I read this purely on the fact that is was the selection of the month for the club. To be honest, it is not something that I would have picked up myse...moreI read this purely on the fact that is was the selection of the month for the club. To be honest, it is not something that I would have picked up myself despite the award of a Pulitzer Prize.
I didn't like it. Sure, I recognized the sparse writing style which lent an artsy feel to the prose (and was probably what earned it the Pulitzer and is why I give it 2 stars instead of 1), but the book was an ordeal from start to finish. It had no purpose what so ever except to make the reader feel like they were in a post-apocalyptic world where hope had been completely extinguished … and it worked. Ultimately that is what doomed the book with me … at the end I sat back and simply asked a very basic question … So? Was there a message? Maybe … life goes on? Egads, even the interminable “and so it goes” from slaughter house five was better then this drekk. What about the relationship between the father and the son? Was it really love, so was it simple a reason to continue? I don’t really know, but I suspect that there really was not as much there as it would seem. The boy’s existence was simply an enabler for the father’s continued existence. Neither character showed any character development over some 287 pages so what really was the point of the story?
I have happily traded this book away on book mooch.com(less)
This is a fun story which nominally recasts the clash between the original Titans and the new Olympian pantheon in Greek mythology as a struggle betwe...moreThis is a fun story which nominally recasts the clash between the original Titans and the new Olympian pantheon in Greek mythology as a struggle between galactic civilizations. What I found most enjoyable about this installment (part one of a series) was the 'realistic' detail given to both the starship armaments and their crew ... sure, there are points that require a bit of a stretch, but the interaction of the various military characters and tactics would be at home on any naval vessel that I have served on (quite unlike MOST Sci-Fi stories that I have encountered) earning the book an extra star and the gratitude of my dentist. Similarly ... The first contact / interaction with present day earth was well done, if perhaps a tad optimistic.
The book itself was well paced, with enough suspense to gently pull you through the whole story to a cliff-hanger ending; thankfully the main conflict was resolved and it appears that each installment will be able to stand on its own. There were few surprises in the story, which lacked a fair amount of intensity giving it more of a history book or clinical feel to it (especially in the beginning). I would have liked to see more grit when the story moved out of the more Spartan military settings (the potential power struggle on Olympus Prime could have been a story unto itself). Over all, the book is a quick, feel-good story that most will enjoy before fading from memory as it takes its place among other pleasant afternoons.
Finally, there were a few distracting editorial mistakes (where the wrong word spelled correctly appears), but not too bad.(less)
I seem to be hit-or-miss with Heinlein. I have read and enjoyed Starship Troopers and The Glory Road; however I couldn't finish Job: A Comedy of Justi...moreI seem to be hit-or-miss with Heinlein. I have read and enjoyed Starship Troopers and The Glory Road; however I couldn't finish Job: A Comedy of Justice and was not impressed with Stranger in a Strange Land (SISL) ... It is simply NOT good Science-Fiction (even if it is a fair piece of satire).
The book is divided into five (5) parts ...
Part One [His Maculate Origin] was a good Sci-Fi plot that I actually enjoyed ... the premise being that of a lost human boy raised by non-humans (in this case Martians) along the lines of Tarzan of the Apes and The Jungle Book (which is thought to have been his original inspiration for the story). Next to nothing is actually revealed about Valentine Michael (Mike) Smith's time with his adoptive people, but the story keeps humming along with a little political intrigue and mystery. Unfortunately the plot begins to sink after this until it practically disappears by the end. The koolest concept here has to be the 'Fair Witness' characters ... A very limited version of human machine proxies that could easily be the precursor to the better developed Mentats of the Dune saga.
Part Two [His Preposterous Heritage] introduces what is arguably the true main character in the story and Heinlein's alter ego, Jubal Harshaw, who proceeds to introduce 'Mike' to all the ills of human society. This wasn't all that bad a satire actually, even when Jubal waxes on the sermon a bit too much (it had the feel of watching re-runs of "Abbott and Costello', 'I Love Lucy' or 'The Dick Van Dyke Show.') Mike really takes a back seat here so that Jubal can pontificate at will, but the humor of it all was still mildly entertaining. Presumably Jubal's female secretaries provide the strong gender examples that Heinlein is noted for ... They are also incredibly shallow and boring (or as presented in one discussion thread ... They differ by a haircut). There is absolutely NO character development for anybody except Mike from here on out; and as far a Mikey is concerned, all of his character development happens all at once as he is 'wondrously converted from Tarzan/Mogli into the next Messiah of humanity. We also get two main plot items ... The term 'grok' which became a cult classic in the late 60's and the revelation that Mike has a super power to go with his naiveté that just about blows any plot discipline out of the water for the remainder of the story.
"Thou Art G-d" saith the Man from Mars ...
The rest is a complete Grokk.
Part Three [His Eccentric Education] was an attempt to develop Mike a little further so that he learns the 'art of the con' that is apparently required to make a go of any religion. Mike needs this, because he wants to harness such shams to 'trick' humans into accepting his rather dubious views on human society (which social change has now exposed as mildly sexist and homophobic).
Part Four [His Scandalous Career] Here is where Jubal comes back on stage in order whip the reader with guilt to make it easier to accept Heinlein's free love society. That is really all that you find here. We get such gems as: "I can at least see the beauty of Mike's attempt to devise an ideal human ethic and applaud his recognition that such a code must be founded on ideal sexual behavior ..." Really? Even if accepted as true, Heinlein completely FAILS to explore this concept other then to say that it is obviously good. To support his claim, he gives us a voyeuristic look into his 'Nest' (aka Harem) where such physical contact is open, natural and without jealousy BECAUSE everyone is an equally great looking sex god following the true path to happiness. The problem? We the reader get NO insight into how Mike's disciples change their thinking. They just do ... Possibly because they now see the inherent 'rightness' of the concept once it is properly explained to them (the only instance we get of that is between Jubal and Ben Caxton and that is left unresolved at the end of the encounter).
