"The War of the Worlds" is an exciting first-person narration of a man who witnessed the Martians invading the Earth. Cylinders containing the Martian"The War of the Worlds" is an exciting first-person narration of a man who witnessed the Martians invading the Earth. Cylinders containing the Martians were shot from Mars and landed in England. The British army was defenseless against the Martian Tripods, three-legged fighting machines fitted out with a Heat-Ray and chemical "Black Smoke". The book was written in 1898, prior to World War I, but the Martian weapons were similar to lasers and chemical warfare. Wells uses the ideas of Darwin to describe the Martians who had evolved to possess huge brains.
Great Britain was a colonial power when this book was published, so it was a turnabout to read that Great Britain was being attacked by a civilization far superior in technology. Streams of refugees were fleeing from the invaders. Rumors and confusion existed in the era before rapid communication.
It's not surprising that "The War of the Worlds" has been adapted into films, comic books, games, and radio dramas. People thought that a 1938 radio drama by Orson Welles was a genuine news broadcast which incited panic in some American listeners. This science fiction classic is full of suspense and kept my interest....more
Lauren Olamina lives with her family in a locked, walled community at a time of economic, environmental, and social crisis. Parable of the Sower is wrLauren Olamina lives with her family in a locked, walled community at a time of economic, environmental, and social crisis. Parable of the Sower is written as a journal of the intelligent black teenager in the years 2024-2027 in an area outside Los Angeles. In this dystopian future, water and other resources are scarce. Violence is rampant so people only venture outside the walls in a group armed with weapons. Because her mother took a certain drug when she was pregnant, Lauren has a condition called hyperempathy, so she shares the pain of other creatures she sees in pain. It's not an easy condition to hide when living in violent times.
Lauren anticipates the day when attackers will overrun their walled community so she has been learning about survival techniques, and has put together an emergency pack in case she has to escape. She has also written poetry about a new religion or philosophy of life called Earthseed which stresses the importance of change and adaptation to circumstances. As people change, they are also changing God (which seems to be the Universe or a force).
After Lauren's community is attacked, she makes her way northward. She travels with people that seem trustworthy, as well as willing to defend their small group from violent people. Will they find a way to survive?
Many of the problems causing the breakdown of society and government in this dystopian novel are more severe portrayals of actual problems present in the world today--such as climate change, wide differences in income, racial intolerance, and drug addiction. This gave the novel a realistic feel to it, although I could not imagine this type of situation as soon as 2024. The book is also food for thought about what qualities are important for communities to survive in a changed world. I did tend to skim over the parts about Earthseed which seemed a bit repetitive and preachy after reading a couple of her short poems....more
Richard Powers has written an engaging story about an aging avant-garde musician on the run from the authorities. Modern science and technology combinRichard Powers has written an engaging story about an aging avant-garde musician on the run from the authorities. Modern science and technology combine with the soaring beauty of music and art in this remarkable book.
Peter Els calls 911 when his dog dies, and the police officers notice he has a room full of lab equipment that he bought online. Els is attempting to insert a sequence of musical patterns into the DNA of a common bacteria that thrives around water sources, Serratia marcescens. A few days later when Els returns to his house after jogging, he sees a biohazard team from the Joint Security Task Force confiscating his lab. Fearing arrest, Els drives on by and finds he's already being called a dangerous bioterrorist by the media.
The book moves forward as Els travels west visiting meaningful places, and making peace with the people he loved the most in his life (like the journey of the musical Orpheus from Greek mythology.) At the same time, flashbacks give us the story of Peter's life as a child through his adult years as a composer and a professor. The book is not divided into chapters, but the parts are separated by Tweet-length epigraphs.
Powers has written some beautiful poetic prose as he describes Els listening to pieces of music that had deep meaning in his life. Olivier Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time," which was written and performed for the first time in a Nazi POW camp, was especially unforgettable. His descriptions of the voices of Steve Reich's "Proverb" was absolutely gorgeous, and sent me to you.tube to listen to the music. Even the picture of Els listening to a bird chirping in a tree made me smile.
This was a moving story about the life of a man with the gift of special musical abilities. For years Els put his musical compositions ahead of his personal relationships, so his trip was a journey of redemption. "Orfeo" is especially recommended for those that love music and literary fiction....more
Station Eleven seems frightfully real as the survivors of the Georgia Flu Pandemic are seen before the disease strikes, and up to twenty years after tStation Eleven seems frightfully real as the survivors of the Georgia Flu Pandemic are seen before the disease strikes, and up to twenty years after the apocalypse. The book revolves around the family and friends of actor Arthur Leander who collapses onstage during a production of "King Lear", Shakespeare's play about great loss.
The novel gets its name from some science fiction comic books, illustrated by Arthur's first wife, about a group of people living on a damaged space station after aliens invade the Earth. Two of the younger survivors of the pandemic have copies of the comic books, given to them by Arthur, and considered their treasured possessions. Earth after the pandemic has totally changed, similar to the plight of the people in Station Eleven trying to survive in outer space.
