This is one of those books that I knew I'd put off reviewing. When a book is classic, or popular, or iconic.. you just know you'll never find anything...moreThis is one of those books that I knew I'd put off reviewing. When a book is classic, or popular, or iconic.. you just know you'll never find anything original to say that hasn't already been said, or that'll do the book justice.
We is set in a future utopian paradise, The One State, ruled by their glorious Benefactor. Everyone is a number, not a person, the emphasis is on cohesion, not individuality. Happiness has been reduced to an equation, but as such it it is solved, plug in the numbers and all citizens can live happy, well regulated lives. All wake at the same time each day in their transparent houses, dress the same, chew their food 50 times, go to their assigned work, and on their assigned day they get to draw the shades for 1 hour exactly for conjugal relations with their registered partner (sexual requirments calculated for each number based on their hormonal readings of course).
D-503 is the 'author' of the novel. He is the architect of the Integral, the space ship which was commissioned to take the expansion of their One State into space. All numbers have been called upon to write poetry and prose to extol the virtues of the One State to any alien species. D-503 is no poet, but a mathemetician, so he chooses to write a sort of diary, a collection of his daily thoughts on the one state, explanations of things which he believes uncivilised readers may not have the benefit of... and then as it progresses and he meets the inexplicably fascinating and frustrating I-330, who is not like other numbers.. She angers D, but he obsesses over her. She takes him beyond the Green Wall to the ancient house, where artifacts exist from the uncivilised time before the One State, and things begin to change for D.. well. I'll try for no spoilers here :)
D-503 is a very interesting narrator to have. He begins so innocently content with everything, and despite being no poet, the way he writes certain things when he is truly exstatic is almost psychadelic in it's poetry. At times he is frustratingly unaware for a protagonist, never quite being in the right place at the right time, and always one step behind the plot, reading through his thoughts I felt just as confounded as he was by I-330, by the secrets at the ancient house, by the disease of having a soul.
I can see clearly how this was the inspiration for 1984, there are many parallels between the two. The utopian communist style government. Their insular society, that is unaware of anything of interest outside of their walls. Then there is the Great Benefactor, who for the most part of the book is never seen, but comes across like a mysterious G-d (but of course he has to be a real person, but we never really know anything about him).
The book left various things unexplained and open. I wanted to know more about what was beyond the wall, about how the One State came to be, about who the benefactor was, and most of all how we come to read D-330's diary after what unfolds in the book. But the open-ness sort of leaves room for hope and it's good to imagine the various options for myself, it's not so much disappointing as it is frustrating.
But it's definately a brilliant novel, definately worth 5 stars, possibly worth a favourite. If you love dystopian fiction, and love to have the fear of tyrannical governments struck into you, then read it!(less)
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 Crobu...moreJudging 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 :)(less)
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 jus...moreThe 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.(less)
Parable of the Sower is the collected diaries of a young black woman called Lauren Olamina, living in california in 2025, in an almost apocalyptic tim...moreParable of the Sower is the collected diaries of a young black woman called Lauren Olamina, living in california in 2025, in an almost apocalyptic time. Lauren is a hyperempath, a inherited condition that causes her to feel the pain of other people she sees. Lauren and her family live in a walled community, in fear of thieves and gangs and rapists, and 'paints', people with painted faces addicted to a drug called pyro, that makes them set fire to things for the pleasure of watching it burn. Life is a contstant struggle for Lauren, she's discovering new views about god that she can't share with anyone except her diary. And new ideas about preparation and survival that no one wants to listen to. And then one day their walled community is attacked by a gang of paints, and Lauren's skills are tested for the first time.
I found this novel insanely difficult to get into, I finally gave up after just over 100 pages I believe, so I gave it a fair go, but I never did finish it. Which is disappointing in itself, but I just didn't enjoy it. Usually I love this kind of dystopian/apocalyptic thing, but I just couldn't get into this one.
First I wasn't quite getting into the style of the writing, not the fact that it was a diary, but just the style of it always felt very... detatched. As if even tho Lauren was part of the events around her, that she wasn't connected to them. It felt a little like having blinkers on, I wanted her to look at more things and think about more things. I wanted to know how she felt about feeling other people's pain, but what I felt I was getting was a detatched description of it. I suppose this is understandable, and I could have dealt with it, but only if I didn't have another niggle..
So my ultimate niggle was really just the frustration at not understanding the distaster that was supposed to have happened or happening. The story hinted at some ultimate cause for the apocalyptic type situation they find themselves in now, but it wasn't clearly stated. And I found myself constantly trying to figure out what was going on with the walled communities, the economic failure, the constant violenc and lack of order etc.. At one point I was very confused, as Lauren's friend sat eating a plastic prepackaged bean salad, which to me seemed an extravagance in the middle of an economic crisis where everything costs too much and self sufficiency was becoming more norm. And then I thought.. hang on, if hardly anyone can get a job then who is working in the food packing factory to make the bean salad?
So hopefully you can see where my frustration came from. I think I gave the book a fair chance, and when my confusion wasn't lightened at just over 100 pages I took the choice whether to plod on and hope for revelation.. or give up and read something else; I gave up.
I am disappointed, because Octavia Butler is highly recommended by certain of my friends, and the rarity of finding a black author writing black characters is quite something interesting in this genre. I would very likely try another book by the same author just to give her another good chance. But sorry this was not for me. (less)