positive and negative, that we could never realize or imagine, then the book has done its job. (Yes, it’s a story with a moral, but the way Mitchell gets there is so original and entertaining that I never really felt preached at.)(less)
I hate giving bad reviews, but I had deep, deep problems with this novel. Which is a shame, because I think we need more teen science fiction to count...moreI hate giving bad reviews, but I had deep, deep problems with this novel. Which is a shame, because I think we need more teen science fiction to counteract the overabundance of teen fantasy out there and to get young people thinking about the future again.
First with the good: Across the Universe starts out with absolutely the best description of people going into cryogenic freeze I've ever read, as a daughter watches her parents get painfully frozen for a 300-year journey and then must decide whether or not she wants to join them. Beth Revis doesn't pull any emotional punches in this scene, and its an incredibly effective hook for the rest of the novel.
And then we skip a bit, and the troubles start. It seems the freezer ship is also a generation ship, and while the heroine, Amy, has been having centuries of funky dreams, the waking civilization on board has been sliding into a totalitarian, mind-controlled dystopia, because this is a teen book and dystopias are cool. Sure, why not? Amy wakes up decades too early, and instead of getting the new world she was hoping for, she gets a claustrophobic version of the classic Star Trek episode "Return of the Archons" where she meets a male heartthrob her own age who is being groomed to be the ship's next "Elder."
Problem 1: Amy is a weak character, and the author spends an inordinate amount of time micro-analyzing Amy's feelings instead of moving the story. Amy can immediately see that something is severely wrong with the shipboard society, but instead of explaining to Elder why things are wrong and how things were different in the past, she simply screams "This isn't normal!" and sulks. Like, twenty times.
Problem 2: The second half of the book is full of plot twists and surprise reveals that (maybe this is just me) weren't that surprising at all. The whole book is peppered with obvious conclusions that the characters should be drawing and don't. (What do you mean that old people never come back from the fourth floor of the hospital? I wonder what could be happening? Gosh, I've really got not clue.)
The book does pick up in the last hundred pages, and there was one plot twist I didn't see coming. I was happy about that until I realized that the whole twist depended on -
Problem 3: A fundamental misunderstanding of the physics of spaceflight. Now you might say, "Come on, Jared, it's only science fiction." But I'd say that if you're going to play in a Star Wars or Star Trek style universe where the rules differ from the real world, fine - just establish that up front and I'll be happy. However, if you're writing about a generation ship on a 300-year journey to Alpha Centauri, the implication is that you're playing by the known laws of physics. Revis is obviously aware of Einstein's lightspeed limit, but the big twist underlying the reason behind the ship's totalitarian society hinges on completely ignoring Newton's first law of motion.
If you ask many scientists what got them hooked into science as a kid, they'll probably point back to the science fiction novels they read as a child. I get that this book is a primarily dystopian love story, but if you're writing a teen science fiction book (and not a space fantasy like Star Wars) it's important to get the science right.(less)
Here's something you don't see much of any more - Social Science Fiction. The World Inside is a product of the era that also gave us Logan's Run and T...moreHere's something you don't see much of any more - Social Science Fiction. The World Inside is a product of the era that also gave us Logan's Run and THX-1138, and is something of the same ilk. Several centuries into the future, the human race has moved into giant monolithic city-buildings called "urbmons" that each house almost a million people. Society has made some rather extreme adaptations to living in such close confinement: every freedom is supressed except for one - sex - and on sex, the only restriction is that no one is allowed to say "no."
Silverberg posits an interesting situation and commits to it, exploring as many consequences of his idea as he can come up with. The book is structured into seven chapters that act as inter-connecting short stories, each focusing on a different inhabitant of Urbmon 116. It lacks a traditional plot structure, but Silverberg is going for the "literary" here, and it mostly works. The World Inside is a book that keeps you thinking.
As intriguing a vision of the future it presents, The World Inside is very much a product of its time. Published in 1971, it straddles the psychedelic '60s and the swinging '70s in a lot of its attitudes. So far as I can tell, there are no non-Euro-American characters, and while there's an awful lot of sex, women are relegated to a passive, domestic role with essentially no power. Whether those were deliberate choices by the author or just a 1960's blind spot, it's hard to say.(less)
It's been a long, long time since I've been sucked into a novel so completely as I was with this one. Talk about narrative drive - Suzanne Collins has...moreIt's been a long, long time since I've been sucked into a novel so completely as I was with this one. Talk about narrative drive - Suzanne Collins has it in spades. For the most part, I think of myself as a slow reader, but this one makes me think that maybe I've just been reading slow books.
