This book is an interesting starting point for conversations about any number of deep topics: life and why we go on, the biosphere, god, survivalism,...moreThis book is an interesting starting point for conversations about any number of deep topics: life and why we go on, the biosphere, god, survivalism, etc.(less)
I just barely finished this book not ten minutes ago. I'm just going to try to put down the thought I have which has been in my head since I started r...moreI just barely finished this book not ten minutes ago. I'm just going to try to put down the thought I have which has been in my head since I started reading this thing. This essay will not full marks.
Anyone who reads this book is likely as confused as I was at how it started with a rape. More strangely, a rape that went unreported due to the shame felt by the victim.
Then the victim is thrust into this silly adventure with a caveman from another dimension, and you begin wondering, WTF? Why would the author use something so powerful as rape for what seems like no reason? What's the point?
I'll tell you what the point is. The point is the conversation Mary and Pontor have after watching the church service on television.
Basically, they discuss religion and the afterlife, which Pontor's people have none of. After seeing all the violence on our world, he attributes it to our acceptance of an afterlife. He says:
“Do you not see?” Ponter went on. “If I wrong someone—if I say something mean to them, or, I do not know, perhaps take something that belongs to them—under your worldview I can console myself with the knowledge that, after they are dead, they can still be contacted; amends can be made. But in my worldview, once a person is gone—which could happen for any of us at any moment, through accident or heart attack or so on—then you who did the wrong must live knowing that that person’s entire  existence ended without you ever having made peace with him or her.”
This gets Mary thinking:
God was the great compensator: if you were wronged in life, it would be made up for in death—the fundamental principle that had allowed parents to send their children off to die in war after countless war. Indeed, it didn’t really matter if you ruined someone else’s life, because that person might well go to Heaven. Oh, you yourself might be dispatched to Hell, but nothing you did to anyone else really hurt them in the long run. This existence was mere prologue; eternal life was yet to come.
And, indeed, in that infinite existence, God would make up for whatever had been done to ... to her.
And that bastard, that bastard who had attacked her, would burn.
No, it didn’t matter if she never reported the crime; there was no way he could escape his ultimate judge.
Essentially this whole long silly story exists so this single realization can take place. It is a call for humanism. If you truly believe there is no god, as many of us today do, that the only justice we get is in this world is what we get in this life, then you mustn't be able to accept concepts like war or killing an enemy.
It goes on. In Pontor's world, they always get justice because everyone is being constantly recorded by their implants. This bugs Mary, because of the obvious invasion of privacy this entails. Pontor doesn't mind. Who cares? It comes out that without religion, Pontor's people had no concept of *sin*.
If you had no religion, no list of things that didn’t actually hurt somebody else but were still proscribed behaviors—recreational drug use, masturbation, adultery, watching porno videos—then you might indeed not be so fanatic about privacy. People insisted on it at least in part because there were things they did that they’d be mortified to have others know about. But in a permissive society, an open society, a society where the only crimes are crimes that have specific victims, perhaps it wouldn’t be such a big deal. And, of course, Ponter had shown no nudity taboo—a religious idea, again—and no desire for seclusion while using the bathroom.
Mary shook her head. All the times she’d been embarrassed and ashamed in her life, all the times she was glad no one could see what she was doing: were they uncomfortable simply because of church-imposed edicts? The shame she felt over leaving Colm; the shame that prevented her from getting a divorce; the shame she felt over dealing with her own drives now that she had no man in her life; the shame she felt because of sin ... Ponter had none of that, it seemed; as long as he was hurting no one else, he never felt uncomfortable over acts that gave him pleasure.
Without shame, perhaps Mary would have reported her rape. Without shame, caused by the religious mores that pervade our society, perhaps we to could have an utopia.
Think about it. The NSA could be/is watching what you do online. We aren't unhappy about this because we're all terrorists, or that this makes it easier to catch criminals. We're unhappy because they know what we've googled, and everyone's googled something they don't want to have to explain to grandma.
Without that rape, this would be a thoroughly unremarkable book in terms of literary merit. I mean, it's kind of bland as it is. There's not even an antagonist. Everyone's a pretty decent person through the whole thing. (less)
It took some time for me to really understand what was so wrong about this "flu." At first, all that...moreOne last book for 2013, and not a bad one it was.
It took some time for me to really understand what was so wrong about this "flu." At first, all that seemed to be happening was miscarriages of unplanned babies. But by half way through you really begin to understand the horror some people would feel in this situation.