Much of the book is seen through the eyes of the members of the Traveling Symphony, a group bringing culture to the area south of Lake Michigan. They alternate between presenting symphonic concerts and Shakespearean plays. Just as Shakespeare continued writing at the time of the plague, this group does not forget that people still need the arts in their lives after the pandemic. The actress Kirsten has a quote from Star Trek tattooed on her arm: "Because survival is insufficient."
The British man Clark preserves artifacts from the time before the pandemic--books, credit cards, cell phones, and anything that runs on electricity. There are no modern means of transportation, medical care, and communication. A young man called the Prophet twists Biblical passages and sets up a dangerous cult. People must carry weapons since many strangers are violent.
Although this is a post-apocalyptic novel, there are many complex characters that work together to support each other. The theme that "Survival is insufficient" runs through the book. In the midst of desolation, there is love and a glimmer of hope. Highly recommended....more
A man sits in his car, blocking traffic, while drivers behind him sound their horns. When other motorists reach him, he keeps repeating, "I am blind."A man sits in his car, blocking traffic, while drivers behind him sound their horns. When other motorists reach him, he keeps repeating, "I am blind." He was the first to experience "white blindness." When he was examined by an ophthalmologist later that day, there were no signs of disease. But everyone waiting in the ophthalmologist's office was experiencing the "white blindness" within a day. The government decides to quarantine the victims in an unused mental hospital. When the doctor is picked up, his wife pretends that she is also blind so that she can take care of him. No one knows why she is the only one immune to this blindness, but it lets the author reveal more about the situation through her eyes.
The conditions at the hospital are awful--shortages of food, filth everywhere, and armed guards shooting anyone who comes near them. A group of quarantined men with a gun gain control of the food. The starving people must give in to their demands or they will not be fed.
Soon the "white blindness" has spread through out the country. We see how interdependent people are in the modern world with food, water, electricity, and transportation soon disappearing. There is a breakdown of society, with small pockets of people who show kindness in helping others, sharing resources, and trying to maintain their dignity.
Saramago does not give his characters names, although they do have distinct personalities. They are identified by phrases such as "the doctor," "the girl with the dark glasses," and "the boy with the squint" so they could really represent any of us in society. Saramago's style is very different. He writes in multi-page paragraphs, uses no quotation marks, and separates dialogue with commas. However, it was easy to adjust to his style after a few pages. I found myself completely caught up in the story, and thinking about it days after I turned the last page....more
Published in 1962, "A Clockwork Orange" is set in the near future England at a time when teenage gangs roamed the streets committing senseless acts ofPublished in 1962, "A Clockwork Orange" is set in the near future England at a time when teenage gangs roamed the streets committing senseless acts of violence. The teenagers speak in an argot called Nadsat, which is mainly English with some Russian words, Cockney rhyming slang, and Romany, as well as some invented words. If your edition of the book does not contain an appendix with a Nadsat dictionary, print up a copy at wiktionary. The author, Anthony Burgess, was a linguist, and he increases the use of Nadsat as the violence increases.
The book starts with Alex and his droogs (friends) spending a drug-fueled night beating and robbing people. They end up at a home where they beat the husband and gang-rape his wife. Alex reads a paragraph about free choice from the book entitled "A Clockwork Orange" that the husband is writing before destroying the book.
Later in the book, Alex is imprisoned and is chosen for the experimental Ludovico's Technique, a form of psychological conditioning (somewhat based on B F Skinner's work). It modifies his behavior so that even thinking about violence makes him nauseous and sick. This also results in Alex having no way to defend himself.
The book asks the question of whether man is naturally violent and evil (original sin). Is it better to choose evil with free will, rather than be good with no freedom of choice? Alex is no longer acting freely as a human being, but is acting as a mechanical thing. How far should the state go in suppressing an individual for the benefit of the state or community?
I won't go into the plot details and spoil the book. "A Clockwork Orange" is a book filled with horrific violence, but it has a clever dystopian plot and the fascinating Nadsat language. Anthony Burgess wrote twenty-one chapters in the original book published in England, with some sense of redemption but no true remorse, in the last chapter when Alex matures and becomes an adult. The last chapter was left out of the American books until recently, and was also omitted in Stanley Kubrick's dark film in 1971. So it's interesting to read an edition with all twenty-one chapters to see which ending seems more realistic....more
George Orwell saw the oppression of colonialism when he lived in India, and the horror of the Spanish Civil War. Then he "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU"
George Orwell saw the oppression of colonialism when he lived in India, and the horror of the Spanish Civil War. Then he witnessed the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin. This inspired him to write Nineteen Eighty-Four about a totalitarian state that uses surveillance, mind control, perpetual war, rationing, persecution of independent thinking, and changes in the records of the past to control the people under its power.
Written in 1948, Orwell's vision of the future in 1984 is an Oceanic police state called Ingsoc which is ruled by Big Brother and the Inner Party. The Outer Party carries out tasks involving propaganda, revising history, creating the language of Newspeak which removes words associated with rebellion and the past, organizing Hate Week, and constant surveillance. The proles are the lowest class who are kept undernourished, uneducated, and do the menial jobs.
