Jul 19, 2011
really liked it
John Shirley's Bioshock Rapture
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 5, 2018
Go straight to the full review (please): https://www.goodrea review of
John Shirley's Bioshock Rapture
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 5, 2018
Go straight to the full review (please): https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I've previously written about & quoted John Shirley in my review of Marco Deseriis's Improper Names - Collective Pseudonyms from the Luddites to Anonymous:
""John Shirley is an unexpectedly repeated figure that I'm now more interested in than ever. In the Monty Cantsin chapter it's stated that he was a part of the vibrant scene of Portland in the late 1970s that included "Blaster" Al, "David "Oz" Zack, Maris Kundzins, Tom Cassidy (aka Musicmaster), Kay Hocket (aka Rhoda Mappo)" (you can see her signing a John M. Bennett poem here: http://youtu.be/l7H8DJ0CYJE ) "Steve Minor, John Shirley, Billy Haddock" etc.. & in the Luther Blissett chapter thusly:
""Named after John Shirley's cyberpunk novel Transmaniacon, the Transmaniacs explored a theory and practice of subversion for a generation that had grown up with a saturated media environment and in times of accelerated capitalist recuperation." - p 136
""In John Shirley's proto-cyberpunk novel Transmaniacon, the hero Ben Rackey surfs a telematic network of sorts, taking on different names and identities with the goal of inciting revolt and destroying the invisible ionic barrier that separates the United States from the rest of the world." - endnote 21, p 249
""the Transmaniacs seek to "liberate the language, use it to produce events, and use the events to create a new language" by quickly moving between liberated "interzones" before capital can recuperate them or shut them down." - pp 136-137
"I'm reminded of Ed Sanders's novel Shards of God (1970):
""Hi! Protestors. I am the
Freedomright Vale of Detention.
We hope that your stay with us
will be temporary. Be nice and
we promise not to chop up your
""Beneath the sign sat the camp bard, a blind poet from the Hudson Institute, who, fed intravenous food and kept awake by cocaine, perforce san twenty-four hours a day a continuous epic tale of the life and manners of the concentration camp. Standing in back of him were his musicians and in back of them were the six tiers of Fender amplifiers that sped the singing to the ears of everyone. The poet's epic was tapes and analyzed for slang and double- and triple-meaning language patterns, which were so complex that several computers were needed to keep track of the constantly changing language of the inmates." - pp 84-85
"I've only read 2 of Shirley's bks but adding to the proofs of his connectedness I quote from his 1988 SF novel Kamus of Kadizhar - The Black Hole of Carcosa:
"""How come the Darklord picked a couple of Earthmen for this?" But then, remembering "Bob"'s lighting-charged pipe, I realized my mistake. "You guys are wizards?"
"""Is the pope Catholic?" "Bob" said, cheerfully.
"""We're Earthmen," Stang said, "but not all Earthmen are really Earthmen." He spoke with a faint Texas accent. The cigarette clamped in his lips waggled with each word, spilling ashes into his lap. "Your Darklord, now, he picked us because we understand the nature of this particular kind of metaphysical infection. What you call the Outfit. We call it the Conspiracy." The car bounced as it went over a hump that marked the edge of an asphalt road. There were no asphalt roads on Ja-Lur. But we'd driven onto one, somehow, anyway. Up ahead was a cluster of harsh white lights. Stang went on, "The Conspiracy's mindset is perverting your planet. We've been chippin' away at the Con on Earth, in our own time." He glanced over his shoulder at me and added casually, "Besides being space travelers, we're time travelers, too. I forgot to tell you that."" - p 134
"It's worth noting that Stang, aside from being the Sacred Scribe of the Church & Foundation of the SubGenius, was also present at the Party for People from the Future on March 9, 1982EV in BalTimOre at the Empire Salon."
- that review starts here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... but is in 4 chapters so if you search for the above you'll have to advance thru them
It's b/c of the above that I have an ongoing interest in reading Shirley's work but I almost never see copies of it used so it wasn't until Bioshock Rapture that I found anything other than the 2 I've already read. Alas, this didn't seem very promising to me b/c the front cover pronounces it: "The Prequel to the Award-Winning and Bestselling Video Game Franchise" wch, to me, translates into: 'Shirley wrote this bk for the money.' The bk is copyrighted by "Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc." (p 4) If I'd grown up w/ stuff like this, I'd probably be a hacker - wch wdn't be a bad idea - but I didn't & I'm not.
