I'll admit it, I only read about half of these stories before I gave up. It's a huge book. Ballard has a lot of obsessions, and they're played out aga...moreI'll admit it, I only read about half of these stories before I gave up. It's a huge book. Ballard has a lot of obsessions, and they're played out again and again, his mythology growing and evolving as he matured as a writer. It's a fascinating collection, but it didn't hold my interest. I love his stories about fantastic architecture - infinitely large space stations and cities, tenements with ever-shrinking and hidden rooms - but I got tired of his portrayals of women. His protagonists are always male, fascinated and often doomed by mysterious and dangerous women who seem to embody the fearsomeness of untamed nature. They sing strangely, they wander around in a daze, they commune with plants and insects and the sea. If that sounds appealing to you, you'll probably like these stories. Personally, I kept wanting his protagonists to just have straight-up conversations with these strange women, instead of fantasizing about them.(less)
This is a great book if you're into in long time scales, longterm sustainability, the rise and fall of civilizations, evolution, and other extremely b...moreThis is a great book if you're into in long time scales, longterm sustainability, the rise and fall of civilizations, evolution, and other extremely big picture stuff. It's also got a little mystery and suspense going, though you can anticipate more or less what's happening fairly early on in the book and the cluelessness of the protagonists gets a little tiresome.
I feel like this book is trying to make some big statements about judgement and morality and "goodness," but for me that aspect fell a little flat, and I was left feeling unsure as to just how moral and progressive Niven is, as an author. Nonetheless, he was a product of his time, and he certainly crafted a very novel thought experiment here.
Animal rights folks may find this book's treatment of speciesism and evolution to be worth reading. Note Niven's seeming blind spot when it comes to the inner lives of certain species who aren't given power or voice in his narrative.
My fellow feminists may find themselves as annoyed as I was with the single one-dimensional and lackluster human female character, but the gender and sex issues that come up with the humans' rival species are very interesting, particularly the treatment of pregnancy.(less)
This book is about a people on a planet - how their cultures and bodies evolve, how their ideas change, how they somehow move through time, averting d...moreThis book is about a people on a planet - how their cultures and bodies evolve, how their ideas change, how they somehow move through time, averting disaster again and again. They're different from us, ingeniously so, but they're also very similar. So much so, that if kids read this in high school, it would probably be a good thing for the world. It may be a fictional story starring liquid-filled bug people, but there's more to it than that - it's very instructive to read and ponder it, and to think about how our own future may follow similar (or different, but at least as deliberate) paths. The lesson in this book seems to be that if we can chart our way ahead, our destination may be a better one than if we mindlessly reinforce the status quo. Humanity needs some perspective, a longer view! And John Brunner has delivered it.
This book addresses sexism and the role of sex and gender in history, as well as issues around religion and belief and their (sometimes highly negative) impact on culture and the natural world. It's also packed with interesting ideas and concepts around animal rights. Get ready for some intense speciesism - the species followed in this book is perhaps even more species-supremacist than ours is, and their technologies are almost entirely based around the use and abuse of other species, selective breeding, and genetic engineering.(less)
Wow I love Daniel Quinn. This book takes up where Ishmael left off, but you could also enjoy it on its own. A girl talks to a gorilla. The gorilla hel...moreWow I love Daniel Quinn. This book takes up where Ishmael left off, but you could also enjoy it on its own. A girl talks to a gorilla. The gorilla helps the little girl through a learning process. And if you read this book, you'll learn what she learned, and you'll be (I hope) as inspired as she was.
What do you learn? How to save the world. How to find meaning. How to solve all your problems.
I don't know how to explain this. You should read the book. I think it will change your life. (Ishmael changed mine.)
If we all read Daniel Quinn's books, we would all be happier people, and our earth would begin to heal. In fact, because people are already reading his books, the world is already beginning to heal. Now read this book (or better yet, Ishmael, and then this one) so you know what I'm talking about!(less)
This book is an excellent argument for composting toilets. It explains how soil is formed, and shows how inefficient and polluting it is to mix waste...moreThis book is an excellent argument for composting toilets. It explains how soil is formed, and shows how inefficient and polluting it is to mix waste with water. It also contains some helpful charts that can help you decide what kind of waste treatment is best given your site. The book is from the U.K. so it feels very British, but the ideas are applicable worldwide.(less)
I liked this book because it let me into the inner life of a person who's extremely unlikeable and selfish, and gave me the time and details needed to...moreI liked this book because it let me into the inner life of a person who's extremely unlikeable and selfish, and gave me the time and details needed to sympathize with him and care about his fate, despite his many faults. I don't like Professor Michael Beard, but I think I understand him, and I feel richer for the expanded perspective.
Beard is a man who lives so solidly in the present that he daily rewrites the past to his convenience; his only regard for the future is a vague, inactive anxiety about all the things he's done that are catching up with him, and a desire for money and fame. He's immersed in relationships with women who love him, and he's working in a field that could help save the world (a novel renewable energy concept, fleshed out in interesting and clever detail), and yet he does nothing to deserve the women's love, and seems to have very little regard for the world he's saving. It turns out that this disconnect between motivations and actions is not a healthy one for Michael Beard, or those who he affects with his actions.
