I read A Canticle for Leibowitz when I was fifteen. It was lost on me. I was attracted to the post-apocalyptic then, before it became a fad. Dust ravaI read A Canticle for Leibowitz when I was fifteen. It was lost on me. I was attracted to the post-apocalyptic then, before it became a fad. Dust ravaging the earth while living ghosts lurked; the opening scenes of the book in particular attracted and sustained me. The inherent irony was lost on me.
Humans pride ourselves on our knowledge, yet we tear ourselves down as soon as we soar. Drawing from the chilled post-WW2 vein of Cold War paranoia, this book is Walter Miller Jr's cry for collective sanity. He has appointed the Catholic Church, long regarded in history as obstructors of science and knowledge, as defenders of Man's triumphs. Monks, in drafty cells lighted by guttering candles, illuminate in script Man's achievements of Science and Math. The irony is not lost to the astute reader; I thrilled at having made the connection, but this was quickly followed by the sobering thought that such things were all too possible. In his hubris, Man has added formidably to the list of things with which he might annihilate himself.
This book is spread across decades, then centuries, through a dark age mirroring the previous one, only it is built upon the half forgotten, barely understood technology of fallen civilization. Enlightenment eventually comes, at a cost, though one might argue the nature of said enlightenment. Is it to become technologically viable, or is it to become wise?
A Canticle for Leibowitz is a must read book of any fan of the post-apocalypse, written by a man so haunted by certain engagements of WW2 in which he took place. It will take you so far into the future it resembles the past we left.
This is the true story of Humankind, the one from which all religious tomes shy away. Nobody wants to admit man was created by foul-mouthed beings notThis is the true story of Humankind, the one from which all religious tomes shy away. Nobody wants to admit man was created by foul-mouthed beings not of earth. Nobody wants to believe we were subjugated and filthy, exactly formed in the emotional, if not physical, likeness of our unwitting creators.
The Forming is a book written and drawn by a latter-day shaman whose genius brings him perilously close to the realm accepted by the mainstream as madness. It tells us our gods were as crappy as we are now, and that a lesson learned is a lesson learned; it's also a mistake doomed to be repeated. ...more
Way before the show, before it was even cool to know A Song of Ice and Fire, I had a friend who was especially fervent in his adoration of these booksWay before the show, before it was even cool to know A Song of Ice and Fire, I had a friend who was especially fervent in his adoration of these books. He implored me beseechingly, sweat beading his brow. Many times I have picked up A Game of Thrones, only to return it to its place. Now I very much would love to find that friend, who I have lost somewhere in the world, to tell him what a fool I was.
I must admit, I only started reading because I binge watched the show, and was thirsty for more. So the majority of this book was spent referencing to the show, which is a crying shame. It's just what my brain does. I recently What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund and it states that incorporating a visual medium (graphic novels, movies, etc) before reading the book is a form of theft. The mind is given an opportunity to shape it's own unique vision of the world, based off the reader's own collection of personal experiences. With the show, this world came "pre-rendered." Again, a crying shame, for my fool self.
The majority of this book was spent stripping down these impressions and trying to create my own. Martin is an impressive chronicler. His attention to detail is incredible and his ambition is admirable. Does he have a spyglass into the universe next door, with pen and paper laid next to it?
I was fascinated by this debate a few years ago in regards to the writer's responsibility to his reader; Martin had taken too long fashioning a sequel and his fan base was divided between rage and understanding acceptance. I can see why. You don't drink from this world of lore and treachery, it drinks you in, an sensation at once horrifying and intoxicating. ...more
To accept infinity one has to embrace that the macro and micro are interchangeable, in response to the frame of reference. We exist within matryoshkaTo accept infinity one has to embrace that the macro and micro are interchangeable, in response to the frame of reference. We exist within matryoshka realms of scale, a single point on a line becoming less thick, or thicker, depending on the direction taken. With that said, nanotechnology is an oxymoron, in that it is such a huge concept inside an infinitesimal package. It is also scary, especially when one realizes they are mere machines and a wrong script can send these self- replicating packages eating the world.