I've only previously read & reviewed one other video game bk: Barrington J. Bayley's Eye of Terror - wch is a "Warhammer 40,000" novel. Warhammer 40,000 is a game that's announced thusly: "Welcome to Warhammer 40,000, the thrilling hobby of tabletop wargaming! This is your gateway into the grim darkness of the far future, where mighty armies clash across war-torn worlds, and the bloodthirsty forces of Chaos strive to overthrow the Imperium of Mankind." ( https://warhammer40000.com ) I was a child in the 1950s & 1960s so I grew up before such games existed. As such, I've never really 'gotten into them'. My review of Bayley's bk is one of the only hostile ones I've ever written. Here's an excerpt:
"I'm sick, so I wanted a break from intellect, so I started reading this piece of trash. I can only figure Bayley was desperate for money. This bk is "A Black Library Publication - Games Workshop", a "Warhammer 40,000 Novel". Apparently, these novels share things in common - Space Marines, etc - & authors are requested to write in a certain style. So there must be multiple Space Marine bks by multiple authors. Who is this stuff aimed at? Masturbating adolescent boys w/ fantasies of travelling the galaxies & hacking people up w/ laser-axes?! Beats me (pun intended). That there's actually money for publishing this garbage boggles my mind." - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Basically, I tend to lump video game bks together w/ tv-movie novelisations as things-I-shd'nt-really-waste-my-time-on. &, usually, I don't, but I did read & review Keith Laumer's The Invaders so there's another exception. Here's an excerpt from my review of that:
"As a part of my project of reading a slew of Laumer bks & exploring them, I've actually stooped so low as to read a bk "First in a thrilling new series based on the smash ABC-TV hit" as the front cover proclaims: viz: The Invaders. When I bought it, it was cheap, I was still hesitant: did I really want to be so thorough in my exploration of Laumer that I'd read this drek?!
"This bk was published in 1967. I stopped watching TV sometime around 1969 or 1970. SO, this wd've still been when i was watching it. Stopping watching TV was one of the best things I ever did. When I was in my early teens, when this bk was published, I'd spend Friday nites watching things like "Get Smart" & snacking. Now that I have almost no friends & very little social life what do i do almost EVERY nite? Watch movies & drink alcohol. It's not what I do all day, it's my R&R - usually after a long time of working on projects & going out & about in the world. Still, it's a little too much like what i was doing when I was 13. & reading The Invaders makes me feel like I've come full-circle to nowhere." - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62...
The point is, I didn't exactly start reading this w/ total enthusiasm, I wasn't expecting it to be a novel worthy of Thomas Pynchon or William Gaddis & it wasn't. In fact, almost immediately I was so repulsed by it that I almost stopped myself from reading it. This was basically b/c it seemed like some sort of written-as-a-hack-job SF version of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. I shd've given Shirley more credit. It does start off that way but if ever there's been a critique of Rand's philosophy this bk wd be it!
"I am Andrew Ryan and I'm here to ask you a question: Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow? No, says the man in Washington. It belongs to the poor. No, says the man in the Vatican. It belongs to God. No, says the man in Moscow. It belongs to everyone. I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose soemthign different. I chose the impossible. I chose . . . Rapture. A city where the artist would not fear the censor. Where the scientist would not be bound by Petty morality. Where the great would not be constrained by the small. And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well. Andrew Ryan in BioShock" - p 9
"The parasite hates three things: free markets, free will, and free men. —Andrew Ryan " - p 23
The character of Andrew Ryan strikes me as a deliberately Ayn Randian one - w/ the very name "Andrew Ryan" seeming vaguely reminiscent of "Ayn Rand". I read Rand's Anthem when I was a teenager after having read Huxley's Brave New World & Orwell's 1984 b/c I'd heard that it was in a similar vein of soci-political-philosophical criticism of the present in a near-future setting that wasn't SF. Around the same time, I read her The Fountainhead. I've seen the movie of that too. I only have Anthem left in my personal library these 47 or so yrs later so I'm consulting it now. According to the back cover, "ANTHEM is an unforgettable story of courage and rebellion against totalitarian collectivism" & "He was marked for death because he had committed the unpardonable sin: He had stood forth from the mindless human herd. He was a man alone."
I can relate. Where Rand & I seem to part ways is in believing in particular ideologies as conducive to free thinking. I'm not so convinced that any ideology is conducive to free thinking, Rand, as I understand it, believed that Capitalism was. For me, Capitalism is 'great' for those who benefit from it - deluding themselves that the reason why they're the top dog on a radioactive pile of shit is b/c they somehow 'earned it' when, in reality, they're more likely to be beneficiaries of parental crimes — like Rump & the Koch Bros — &/or more likely to be blissfully self-justifying in their massive victimizations of others. No doubt a slumlord, e.g., is full of justifications for charging too much for too little.
