I read The Handmaid's Tale when I was pregnant with my first child. So, of COURSE I read We Who Are About To . . . shortly after the birth of my seco...moreI read The Handmaid's Tale when I was pregnant with my first child. So, of COURSE I read We Who Are About To . . . shortly after the birth of my second. Thus, the supreme inconvenience of pregnancy, the utter danger of childbirth, and the crap-shoot of infant survival were pretty high up in my mind while I read.
I don't think I've ever read a book where "survival" was the dumbest option, but I do remember a comedy bit where the guy said that in the event of zombie apocalypse, his survival tactic would be to shoot himself in the head. Frankly, that really did seem like the best option to me. Food in cans never gets better, guys.
Meanwhile, my husband has been reading some of the less bad Dune sequels. Dune always struck me because of the detailed world Herbert builds. No aspect of Dune's flora or fauna or anthropology has been neglected. So, it was a real change of pace to be dumped on Russ's little weirdo planet where nobody knows anything about anything and nobody will ever have the time to figure it out. It had never occurred to me that just because plants grow in a place, that doesn't mean there's anything there for you to eat.
Nevertheless, our protagonist answers the question of why the heck early people would pay attention to the movements of the heavenly bodies in the very first place: sheer goddamned boredom.
I mean, really. Why else do humans do anything?
I hesitate to call this a "feminist" book, because it offends me that women have to have our own category despite the fact that we're A) over half the population and B) arguably more important for the survival of the species. We keep ONE rooster, if you know what I mean. Nevertheless, I think this book gets right exactly how hard colonization is in even the best of circumstances. I remember reading Card's Homecoming Saga and the women just started popping out babies like the helpful Mormon ladies they were. Nobody talked about how hard reproduction is. Nobody dies, that I can remember, in labor. None of the children are born with defects or dead or any of the other highly statistically probable things that are bound to happen in a tiny, inbred colony. No no. You know what got lauded in that book? A gay dude takes one for the team and makes it with a lady. High five, pansy, for reaffirming the preeminence of masculinity by doing like two minutes of work!
It is also possible that I am just bitter about Orson Scott Card. You can forgive me this, surely.
Anyway, the narrator of this story is under no illusions about how the world works. Her flashbacks give you some idea of the civilization humanity has built for itself and her experiences in her old life have made her an astute observer of human nature. She had an idealistic part of her life as a "neo-Christian," and so she knows what fervor for the impossible can do. This is why she's dead set against it. She's also an educated woman, and so she knows what a return to barbarism will do to them. That is foreshadowed fairly early in their stay when the knuckle-headed young man decides he's had enough of listening to the whiny bossy-pants woman.
But of course, it would be very easy to get a little depressed about this book. Most of the people end up being pretty much how you would expect. But, you have to keep in mind that the whole thing, much like Offred's story in The Handmaid's Tale, is a diary. So, these experiences are recounted to you as she remembers them, so naturally the people are going to behave in ways that conform to how she expects. She's been beaten into cynicism too hard for it to be any other way. Plus, if she is really as hopeless as she says, why bother to keep a journal in the first place? Even she wonders about this, asking who she expects to find it. And yet, here we are, reading it. Who are we? Was she, after all, wrong to lose hope?
We can't know. And this lends a palpable tension to the whole book. I more or less knew where the book was going before I began reading, but even so I felt a twinge of hope for these people. On the one hand, I completely agreed with the narrator regarding the facts of the situation, but on the other I know it's fiction and anything can happen and very often does. There's a long history of proving the nerd wrong. But then, the ghost of Cassandra is always there to haunt us. (In this book, literally so.)
So, like all books that are kind of downers, I don't know where to stick this in my headspace. It's well-written and gripping. I wanted to return to it when I put it down. The characters were a little stereotyped in the Gilligan's Island kind of way, but I think the author knows this. I can see this book being a real reaction to all the survival fiction out there where brave men (and women sometimes) beat all the odds to live happily ever after. I know that when I read that genre, I think about myself in the same situation and I just know it would be the end of me. Those books can portray civilization as corrupt and nature as restorative, but in reality it isn't that simple.
The narrator comes from a civilization where most of the technical problems of survival have been eliminated, but instead of creating the utopia that mankind seems always to be striving for, they have just created more of the same. Wealth is power, new ideas are dangerous, most people do busywork that keep them out of trouble. Nevertheless, she would return in a heartbeat. She has friends she loves, music she adores, experiences she would like to have again. The wilds she has come to lack the corruption and banality of humanity as she knows it, but it also lacks the simple pleasures of, say, having a glass of water without worrying that you are slowly poisoning yourself. Nature is only restorative to humans if it's temporary -- if one day, you can go back to someplace with your lessons learned or you take the nature and you turn it into the civilization you left behind. The planet they land on offers neither option.
In the end, the narrator prevails. But was that the best outcome? We just can't know. (less)
Cheap cheap cheap. I think I hate suspense novels. Their whole premise is like a creepy man promising one more and one more piece of candy if you just...moreCheap cheap cheap. I think I hate suspense novels. Their whole premise is like a creepy man promising one more and one more piece of candy if you just walk one more and one more block down the road with him. And never you mind that unmarked delivery van at the end of the street.