Alex Rudall has turned his nanotech into sentient beings… and a drug. Intertwining narratives immerse us in the minds of an ink addict, an ink immune, and the investor who wants to capitalize on rule-changing ink technology. Naturally a collision course is in order, and when it blows up, it BLOWS UP.
While details of the ink could be fleshed out a bit, especially in relation to its escaped cousins, Inkers is an entertaining hurtle into the unknown. You know how they say it’s turtles all the way down? You’ll see. ...more
Like physics, reading is an experience we don't really think about until someone points it out. The laws of gravity are taken for granted by those whoLike physics, reading is an experience we don't really think about until someone points it out. The laws of gravity are taken for granted by those who adhere to the Earth's surface, and so is the act of imagery the reader experiences during the consummation of reader and book.
Mendelsund picks apart the solipsistic existence that is the reader's immersion in an author's carefully crafted universe. What do we see when we read? Definitely not what we think we see. He pieces out the process in this delightful and easy to absorb tome, taking us by the hand to show the act of reading is entirely dependent on the accumulation of the reader's life experiences, in a bloom of imagination as unique as a fingerprint in a field of similar yet wildly unique blooms.
This is a must read for bibliophiles, allowing one to perform a sort of mental autosurgery on the process. It allows you to step outside that headbox a bit. In fact, What We See When We Read is a must own, for one to periodically refresh that sense of awe we get when we realize our vision of an author's world is not complete yet is as complete and original as possible. ...more
Trout Fishing in America is a state of mind captured by Brautigan in his childhood fishing expeditions in the miles of fir shrouded telephone booths lTrout Fishing in America is a state of mind captured by Brautigan in his childhood fishing expeditions in the miles of fir shrouded telephone booths lining trout-laden brooks.
Mine is Reading In Windowpanes of Sunlight Fallen to the Floor.
Trout Fishing in America is peppered with linguistic synaesthesia, capturing the zeitgeist of not the age but Brautigan's intrinsic perspective. Trout Fishing in America carries the distinction of an alternate persona which he projects onto persons and events as needed. He managed to capture the hallucinatory nature of these countercultural decades by going down the road less trod by his Beat and hippie contemporaries.
Investigations into Brautigan's personal history unearths plausibilities. He was diagnosed with with schizophrenia at one point, and he seemed unhappy most of the time. But that doesn't make him mad, though you can see how he would mistake a person for a trout creek. And a trout creek for a person.
I don't think one can fully assimilate Trout Fishing in America while the temporal divide of Brautigan's and ours increases, that half-inch wide trout creek growing into a sparkling torrent prompting erosion of our increasingly digitized and cluttered understanding there standing on our side of the bank.
Nevertheless, we can still make inquiries of ourselves as seen through Trout Fishing in America to abstract some intrinsic, insightful meaning....more
In it I read echoes of many writers I loved: Cormac McCarthy (The Road), Ross H Spencer (The Chance Purdue series), FlannThis book was a revelation.
In it I read echoes of many writers I loved: Cormac McCarthy (The Road), Ross H Spencer (The Chance Purdue series), Flann O'Brien (At Swims Two Birds), William S Burroughs (The Dead Roads) and Johnny Stanton (Mangled Hands). It feels I am overextending, but books like this are the reason it's so hard to choose one favorite. We all stand on the shoulders of giants.
Simple and plain in language in short and simple chapters, The Hawkline Monster emerges, a malignant glee wreaking havoc in a gothic house lived in by a pair of beautiful women. The star is Brautigan's stark language made strange by his imagery which forces the reader to perceive the thoughts that arise differently.
Excession is right. Banks throws so much at us that it becomes an exploding mass of confusion. Then it settles and you feel hoodwinked. And Banks is lExcession is right. Banks throws so much at us that it becomes an exploding mass of confusion. Then it settles and you feel hoodwinked. And Banks is like nudge nudge wink wink, see what I did there?
Not all is what it seems. We get an in depth look at a Special Circumstances ploy and the risks taken by the Minds engineering the caper. We also glimpse the extent of honor, right-thinking, and respect the Minds have for the Culture that they make up. It also shows that sometimes when you fail, you win, even if all you stand to lose is your own life.