Winston Smith, an Outer Party member, works in the Ministry of Truth where his job is to revise history. If the past looks like a time of misery and trouble, then the present time under the Party's control looks like an improvement. When Winston rewrites the past to make the Party always look good, he also totally eliminates troublesome people from the records as if they had never been born (unpersons). If the Party tells the people the revised past over and over again through propaganda, it eventually seems like the truth. A party slogan is, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
A forbidden love relationship develops between Winston and Julia. Julia rebels against the Party for sexual pleasure. Winston is an intellectual, and believes in the freedom of the individual. His thoughts give the reader insight into how the Party establishes control over society. But their rebellions against the Party come with a high personal cost when they are captured by the Thought Police.
Orwell created a disturbing vision of the future, and many of his ideas have been seen in governments both before and after the book was published. He was also concerned about how technology would be used in surveillance of individuals. Orwell was brilliant in analyzing the many ways that the state can manipulate individuals and take away their freedoms. ___________________________________________
I visited the Peabody-Essex Museum in Massachusetts a few years ago. They have a Chinese house from the Mao regime in China. There was a loudspeaker at the house which blared propaganda all day long, and the villagers were not allowed to turn it off. It reminded me of the constant propaganda coming from the telescreens in this book.
"Community, Identity, Stability"--the World State's motto.
In the satire Brave New World, we read about the utopian/dystopian society of the World Stat"Community, Identity, Stability"--the World State's motto.
In the satire Brave New World, we read about the utopian/dystopian society of the World State. Their calendar starts in the year that Henry Ford rolled out the first Model T on the assembly line, and the book is set in 632 A.F.(after Ford). Mass consumerism is encouraged. Nothing is repaired, just replaced, so there is near universal employment.
Children are created in the Central London Hatcheries and Conditioning Center in jars on an assembly line where the proper nutrients are infused at the appropriate times. Multiples with the same genetic attributes are created so there will be the optimum number of people with a specific intelligence to match with specific jobs. The children are conditioned with positive and negative reinforcement, as well as hypnophaedia (listening to recorded messages while sleeping) so they will be content with their place in society.
Religion is replaced by community singery meetings. People do not spend time alone, but have strictly scheduled social activities. Physical satisfaction comes from promiscuous recreational sex where "everyone belongs to everyone else." People are never unhappy because they can just pop a drug "soma", a hallucinogen that is hangover-free.
Bernard and Lenina go on a holiday at a fenced reservation where the descendants of the Anasazi live in New Mexico. They get exposed to a primitive society, and Bernard questions the modern society he lives in. Bernard returns with John (the Savage) and his mother, a woman from the World State who was lost in the reservation years ago while on a trip. John is excited to go to the "brave new world", but cannot adjust once he spends time in the World State. The book deals with the contrasts between primitive society and the modern World State, the role of the individual, and the advantages and disadvantages of feeling strong emotions.
Written in 1932, at a time when assembly line production was being promoted and science was making many advances, the book is an interesting look at where society could be heading. It shows how technology could be used to control society, and the dangers of an overly powerful government. The book illustrates the conflict between the interests of society and of the individual. There's a lot of food for thought in this utopian/dystopian story....more
The terminally ill owner of Al's Diner told school teacher Jake Epping that the back of his diner contains a portal for time travel. It can take him fThe terminally ill owner of Al's Diner told school teacher Jake Epping that the back of his diner contains a portal for time travel. It can take him from the present year of 2011 to the past year of 1958. He can stay as long as he wants time-traveling in the past, and only two minutes will have passed in the present year of 2011 when he returns through the rabbit hole to the diner in Maine. Al begs Jake to go back and prevent the assassination of President Kennedy on 11/22/63. Perhaps the war in Vietnam could have been prevented, saving thousands of lives, if Kennedy had lived.
When Jake goes back to 1958, he assumes the identity of George Amberson who is checking out real estate in Maine. He tries to right a few small events, and finds some "feathering." When one thing changes, many other changes must follow. If he changes history, will the world be a better or worse place?
Stephen King does a great job of transporting the reader back to the 1950s with cars with big tailfins, slicked back hair, milk with cream on the top, factory pollution, racism, and pervasive cigarette smoke. King was a young child during the 1950s, and he captured the decade well.
When Jake/George moves to Texas, he is not willing to knock off Lee Harvey Oswald unless he knows Oswald is the true killer of Kennedy. He has heard so many conspiracy theories that he feels he must investigate Oswald thoroughly first. George also meets a pretty school librarian, and falls in love. Can she trust a man that doesn't seem to have a past? What will happen if he rewrites her life? History does not want to be changed so it sets up multiple obstacles in George's way as he gets close to the 11/22/63 date.
Stephen King is a good storyteller, weaving science fiction, history, and a love story together. Jake/George is a good, likable person trying to do the right thing. But lots of things in the past are hidden, and no one knows what scary outcomes are possible if important events in history are changed. This is a big doorstopper of a book at 849 pages, but it seems shorter since it's such an engaging story.