Beard is completely self-serving and greedy, and does what he wants, when he wants it. He takes and takes and never gives. And yet he's always wanting more, always unhappy with what he has. In one scene, he's eating a huge bowl of fried appetizers, and when he's nearly done, he begins "to wonder if some of them were filled with mushroom, not cheese". For me this moment is emblematic of Beard's whole story - he's eating life so greedily that he doesn't have time to taste it properly.
As the repercussions of his actions begin to pile up toward the end of the book, I found myself reading more and more quickly, wondering how on earth it would end. I was a little dissatisfied with the result - I expected a more dramatic payoff, given the many interconnected threads of horribleness that led there. But in a way, maybe a quiet, stupid end is what is needed to cap off all the quiet, stupid decisions Beard made throughout the novel.
This made me love Ian McEwan even more than I already did; even characters you only encounter once in passing are fully realized and unique, the settings are incredibly real and believable (such as Beard's neglected bachelor's flat with its many fungal growths), and the writing style is clean and clear and precise. There are some incredibly funny moments that had me laughing out loud, some that are downright shocking and completely unexpected, and many more that had me shaking my head in grim disapproval - when McEwan wants to write an awful character, boy oh boy does he succeed. The fact that he made me care about said awful character is what will make me remember and admire this book.(less)
The sequel / partner to Oryx and Crake, and a more hopeful (but just as brutal) view of the end of global capitalism. I loved the songs and sermons fr...moreThe sequel / partner to Oryx and Crake, and a more hopeful (but just as brutal) view of the end of global capitalism. I loved the songs and sermons from God's Gardeners, and was left wondering about the future of religion.
This book is SO feminist and vegan! If you care about the future of animal rights, read this and learn what *not* to do, along with some ideas for things we could do to chart a better course for our future on this planet.
Trigger warning: This book includes scenes of violence (including sexual violence) against women and girls.(less)
This is so, so lovely. I came to Annie Dillard ignorant of her awesomeness and now I really like her. She's not terribly vegan-friendly but she has a...moreThis is so, so lovely. I came to Annie Dillard ignorant of her awesomeness and now I really like her. She's not terribly vegan-friendly but she has a very cool relationship with animals and nature.
Her anecdotes and narratives about natural history, exploration, animals, and geography wind together and blend effortlessly with observations about spirituality and the very nature of civilization. And yet her voice is very personal and reflective, even poetic and at times experimental - you can hear her and imagine her writing the words. The stories are tragic, beautiful, funny, and poignant, sometimes all at once.
Also: Buckminster Fuller reviewed this book very highly. So.(less)
I found Oryx and Crake very suspenseful, and read it in just a couple of days, in big gulps. The narrator, Snowman, is going on a journey of survival,...moreI found Oryx and Crake very suspenseful, and read it in just a couple of days, in big gulps. The narrator, Snowman, is going on a journey of survival, while remembering his past in flashbacks. Slowly you begin to see his part in something world-changingly big. The mystery deepens, the stakes grow higher. I couldn't put it down.
This book deals intelligently with science and ethics, technology and the environment, humans and animals and genetic engineering, the future of the life on earth, and other big topics. It also paints a very compassionate, beautiful, tender, tragic portrait of a boy turning into a beast, with the influence of his megalomaniacal friend and the rest of the science-industrial complex behind him.
This book also deals with child sexuality and pornography, and with sexual exploitation in general. Atwood projects the worst abuses of today into an even more unethical and ravaged-by-capitalism future, and reveals some of the psychology that perpetuates sexual exploitation.
Atwood's story is a frighteningly plausible tale of warning - read it and take heed...(less)
Awesome different ideas about the future, written from an early 1970s viewpoint. Scary to see how little has changed about our behavior, especially co...moreAwesome different ideas about the future, written from an early 1970s viewpoint. Scary to see how little has changed about our behavior, especially considering how much has changed about our understanding of our impact on our environment.(less)
My mom found this book and thought I would like it. She was right! It's creepy but fun, an unlikely combination of sustainability, mythology, and horr...moreMy mom found this book and thought I would like it. She was right! It's creepy but fun, an unlikely combination of sustainability, mythology, and horror. It's meant for young adults but I'm 28 and was turning pages with excitement, wondering what would come next. I won't say anything about the plot because the less you know, the more enjoyable the book will be. I didn't have a dust jacket on my used copy, and the plain black cover with its enigmatic title was even more successful than the spooky eye graphic shown here. Probably best for older kids, it's got some very grim imagery and some violence in it.(less)
Absolutely everyone should read this book right now, and get as many people as they know to read it, too. This book is about how to save the world, ri...moreAbsolutely everyone should read this book right now, and get as many people as they know to read it, too. This book is about how to save the world, right now - how to find work that's fulfilling, a life that has purpose, a way that we can all have a huge impact on the future of our planet. No joke. If you're looking for practical answers to life's big questions, this book is for you. It's for all of us. Please, read it!(less)
If you care about the future of life on our planet, or about our human legacy, you will probably value this book. It includes both a long view of hist...moreIf you care about the future of life on our planet, or about our human legacy, you will probably value this book. It includes both a long view of history as well as an even longer view of the future. It's eye-opening and horizon-expanding and well-researched. I loved it.(less)