Excession is an excess of lies and betrayal. It is also full of love and honor, of acts done in the name of. It's about personal obsessions, of what no entity is without, meat or machine. This book is one of Banks' trickier novels and is rewarding to the patient reader. It took me so long to muddle through, but the tempo picked up and all the mess was well worth it. ...more
The dust jacket states that The State of Art is a collection of Culture as well as non-Culture short stories. This is wrong. All of the stories withinThe dust jacket states that The State of Art is a collection of Culture as well as non-Culture short stories. This is wrong. All of the stories within are Culture stories. Banks, as always, excels at the conclusion of a story and this collection doesn't fail in that instance. He also manages to shock the gentle-hearted with the eponymously titled short story.
The State of Art is the clearest straightforward definition of the Culture you'll find, though I suspect Banks' vision changed as the number of Culture novels rose. This also brings to rest the secret vanity of the reader who assumed the Culture originated from Earth.
Banks also flat out denies he's a Culture agent, which is a clear ruse, if you keep in mind it's Special Circumstances we're probably dealing with. Banks came to this planet, either rebelling against his hedonistic origins or carrying scholarly interest. He's Linter, in his stripped down bag of meats.
With science's advent, religious damnation has taken a back seat. Some cultures have created virtual hellsThis book is about Hell. And its morality.
With science's advent, religious damnation has taken a back seat. Some cultures have created virtual hells to placate the living into good behavior and, for some, punish the living. Banks is arguing the rights of a virtualization. If the copy is perfect in every respect, the copy for all purposes considered, is a sentient being. He says hell is immoral and only monsters create hells.
This book is tricky, makes you like the bad guys, justifies the actions bad guys take for their pleasures. It says the ends justifies the means, to a certain point.
The ending is well worth the ride, which gets long and meandering at points....more
My favorite of the Culture novels to date. It builds up until the heartbreaking conclusion. It's very difficult to reconcile the impressions you've maMy favorite of the Culture novels to date. It builds up until the heartbreaking conclusion. It's very difficult to reconcile the impressions you've made in this 500 page volume to the sudden turnaround Banks makes. It's sad. But also a masterpiece of SF.
While it works well as a standalone novel, it also reveals a side of the Culture agency Special Circumstances that is only hinted at in other novels. Tangentially, Chernandine reminds me yet again of a fully fleshed out Jerry Cornelius.
What is a weapon? It is not always a gun or a blade; it's anything you can use. The world is a weapon in the right hands. The idea is the real weapon, and the will to focus these weapons towards a projected solution.
You grow to like Chernandine Zakalwe which makes the ending difficult to accept, but you rationalize. After all, even with all that war, people are not always bad. ...more
Imagine a single moment. Rippling from that core moment (let's use the honeycomb pattern) are the very same moments, only with very minute variations,Imagine a single moment. Rippling from that core moment (let's use the honeycomb pattern) are the very same moments, only with very minute variations, and these changes increase the further from that original moment. Now every of these moments are also core moments with their own bloom expanding in all directions and so forth. That's infinity. And there are people transitioning, entering lives and bodies to cause changes that benefit the unknowable wants of the Concern, the organization facilitating transitions.
Transition... is Banks leaping headfirst into the concepts first developed by Michael Moorcock with his Eternal Champion collection. In the Moorcock stories, especially those of Jerry Cornelius, our characters find themselves in lives and times that aren't clearly realized to the reader.
In Transition, Banks exploits this to develop the Concern, a less benevolent entity than the Culture, a Banks staple. At the risk of digressing, I propose that the Concern is set firmly within the universe of the Culture, or, rather, the Culture is embedded within the infinity of the Concern.
Banks manipulates infinity, causing the reader to realize there are infinite stratas, that there are smaller and larger infinities, and that it's a huge and hard thing to wrap your mind around. And it all leads up to a revelation. In a way, Banks has taken the best conceit of many monumental sf novels: the spice as a drug from Dune, a man's damning drive for redemption from The Stars My Destination; the weirdness of Moorcock's second ether as well as Dancers at the End of Time; well, I might be overreaching here, but yeah.
