I'm probably the only one at my book club who didn't think that this book was depressing. To me, there was a prevalent optimistic flow, connected to hI'm probably the only one at my book club who didn't think that this book was depressing. To me, there was a prevalent optimistic flow, connected to helping humanity and seeing the bright side, which took the teeth of the fact the his mental abilities will regress. I loved it, loved it!...more
In spite of its several lacks, I mostly enjoyed By His Bootstraps, particularly because it condenses my personal theory about the quintessence of timeIn spite of its several lacks, I mostly enjoyed By His Bootstraps, particularly because it condenses my personal theory about the quintessence of time. ツ
Robert A. Heinlein imagines an applied example of "immovable history" (my home-brewed term), which postulates that an actor is not able to change any events (past and future) of his/her life: s/he can only fulfill the history. The fantasy genre (and not only!) makes great use of the concept in the form of prophecies, while science-fiction mostly uses the concept of time-travel to embody it.
What is notable about Heinlein's essay is that he touches on the aspect that makes most people shy away from this doctrine: the free-will. These people argue that if whatever is to happen will happen, then individuals are not responsible for their actions... In this regard Mr. Heinlein points out that, the actors in the middle of events are in no way constrained in their choices, and hence they always maintain their free-will.
"You are telling me that I did something because I was going to do something.” “Well, didn’t you? You were there.” “No, I didn’t—no... well, maybe I did, but it didn’t feel like it.” “Why should you expect it to? It was something totally new to your experience.”
I have my personal theory on this, but this is neither the time nor the place for it. As about the faults of the story, some of them gave me the nails-on-a-chalkboard nausea.
1) There is a manifest chauvinistic feel in the narrative: a woman's "right attitude" is serving food to her man on her knees... No further comment. ☹ 2) Probably even worse than the misogyny is the author's opinion that the lack of what he calls "will-to-power" is a negative aspect of society. Maybe it's just me, but shouldn't we all aspire to a world in which no one has power over another human being, not the other way around? ☹☹ 3) Regarding the story itself, the entire plot would not have been possible if Wilson had not shown distinct signs of obtuseness. Some of the situations can be explained by intoxication, but the rest... And he is supposed to be a math student which doesn't bode well for the future of this science. ツ
So blaming the above issues (#1 and #2) on the social norms of a past culture, I will go ahead and highly recommend this story to science-fiction lovers and/or those interested in the theories of the spacetime continuum....more
Maybe it's our jaded senses cause by the continuously bombardment by the television with death, gore, and violence... Maybe it's Wyndham's rather detaMaybe it's our jaded senses cause by the continuously bombardment by the television with death, gore, and violence... Maybe it's Wyndham's rather detached, impersonal, deadpan depiction of pain and sorrow... Or maybe (and this is I believe much of the cause) it is the author's deliberately attempted to portray a beginning rather than an end. Either way, while reading The Day of the Triffids I never felt daunted or shocked, let alone horrified of this version of apocalypse.
While he could have focused, like in José Saramago's Blindness, on the crumbling of a civilization, John Wyndham chooses instead to write about building of a new world. He is at times melancholic about the loss of the old world, but covertly he seems to consider the disaster a fortuity meant to give humanity a fresh new start: All the old problems, the stale ones, both personal and general, had been solved by one mighty slash. The entire story is imbued with hints that what happened might be for the best because it gives society a chance to redesign itself: "We have not simply to start building again; we have to start thinking again."
Because of course in the end, it wasn't a comet that destroyed the civilization as we knew it, it was humanity itself by hoarding mass-destruction weapons. There is more or less subtle criticism of the militaristic trend across the entire novel, but in the end it become quite overt:
“Do you think we could—do you think we should be justified in starting a myth to help them (Note: the children)? A story of a world that was wonderfully clever, but so wicked that it had to be destroyed—or destroyed itself by accident? Something like the Flood, again? [...]
“Yes...” I said, considering it. “Yes. It’s often a good idea to tell children the truth. Kind of makes things easier for them later on—only why pretend it’s a myth?”
Yet, nowhere John Wyndham stops proffering his conviction that humankind deserves and can be saved. The Day of the Triffids is an great novel, hinting at humanity's need to change its ways before it's too late....more
Quick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts It's quite amusing that not earlier than yesterday, I wrote a "review" for First Meetings inQuick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts ✐ It's quite amusing that not earlier than yesterday, I wrote a "review" for First Meetings in Ender's Universe, a collection of short stories that addresses the exact opposite topic from 2BR02B (link to review). In there, Orson Scott Card advocates people's right to have as many children as they desire, while in 2BR02B, for a newborn to be allowed to live, one of the existing people has to die. And of course, as any extreme, none of them is good and/or just.
✐ In 2BR02B, the world has reached to a level where people don't age, don't sicken, and naturally die only from accidents. So what's to be done when a child is born? Someone has to volunteer to die. And here comes the Federal Bureau of Termination, the official organization for assisted suicide.
✐ The point Mr. Vonnegut makes is the impossibility of humans' boundless desires, the fact that we always want more than is good/correct/sustainable. "The painter pondered the mournful puzzle of life demanding to be born and, once born, demanding to be fruitful... to multiply and to live as long as possible—to do all that on a very small planet that would have to last forever."...more
Quick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts (There are BOOKS written about this novel and I won't attempt to duplicate them. These are jusQuick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts (There are BOOKS written about this novel and I won't attempt to duplicate them. These are just my thoughts, half a day after finishing it.)
✐ I don't think I read anything quite like Slaughterhouse-Five. You are really going to love it or simply stop reading it. There is such a strong anti-war aura about it, yet with the exception of one paragraph at the end, it is never explicitly said "war is bad." Instead Mr. Vonnegut proceeds systematically at demythicizing the war.
✐ There is nothing glorious about it. The soldiers are no heroes, just too young boys, or too old men or, most frequently, untrained buffoons (and not only Billy Pilgrim, although in his case, Mr. Vonnegut takes facts to extreme). And when we are dealing with true soldiers, the British officers, the pride and joy of the their army, they are referred by sobriquets as the Blue Fairy Godmother.
✐ Everything that happens to Billy during the war is ridiculous: he carries no weapon (and when in the end he gets one, it is only to protect himself from wild dogs and rats), he doesn't take part in a single battle, he survives the butchering of Dresden by sheer luck. Being a soldier is just menial work or half-acknowledged traveling.
✐ But what I think it's spectacular about this novel is the fact that although it addresses such a heavy topic, it never feels heartbreaking or distressing. Mr. Vonnegut accomplishes that in three ways:
....1) the gore and horrors of the war are hidden under layers upon layers of good-natured humor or ridicule depending on the story; ....2) every time when something distressing is going to happen, Billy "travels" through time to a happier moment, and the reader never witnesses the slaughterous details; ....3) from the very beginning, in the not-titled Preface, we are given a summary of the novel. There are simply no surprises going on that might detract the reader from the embedded message.
✐ And because this is Kurt Vonnegut, in the end he has to explain the message he wanted to pass: "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters."
✐ Final (i)relevant thought: one of the reasons I liked so much Slaughterhouse-Five was because of its concept of time, which is so close to what I consider my personal views on this topic: time doesn't flow; all the events "future" and "past" already exist and we simply navigate through them. Yet, the Tralfamadorians deny the existence of the free will, which I actually consider incorrect. But that's a discussion for another time. ツ...more