It's 1976, and the world's population has been wiped out by an unknown affliction. Robert Neville is the last man alive. Immune to the plague by someIt's 1976, and the world's population has been wiped out by an unknown affliction. Robert Neville is the last man alive. Immune to the plague by some trick of fate, he is left alone in the world, with nothing but an unescapable will to continue living.
After dark, the dead population come to stand outside Neville's boarded up home, to taunt and torment him. He keeps them away with garlic, crosses and mirrors, lest they come after his blood. During the day he goes through houses staking the people as they lie comatose in their beds. His nights are sleepless, and his days are bleak and lonely. Eventually he turns to investigating the disease, mainly as something to do, basically teaching himself the biology from scratch, and trying to bring scientific reason to vampirism.
Matheson's writing is really just amazing. For the majority of the book, Neville is entirely alone, just doing whatever is necessary to survive, and the majority of the dialogue is just Nevilles own crazy internal thoughts. And for that to continue for so long, and yet to be the complete opposite of boring.. it was exciting. It's so good in fact, that I read the entire book in one go, and I don't often do that.
I had previously seen the movie (the Will Smith version), which I actually liked very much, don't flame me! But this book of course is quite different. And then someone had explained the plot of the book to me, after I saw the movie, but despite this, I still found so much in the book that was just unexpected.
(view spoiler)[The one point that I'm left confused on, is whether Neville survived or not, I just can't get my head around it. For those people that have read the ending it might be clear to you. But I just can't get past the fact that this book is the point of view of Neville, it's almost as if he wrote it. And how can he tell a story if he is no longer alive? I would love to ask Matheson if he did it this way on purpose, to make me confused, or whether it's just a writers trick to have his protog tell his story from beyond the grave.. (hide spoiler)]
Additional Warning: If reading the new SF Masterworks edition, Do not read the introduction before the book, it's a bit too spoilerific, it would have been better at the end of the book as a review.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The book is actually written as a record of letters from Captain Robert Walton to his sister, Margaret Walton Saville. Walton is on a sea journey to tThe book is actually written as a record of letters from Captain Robert Walton to his sister, Margaret Walton Saville. Walton is on a sea journey to the north pole, and he comes across Victor Frankenstein in failed pursuit of his monster, floating on a raft of ice. When they take him on board, Walton and Frankenstein quickly become friends and Frankenstein relates his tale, which Walton faithfully records in his letter to his sister.
Victor Frankenstein's tale begins with a pretty idyllic childhood, he's rich and well loved. The first tragedy comes with the death of his mother, just before he moves away to university. But then he throws himself into his studies, in which he discovers the secret of life. (We are never told what this is, although we know all the movies asume it is elecricity). And he decides to create a man, by gathering pieces of dead bodies and then bring it to life with his new secret method. He pursues this in a kind of maniacal frenzy, and then suddenly when he is finished, he is absolutely horrified by what he has done, has a complete break down and retires to bed for 2 months with a nervous fever.
When his friend Clerval comes to see him, he fairly quickly gets over his upset and plans on going home to Geneva, almost as if nothing has happened. And little does he think of his Monster, who is off in the world on his own, desperately seeking the meaning of his life.
I find it hard to review this book, as I was of two different minds about it.
On the one hand I did love it, because to think of it, this must almost be the genesis of the horror genre as we know it.. Written by Mary Shelly when she was only 19 years old, and in the same decade that Jane Austen was writing romances. This constantly amazes me. And it completely laughs in the face of this 'new' monster mashup-up genre - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies etc - monsters in that era.. it's been done before.. way before.
I did also love the character of the Monster, once you hear his story you can almost forgive him for all his homicidal tendencies. How it must be like to be created, fully grown but hideous, and then completely abandoned. What would I think of my maker? Would I hate him, would I want to inflict untold misery upon him?
As it happens, I do hate Frankenstein. He has no sense of responsibility. He constantly avoids even the thought of his Monster, even after he realises it is at large and capable of great harm, he chooses to convince himself that everything will be fine. When he should be doing something about it. And every time something bad happens, he can't take the stress, and he faints and falls into a delerious fever for several months. Perhaps I ought to understand the relationship between massive psychological depression, and the whole avoidance routine, I do it myself. A lot. But maybe because of this I hate him. And I don't want to understand him. How can he be like this when his life is so otherwise idyllic, he has everything he wants, and this is his only responsibility, but he turns away from it, while it destroys everyone else. He's selfish, weak, irresposible, apathetic.. and I hate him for it.
Many people have ideas what the book is realy about.. What Mary Shelley meant by it all.. I think it's a book about G-d, From G-d's point of view. For all those people who ask 'Where is G-d, why has he created us and abandoned us?'. Mary tells us.. Well he's horrified, he's depressed, and he can't cope. Because we are monsters.
Gully Foyle is an uneducated, unmotivated thug, just barely surviving, alone in a small airtight locker on a wrecked ship in deep space. When a ship pGully Foyle is an uneducated, unmotivated thug, just barely surviving, alone in a small airtight locker on a wrecked ship in deep space. When a ship passes by after several months, Gully emits a distress flare, the ship stops long enough to notice Gully.. and then continues on... After that moment Gully has a purpose, a single driving angry purpose to not just survive, but get free and get revenge upon the ship that passed him by.
The book is set in a future where humans have populated the solar system, where corporations are the ruling powers, and where the population travels mostly (on planet surface) by self teleportation. But in space teleportation is impossible, and so humanity still relys on spaceships for travel. Telepathy is extremely rare, but is also a possibility.