The Hunger Games is not only engaging, but probably the most brutal book I've read in years. In a way, it's manipulative - gladiatorial combat to the death involving children is an automatic emotional sucker-punch - but Collins goes for tension over shock value. The level of suspense in this book is as sharp as a knife-edge, and doesn't let up - even on the last page.
The trick she plays, I think, is that she never completely takes away all the main character's sense of hope. That's the mistake most dystopian fiction makes: if the protagonist's situation is too bleak, the reader will often shut them out and stop identifying. By occasionally restoring Katniss Everdeen's hope that she can get out of the Games alive, Collins sucks us back to her hellish future, page after page after page.(less)
I've read lots of classic SF, but now, at last, I've found the missing link between Isaac Asimov and E.E. Smith, the transition stage between thoughtf...moreI've read lots of classic SF, but now, at last, I've found the missing link between Isaac Asimov and E.E. Smith, the transition stage between thoughtful, character driven science fiction and the Atomic! Age! of Super! Science! Van Vogt's prose is just far enough on the clunky side of pulp to make it jarring to modern ears, but the main thing that might hold a modern reader back from this book is that so many of the ideas Vogt introduces have since passed into the realm of cliche. If you put the book in its historical context, it becomes clear how much of a debt Van Vogt is owed.
Super-powered mutants fighting to protect a world that hates and fears them? Check. An oppressive totalitarian government that uses fear to control the populace? Check. A eugenics program aimed at creating the perfect super-being, destined to one day avenge his parents and come into his ultimate power? I could go on, and that's without even getting to the underground cities, hypnosis crystals, disintegration rays, conspiracies within conspiracies, and the secret colony on Mars.
What I enjoyed most in Slan is that, while there is a clear-cut protagonist, the sides of "right" and "wrong" are murky and indistinguishable right up to the very end - a far cry from the pulp adventures of the Lensmen or John Carter. My one complaint is that the hero, Jommy Cross, lacks anything like an equal or counterweight to play against. Still, it's a quick, enjoyable, Slam! Bang! and yet surprisingly thoughtful read.(less)
You have to stand in awe of the way Cherie Priest managed to tap into the pop culture zeitgeist with her steampunk zombie pulp-fest. Anyone who thinks...moreYou have to stand in awe of the way Cherie Priest managed to tap into the pop culture zeitgeist with her steampunk zombie pulp-fest. Anyone who thinks she was simply following these trends doesn't appreciate exactly how long it takes to get a book from idea to the shelf. It feels as if Priest was trying to write the definitive steampunk novel, with solid, logical reasons for all of the standard trappings: goggles, airships, advanced weaponry, and mad science. It will be interesting to see where she goes with the series. Boneshaker loses a little bit of steam (heh) in the middle, but picks up again toward the end to a satisfying conclusion.
There are only two quibbles that I have with the story: One, Priest postulates an entire society of people living "on the edge" in a zombie-infested Seattle, but she never (to my mind) gives a pressing reason why any of these people would choose to remain. They're not trapped, since there is commerce with the outside world. Supposedly this society exists because the zombie-gas that caused the problem in the first place can be refined into a narcotic, but if they're staying in Seattle for the money, what do they plan to spend it on?
Two- I don't really feel that Priest did right by her villain, Minnericht. He stays in the shadows for most of the novel, and when he finally does appear on the scene, he breathes a burst of new life into the story. Unfortunately, the mystery of Minnericht's identity is revealed a little too easily, and the way that it happens effectively emasculates him as an antagonist.
Nevertheless, the final chapters in particular are beautifully written, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the story goes in volume 2.(less)
So much for the future. Forget space travel - in fact, forget traveling very far from your home, except by horse or sailboat. Anything else requires c...moreSo much for the future. Forget space travel - in fact, forget traveling very far from your home, except by horse or sailboat. Anything else requires cheap fuel, which probably won't be around for much longer. You can also give up on pizza night. When the cost of transporting food becomes as prohibitive as the cost of transporting anything else, we won't be eating much of anything that we can't grow in our own backyard. Oh, but wait... we don't have backyards any more since (in urban areas, at least) we paved over all our arable farmland to build subdivisions, shopping malls, industrial complexes, and parking lots.