The book starts well, as a regular old first person narrative. But then the novels switches over to diaries. The second of which goes on to include all the boring little bits of daily life that, by that time in the book, is stalling. Maybe it's the misdirection the illusionists are all the time going on about. Whatever. That part of the show is boring. Boring!
But what was the book about? It was a lovely little tale of mystery. Clearly magic is being done, but there is no such thing as magic so there must be another answer. What is that answer?
SCIENCE FICTION. NOW WE ARE A SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL HA HA
So cheap! Somebody on Netflix said that this business with Tesla was just to misdirect the one magician as that magician had done to the other. But I suppose he can say that because maybe the film didn't contain the framing story set in the late 20th century.
Also, I think the author was trying very hard to have his characters speak from their time, but near the end I didn't buy it. And then, when he switched back to the framing story, he couldn't quite shake the antiquity out of himself.
And what was the deal with that framing story, anyway? Why was it in first person? Specifically, in the last chapter, the person of the journalist? I would have thought it would have been more appropriate to be third person so as to unite all the threads together, which was clearly what that last chapter was doing.
AND THEN IT ENDS ON A CLIFFHANGER. "Hello, I'm Christopher Priest and I haven't been able to figure out how to end this story for, like, 100 pages already so, since I think we've got enough pages here to publish, let's just forget about the ending and ship it. They'll think it's mysterious. Yeah. It's thematic. Clearly I am a genius. Me and Tesla."
Needless to say, I took the film out of my Netflix queue.(less)
This book is a delightful toy! Cleverly formatted and simple to follow while still being devious in it's complexities.
I would describe it a Choose you...moreThis book is a delightful toy! Cleverly formatted and simple to follow while still being devious in it's complexities.
I would describe it a Choose your own adventure flowchart. Choose between chocolate and vanilla ice cream to let the adventure begin! Look for secret codes and hidden paths. Don't get lost! But if you do, you can always go back to the ice cream shop at the beginning at try again.(less)
**spoiler alert** Having just finished The Age of Wonder it was only natural for me to read this fruit of that era.
The science is highly implausible,...more**spoiler alert** Having just finished The Age of Wonder it was only natural for me to read this fruit of that era.
The science is highly implausible, but the emotions and the people are very real.
What I noticed most was Frankenstein's blindness to his own pride. Things don't work out the way he wants them to so he throws a hissy fit about it and tries to erase his mistakes rather than fix them. I've been thinking a lot about entitlement and privilege lately. Frankenstein thinks he's a really great guy and it's really too bad that this monster's running around ruining his life. Do you think that's too harsh an assessment? Then why doesn't it occur to him that when the monster says that he will be with him on his wedding day, the monster might mean "to kill your dang bride"? This is despite the fact that the monster has already killed three people dear to him, one of them specifically for revenge. No, no. He's so focused on his own little tragedy that he's oblivious to dangerous problems and their obvious solutions.
Namely: BE A PAL, DAMMIT.
I'm not sure where Shelly's sympathies lie, but mine are with the monster. I keep thinking about how certain classes of people are hated just for being poor or a minority or funny looking or whatever. They get abused and exploited and rejected and then the "decent" people of the world wonder how so many of them end up in jail.(less)
Welp. We're doomed. So long guys. Being around was great and all, but I think it's time we sat under a tree and watched the sun go down. Good night, e...moreWelp. We're doomed. So long guys. Being around was great and all, but I think it's time we sat under a tree and watched the sun go down. Good night, everybody!
In other news, read the paragraph near the end about the Polynesian natives and tobacco. Then, think about your electronic gizmos. That is all.(less)
It's a locked room mystery set outside time and space because of kind of a super dumb reason. There's a lot of shouting and bumping around, and then i...moreIt's a locked room mystery set outside time and space because of kind of a super dumb reason. There's a lot of shouting and bumping around, and then it's over. But lordy lord I do love a locked room mystery. The fact that history is bananas is just added bonus. It's a fascinating premise and I've just discovered there's more. If I sort it out, I'll let you know. (less)
I got the book from the library, but then Greg produced his own copy. So there's that.
The guy managed to write a whole book about characters whose pri...moreI got the book from the library, but then Greg produced his own copy. So there's that.
The guy managed to write a whole book about characters whose primary feature is that they haven't got their own personalities. A neat trick indeed. It was a pretty good page turner and it ended happily, if wildly hyperbolicaly. Definitely one of those science fiction books where the author starts with a premise and runs single-mindedly with it through the whole book.
I enojyed it. It was fun. Probably I don't need to read it again. The end.(less)
Some people are very good at making entirely new worlds. Herbert is one. I started reading knowing very little about it and was summarily shocked by t...moreSome people are very good at making entirely new worlds. Herbert is one. I started reading knowing very little about it and was summarily shocked by the things I read, but it's a very good book. I haven't read the wole series, mostly because series are very hard to read, but every time I declare I will not read another, my friend Patrick tells me something to make me need to read the next.
So whatever people may say about the series as a whole, the first one is definitely worth your time.(less)