Part Five [His Happy Destiny] After such a stinging rebuke of Christianity (specifically) earlier in the story, it seems surprising the Heinlein would so blatantly force the 'Passion of Christ' upon his protagonist here; and with very little rationale other then some need to highlight one of his more hypocritical definitions of 'grok' that includes consuming the physical body of a person in order to truly know him. Add to this a complete moral bankrupcy where it is okay to cheat, steal and kill as needed and I do not see any appeal what so ever to Heinlein's proposed utopia. Sure ... I get the fact that the story is not supposed to be realistic (it is supposed to be satire) and that it was not intended to be a guide to a practical utopia, but that just doesn't save the later half of the story from being so preachy and simpleminded that it not only obscures the "important questions" about contemporary social mores (specifically sex and religion), it actually fails to entertain with its long-winded monologs defending the 'rightness' of the title character's views on the subjects. While Heinlein may not have intended to provide convenient answers to the questions he thought he was raising, that is in fact what he did, displaying a remarkable ignorance of basic human psychology that ultimately dooms his 'social commentary' to failure.(less)
I really enjoyed the quality of the narration; Mr. Davis does an excellent job rendering the voices of the various character...moreNarrated by Jonathan Davis
I really enjoyed the quality of the narration; Mr. Davis does an excellent job rendering the voices of the various characters within the story.
This was a fun read for the most part ... although the heavy exploitation of various stereo-types might be offensive to some, it really is the key to most of the humor in the story; at least Mr. Stephenson is an equal opportunity satirist in creating his dystopian society. The story pokes fun at corporate franchises, Christians (Orthodox Russians, Catholics and evangelists), the feds, the mafia, Columbian drug cartels, pizza delivery drivers, skateboard couriers, gated communities (burbclaves), apartheid, Alaskan red-necks, and a host of others. The characters themselves are very shallow and underdeveloped, though most are still memorable none the less.
This central plot merges ancient Sumerian mythology as alternate history with computer technology to construct an idea that humans have a basic or innate language ability that was 'hard coded' into our brain. This direct neural wiring left humans vulnerable to a memetic or 'meta virus' that basically turns humans into automatons. Stephenson uses a series of interactions (info-dumps) with a database AI (The Librarian) to introduce reader to the concepts needed to fully appreciate the plot climax. Unfortunately this is where Stephenson starts to lose his way (and a star) while the satire becomes less skillful and the story displays more violence (needlessly so in some cases). The strange introduction of teenage sex with a much older and very violent male antagonist toward the end of the book really detracted from the story as a whole. Finally, the conclusion seemed confused and somewhat aimless and unsatisfying by the end (Where was Raven's kaboom!).(less)
Available as a Free Podiobook. Sub-Genre is Cyber Punk.
The book presented an imaginative future where bodies and consciousness are freely interchangeab...moreAvailable as a Free Podiobook. Sub-Genre is Cyber Punk.
The book presented an imaginative future where bodies and consciousness are freely interchangeable through the use of computer network systems; this is very similar to Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom except that the original birth body is preserved here and must be maintained while they are linked real time to specialized clone bodies for brief periods of time ... So there is a possibility of 'real' death. The ancient/feudal Japanese theme from which Mangan's vocabulary borrowed heavily was intriguing as well. As the story develops, the author reveals several sub-plots that deal with the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and self-awareness. This questions are left hanging in the cliff-hanger ending which I did not particularly care for, although a sequel has been promised.(less)
I was really intrigued with this story. There was a lot of concepts that I enjoyed exploring, such as the idea of human consciousness being up loadabl...moreI was really intrigued with this story. There was a lot of concepts that I enjoyed exploring, such as the idea of human consciousness being up loadable into a computer system (obviously separating our psychic nature from our biological machinery). This sets the stage for the author to present his ideas about the relationship between intelligence and consciousness (which I generally associate with defining individuality or ego) in a first contact story very similar to how Space Odyssey 2001 reads. On top of this, there are several hard science concepts and theories that had me scrambling to my references to see if he had invented it or if it was real (a lot was real and I actually learned a lot about the current state of science exploration). The author supplies a ton of citations and references to many of the concepts that he uses within the story.
I don't agree with some of the author's premises, but it was an interesting discussion none-the-less and added to my enjoyment of the book.
This book is currently available online (for free) here.
A very good review (with spoilers) is available here.(less)
I saw Bladerunner when it came out and knowing that it was based upon this story, and not really enjoying the movie much, I didn't pick up the book un...moreI saw Bladerunner when it came out and knowing that it was based upon this story, and not really enjoying the movie much, I didn't pick up the book until it became a Book Club selection; hearing that the book was significantly different then the movie helped. While it was not a 'fun' book, I did enjoy many of the concepts PKD started to explore in the story ... especially now given how far science has come in explaining how the human 'machine' works (and fails). Asimov's I, Robot does a better job here; however, PKD introduces a few additional concepts that Asimov does not ... Such as the role of religion (Mercerism) in shaping and defining society. There is also a fairly rigid caste system among humans, with androids (some obviously more capable in some way to humans) at the bottom of that. What I found very interesting was the use of empathy to distinguish between human and inhuman ... Yet some of the worst behavior in the book came from humans. Apparently just because we are capable of empathy doesn't mean we always used it ...(less)