Basically, we're screwed.
Terry Goodkind commented that people will believe something because a) they want it to be true, or b) they're afraid it might be true. I believe the future of The Windup Girl because it scares the crap out of me. In the 22nd century, energy is scarce and food is scarcer. "Calories" are now currency, and to make matters worse, a cabal of big-Agri companies, not satisfied with flooding the market with their patented, infertile crops, have released engineered plagues into the environment with the goal of wiping out any food source for which they don't own the monopoly.
With the help of a renegade gene-hacker, the Kingdom of Thailand has managed to keep out the plagues of the West and remain a viable nation, but its grip on independence is slipping due to corruption from within. Into this mix comes Emiko, a genetically-engineered New Person - a "windup" - one of a new species designed to not only live, but to thrive in a future altered beyond recognition from our own. The question is: will the windup girl and her like be able to survive the death throes of the original human race?(less)
One thing Tim Hamilton's adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 brings home is that this classic story isn't about some far future dystopia where reading is ban...moreOne thing Tim Hamilton's adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 brings home is that this classic story isn't about some far future dystopia where reading is banned by some authoritarian government. This is a book about today, no matter when you're reading it, and the impulses in a lazy, distracted society not just to censor, but to willingly turn a blind eye to the accumulated knowledge of centuries in favor of fast cars, wide-screen TVs, and feelings of personal security in times of constant war. Sound familiar?
In graphic novels, one tends to judge the art on the basis of either its realism or its stylistic flourishes. This is one of those books where the main thing that struck me was the use of color. No bright, four-color panels here, folks. The palette is nothing but autumn colors - late autumn moving into winter, just like the dying society depicted in the novel. There's not a shred of green to be found anywhere, and the use of the color blue stops with the death of one of the key characters early in the novel. After that, it's nothing but muted browns, yellows and orange. And red. Lots and lots of red.
One last note: in the film version of Fahrenheit 451 it wasn't only books that were gone, but all reading in particular. What communication and instruction there is was done through wordless comic books. How ironic, then, that we now have a comic book version of a novel that celebrates the power of prose, approved of by its own author. (Of course, if reading itself is a lost art, the plot wouldn't make any sense. If no one knew how to read at all, then books wouldn't be any danger. But I digress...) (less)
Quick, flippant review: Just like No Country for Old Men but with robots and punctuation marks.
For real this time:
It’s hard to sum up this book. The o...moreQuick, flippant review: Just like No Country for Old Men but with robots and punctuation marks.
For real this time:
It’s hard to sum up this book. The obvious options are synopsis and hyperbole, and I’ll try to avoid either. It’s also hard to talk about this book without bringing up the movie, so I’ll get that out of the way first. I’m a huge fan of the film, especially the re-cut version, but I’m glad they changed the title; it makes it easier to keep the book and movie separate in my mind. Some of the characters have the same names and some of individual scenes take place in both, but the context, the meaning, and the resolution are, in either case, worlds apart. The Rick Deckard of Do Androids Dream is no Harrison Ford. Paul Giamatti, maybe.
The crux of the film was the injustice of the androids’ slavery, condemned to live painfully short lives by an uncaring creator. The focus of the book, on the other hand, is empathy. Androids have no empathy. They don’t even truly believe it exists. Humans have it, but most of that is artificial.
In Dick’s novel, there are very few humans left, and fewer animals of any kind. People artificially induce emotional states in themselves via a “mood organ” and they share artificial empathy with each other by communing with a VR messiah-figure named Wilber Mercer. To care for a living animal is a mark of social status, and those who can’t afford one have to make do with mechanical substitutes to keep up appearances. There are mechanical copies of people as well, but that’s another matter.
Deckard hunts androids down, but he doubts himself when he begins to feel empathy for his victims. Another bounty hunter in the novel doubts his own humanity because of the things his job requires him to do. We don’t even understand why androids need to be destroyed until a chilling scene near the end where an android character, who seemed sympathetic until that moment, tortures a small animal just to see what would happen – not because the android was evil, but because it had no empathy.
In the end, Deckard is left with the consequences of the terrible acts he has to carry out and finds himself no longer able to shut away his feelings for those he is required to kill. At the same time, he is trapped by the knowledge that the murders he committed had to be done. His newfound empathy, genuine empathy, cannot change the past, and to carry it into the future will be a burden with little real reward. (less)