I can't help but wonder about transitions. You leave your body, your life, never to return. It's a different reality from leaving your country to move to another place. Material possessions are lowered in value and importance. You cultivate skills and mental agility, and turn to tricks to survive in unexpected situations, which can be the norm in transitioning, especially when leaping into unfamiliar cultures. It's something I would try, and would it be without guilt that I am abandoning my life? I mean, it's infinity. All stories are already told, and we only need to step in and play our role....more
Having read Consider Phlebas twice over a span of 15, I had no memory of anything except for the fantastic prologue. I can only conclude I was not menHaving read Consider Phlebas twice over a span of 15, I had no memory of anything except for the fantastic prologue. I can only conclude I was not mentally prepared for Banks' vision. Contrasted with the previous two Culture books, Player of Games and The Hydrogen Sonata, that I've read(Player of Games and The Hydrogen Sonata), Consider Phlebas is a raw tour de force through an imagination the size of a galaxy.
Banks is a maverick writer, his stylistic writings defying genre even as his subject matter defines it. There is relentless action and deep philosophy; this coupled with an ability to move through scale (temporal and spatial) at will, makes this writer a formidable one. While science fiction, in the present future, is better accepted than it was a few decades ago, it is a bitter taste that books like these are not considered literary achievements.
Horza is perfectly poised as the anti-hero—and presented as a blank slate. One thing is clear, he hates the Culture and is willing to aid a fanatical religion driven empire to crush it. What are his motives? What keeps him moving, as Banks pummels this human with all he has? We find Horza relentlessly abused in his seemingly mindless rush to acquire the lost Culture Mind. But Horza is as human as any one of us. He is not an animal, though he's sometimes made out to be one. Despite enduring trials that would strip one of their humanity, Horza seems to become more human.
Consider Phlebas contains one of the best denouements I've read. It presents loss in a presently unimaginable scale while managing to be optimistic. The reader is struck with a melancholy for lost things and is implored to "look to windward, and consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you."...more
Banks' slyness emerges here. He is a player of games as he guides Gurgeh (and the reader) out from Culture decadence into the high stakes of a speciesBanks' slyness emerges here. He is a player of games as he guides Gurgeh (and the reader) out from Culture decadence into the high stakes of a species whose empire is balanced precariously upon a game.
My favorite bits here are of the Culture, how it is sometimes demonized as decadent, while affirming itself as the ultimate. The Culture shrugs and sighs, self-aware in a capacity that seems ironical. Also I love how Banks is able to keep us interested enough in the gameplay with nothing but generalizations.
While there is so much more to this novel, I shrink from revealing too much. One is rewarded though, which is why I can't help but want to drown myself in a sea of recently re-discovered appreciation of Banks....more
In the perpetual night of the Alaskan winter where truckers thread their lonely ways through ice-crusted realms with only voices on the radio as compaIn the perpetual night of the Alaskan winter where truckers thread their lonely ways through ice-crusted realms with only voices on the radio as company, a woman is engaged in a frantic search for her husband.
With a marriage as fragile as thin ice, Yasmin is prepared for anything when she arrives at Alaska. Ruby is just excited to see her father again. When he doesn't appear at the airport, they are informed that he has died.
Ruby is Deaf. The Quality of Silence is one of the rare books that doesn't treat its Deaf protagonist as a person of diminished capacity, but as a person persevering and triumphing despite being embattled by the physical and cultural symptoms of Deafness. Ruby is intelligent, and clever. She is also conflicted by her desire to please her mother and her need to be true to herself. She loves her father very much because he lets her be herself.
That Yasmin would move heaven and earth for her loved ones in the land where tears freeze is a testament to love, even in times of trials. Her daughter's Deafness exists as a problem to be solved and this descent into perpetual darkness is a learning experience she will never forget, about herself, her daughter, and her husband.
There are many kinds of silence. Where it's so cold that not even the ice cracks. The silence of a person loud with thoughts. And there's the silence of the Deaf, whose words are flickering images in space-time, sculptures of gestures and expressions. The quality of silence is what you make of it. ...more