I'm not sure if I like the direction this novel suggests for the science of evolution. There's already a lot of confusion in this country around what evolution even is. This book is speculative fiction, though, and scientifically dense enough that some laymen would have trouble with it. Perhaps there is no danger of some fool thinking this is actually how evolution works, but it was on my mind through the book. Would have had five stars if I'd believed the science a little more. (less)
Oh, Larry Niven. Why do I keep reading your books? Your humans are as inhuman as your aliens. Everything in your work is powered by handwavium on the...moreOh, Larry Niven. Why do I keep reading your books? Your humans are as inhuman as your aliens. Everything in your work is powered by handwavium on the Named-After-Some-White-Guy Principle. Your "Objects" are "Big" and "Dumb." And yet I keep reading your stuff. Why do I hurt myself like this? (less)
I fail to see why this guy is so hated. He was describing the state of affairs as he saw them, realistically, without ideology, in a time long before...moreI fail to see why this guy is so hated. He was describing the state of affairs as he saw them, realistically, without ideology, in a time long before government was believed to have some kind of higher purpose. I have heard it said that he believed it was better to be feared than loved, but really he just says it is better to simply be not hated than anything else. It seems like a good handbook if you want to stay in power in an Italian city state in the 16th century. I'm afraid the modern concepts of mass media, ideology, and widespread surveillance technology render some of its axioms obsolete, however. (less)
Chances are, if you're reading a book that's part of the Quick Reads not-for-people-who-read series, you probably aren't on Goodreads. But let's revie...moreChances are, if you're reading a book that's part of the Quick Reads not-for-people-who-read series, you probably aren't on Goodreads. But let's review this f***er.
This is a book I read on a single two-hour flight. It's got Doctor Who in it. I found it for free at a Book Crossing drop spot while traveling, so it didn't cost me anything. The positives end there.
It reads like an episode of Doctor Who that was so bad they couldn't in good conscience spend money on filming it. Seriously, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" was better. It's fast paced and at times cute, but at it's core it's just bad scifi written by someone who doesn't understand the science and technology they're writing about. And there's no Donna Noble.(less)
I saw a NY Times review of this book that said it is either the dumbest smart book out there or the smartest dumb book. I would agree with the latter....moreI saw a NY Times review of this book that said it is either the dumbest smart book out there or the smartest dumb book. I would agree with the latter. It's basic form is a fast-pace, airport-book-store thriller like something by Tom Clancy or Ken Follett. It may be a little strange, then, that would found this book in the scifi section, written by a scifi author like Stephenson. Indeed, there's nothing scifi about it. It's clearly a Stephenson book, full of his trademark snark and extreme attention to detail. But like Cryptonomicon before it, there is little science fiction, only a thriller about some businessmen and a whole lot of shady foreigners with some tech thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed it, but not as much as some of Stephenson's other books. (less)
If you like other John Irving books you'll like this one. It's 100% character development. Plot? You know aren't coming to John Irving for that so don...moreIf you like other John Irving books you'll like this one. It's 100% character development. Plot? You know aren't coming to John Irving for that so don't bother.
The entire book can be summarized by the main character's final lines:
**spoiler alert** Like the other reviewers say, the book starts out slow (like slug slow. Like LA freeway slow), but picks up. Banks gives you backsto...more**spoiler alert** Like the other reviewers say, the book starts out slow (like slug slow. Like LA freeway slow), but picks up. Banks gives you backstory in the same way a dump truck would give you gravel. He sits dangerously close to the border of to much information. Then again, the world he builds is so vivid because he *does* tell us too much about it. I guess I'm undecided on whether or not his info-dumping habit is something I like or not.
The book's funny, too. The Dwellers are strange, a little too British for my tastes in the sense that they seem to be some kind of parody of 19th Century aristocrats, but overall they make moments that are otherwise horrifying quite amusing.
My only problem with the novel is that I am walking away from it feeling quite unfulfilled. There are story lines that just have not run full circle. There are themes of totalitarianism and lack of freedom, but they never quite resolve themselves in a satisfactory manner. Throughout the book, I just don't understand the main character's motivations. He is like an archaeologist that doesn't believe the relic he is looking for exists, and he hates the people he works for, but he does it all anyway. Nothing he does makes sense until the very end, and even then making the right decision wouldn't have been possible unless some very dramatic and implausible things happened.(less)