Gully's drive for revenge ultimately changes Gully throughout the long course of the book, it is the one thing that could have made him better himself. But it never turns him into a likeable character. I think this would be the main reason I didn't care so much for the book. It's hard to get absorbed in a book where you don't care for or can't relate to the main character, as such I'm not sure why this book has been highly rated, maybe I'm alone in my tastes! But Gully isn't just uneducated and unintelligent, he just doesn't have any real desires apart from his vengeance, and it makes for a very weak character. I can't even agree with his taste in women.
I can say it was a mildly interesting setting, and some of the side characters were fairly nice and quirky, especially the one guy thats so radioactive he can't be among other people for more than half an hour, and makes everyones technology break.
Probably won't be up for another by this author, not my cup of tea....more
Judging from other reviews, this is one of those marmite books, that you'll either love, or hate. Luckily for me I'm in the 'LOVED IT' group.
New CrobuJudging from other reviews, this is one of those marmite books, that you'll either love, or hate. Luckily for me I'm in the 'LOVED IT' group.
New Crobuzon is an immense city which is both filthily squallid and amazingly vibrant. Filled with a fantastic plethora of people and cultures. Artists and Scientist, Thieves and politicians (often the same thing), rich and poor, bug-people, cactus-plant-people, bird-people, generic humans, steampunk cyborgs (called re-made) and countless other wierd and awful things.
Issac Dan der Grimmnebulin is a sort of free-lance Scientist, who picks up an intriguing new client. A Garuda (bird-person) called Yagharek, who commissions Isaac to give him back the power of flight. Isaac throws himself into the scientific task, spurred on by three things; A love of impossible problems, the fascinating mysterious character of Yagharek himself, and a ton of money. (Yeh that would probably get me too).
Whilst investigating many different scientific options, Isaac comes into possession of a strange rainbow coloured caterpillar that refuses to eat anything but a psychotropic drug called 'dream-shit'. And with these two set-ups for the main plot line.. how could things ever NOT become interesting?
Big thanks to Nancy for recommending this book to me; I got completely hooked into this book. It took me a week to get through - it's fairly massive, and a bit tough to get into a first - but well worth the effort involved.
All the characters were brilliant and detailed, but my absolute favourite was Yagharek, the wingless Garuda. he's such a mystery in the beginning. And I found myself rushing through inbetween sections (as interesting as they were), hurrying to his next appearance and then reading voraciously for any hint and suggestion as to his background. Why and how did he lose his wings? What crime would be so great as to fit that punishment? Why do I have a crush on a fictional bird-person? These things kept me up at night until I closed the last page of the book.
I can't say the book didn't have it's flaws. The one thing that did bother me, was the the concept of the bug-people. (The other races I could actually accept). But the bug people.. the problem for me was that in this race, the females have a human female body, but their head is a bug. And the males are just a bug (no human parts). I find it impossible to imagine a species that could evolve this way, and I kept waiting for this to link in to some wierd science experiment in the manner of the re-made, which I thought would fit so well into the universe that it HAD to be the explanation. But either I missed it, or rendered it illegible whilst drooling on the pages reading about Yagharek, or it just wasn't there. A great pity.
A few words of warning for those who have not yet read this masterpiece; The imagery is so vivid and the setting so much a contrast of filth and colour that you may feel the need to wear gloves while reading, or store it in the fridge. There is a distinct lack of happy endings, please have a pack of kleenex to hand whilst reading. If a book is akin to a desert, I would term this a chocolate fudge sundae with sour skittles on top. NOM NOM! Enjoy :)...more
The last nuclear world war has left the world changed, the population is only a fraction of what it once was, so many rooms lie empty and deserted jusThe last nuclear world war has left the world changed, the population is only a fraction of what it once was, so many rooms lie empty and deserted just cluttered with the junk that people left behind. Many animal species are exctinct or close to exctinction, and every household is morally obliged to keep an animal. Many people emmigrated to mars, where android companions and servants are popular. Androids are outlawed on earth, but they sneak in anyway and try to pose as human, until they're discovered and 'retired'.
Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter for the police who hunts down and retires illegal androids. When the local top bounty hunter gets hospitalised by a rogue android, Rick gets passed his current job, 6 androids with the latest AI tech that makes them near impossible to spot under the testing system. Meanwhile Rick also has a depressed wife at home, and a broken electric sheep that is his greatest shame, what Rick wants most of all is a real live animal.
The question of how to tell androids and humans apart was probably the most defining point of this book. The test that Rick used checked for signs like blushing and hesitation when being asked about morally questionable subjects like promiscuity or the killing of animals. But then there are certain humans with abnormal morals, or a deficiency of empathy, that can fail a test where an android might pass.
Theres a definate mechanical creepyness in the android characters that makes it hard to sympathise with them, so it was never in question in my mind, whose side we were on. I mean in the end it's team Rick all the way. Possibly helped by the fact that I remember seeing the movie, and no one could possibly side against Harrison Ford.. really..
Having said that there were a lot of differences to the movie, the movie doesn't have the issue with animals and electric animals at all, which I think is a bit of a loss, it certainly gave something more empathic to Rick Deckard's character. All he wants is a real live animal, it's a deep moral craving to do his human duty, and it really sets the foundation for his whole personality. But then I think the movie set out to do something completely different with Rick.
The 'religion' of mercerism, was the one point that I never truly grasped in the novel. It's a strange thing where everyone sort of mentally hooks in to a virtual reality where you get to be this guy called mercer, who is walking up a hill and having stones thrown at him. And at the same time you feel the emotions of everyone else in the world who is 'being' mercer. It was all a bit too surreal for me, and I couldn't really get into. Which meant that I probably missed out on some of the effect, and probably didn't get the ending as well as I should have.. but I think this is my failing probably, for not being able to 'connect' with what the author intended. It's a shame, I think I must be an android....more