In Anthem, I don't find anything I want to use in this review except for a blurb for Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism at the end of the bk: "She advocates a new morality, an ethics of rational self-interest, that stands in complete opposition to the political, social, and religious attitudes of our day." Now that doesn't necessarily seem like such a bad idea on the surface to me but Bioshock Rapture does an excellent job of showing where that's likely to go wrong. Shirley has Ryan say:
"["]But self-interest is at the root of cooperation, Bill. I intend to prove that self-interest oils the wheels of business—and that freedom from the . . . the tentacles of government, from the usual social shackles on science and technology and growth, will produce unstinting prosperity. I have envirioned a great social experiment. But Bill, ask yourself, where can a social experiment on a large scale take place? Where in this world is there a place for men like us? My father and I fled the Bolsheviks—and where did we end up? This isn't the 'land of the free' it pretends to be. It's the land of the taxed. And it was his reluctance to pay taxes that put my father in jail.["]" - p 59
On the back of Anthem we're told about Ayn Rand that "Russian born, she came to this country at the age of 21".
In Trevor Blake's bk Confessions of a Failed Egoist he points out that: "Egoism not only has the problem of being unable to define when any particular Individual appears, but also when any Individual at all first appeared. Egoism cannot say whether there were egoist Neanderthals, or before them egoist possum-critters who stole dinosaur eggs, or perhaps egoist dinosaurs, or egoist fish, egoist algae... don't stop at selfish genes when you can imagine selfish molecules. There is likely a line of before and after egoism emerged in evolution. Egoism cannot say when that line is drawn." (p 8)
Imagine the "egoist possum-critters who stole dinosaur eggs", who stole them until there were no new dinosaurs to lay dinosaur eggs. Is that "self-interest"? Not if there's no more food for the "possum-critter". "Self-interest" needs to be able to recognize its self as part of a greater whole, needs to recognize when mutual aid is more beneficial than mutual exploitation. Ryan's statements implies that he recognizes this but, as w/ the World Bank or the IMF or Ryan's actual (fictional) practices turn out.. nah, he doesn't really get it: Ryan steals the eggs & eats them until a bigger dinosaur comes along w/ even fewer scruples & starts to eat him. That's the real world of so-called 'Free Trade': steal from the poor until someone who wants to be even richer than you are comes along & crushes you. & I'd hardly call that enlightened self-interest. To put Blake's observations & my take on them more into context by quoting more at length from my review of Confessions:
"Most, or all, the work I like has a sense of play, a sense of fair-play, a cents of fare-pay, a sense of humor - Trevor's exceptional.. but not an exception to what I like. Consider the opening 2 paragraphs:
""I am an egoist, a circular thinker of the most self-contained philosophy. Keep reading, though, and you'll see I'm not a very good Unique One. I see rusty rivets and loose lashings in the HMS Egoism. Egoism is the contrarian's philosophy, and so of course I begin this book with a broadside against it.
""Egoism is the claim that the individual is the measure of all things. In ethics, in epistemology, in aesthetics, in society, the Individual is the best and only arbitrator. Egoism claims social convention, laws, other people, religion, language, time and all other forces outside of the Individual are an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual. Such impediments may be tolerated but they have no special standing to the Individual, who may elect to ignore or subvert or destroy them as He can. In egoism the State has no monopoly to take tax or to wage war." - p 5
"An egoist is a person who thinks of themself 1st & foremost - most people do this but in a way that's severely moderated by fear of negative consequences from the larger social whole. Only the brave (or devious) dare to challenge external society's 'right' to try to reel in the Individual's pursuit of their desires & self-definition. Self-definition is crucial to me & to most people I can relate to. The beauty here, for me, in Trevor's beginning is: "Egoism is the contrarian's philosophy, and so of course I begin this book with a broadside against it" - no cow (or water buffalo) is sacred - not even the one you ride in on, cowboy.
"Then again, while egoism might claim that "social convention, laws, other people, religion, language, time and all other forces outside of the Individual are an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual" consider this excerpt from a May Day speech I gave in 2014:
""Now, I'm an exemplary lone wolf lunatic fringe individualist. But I still believe in Mutual Aid! In this spirit, I've joined Fight Back Pittsburgh, a chapter of the United Steelworkers Associate Member Program. And I have to say: Fight Back is INSPIRING! Through them, I've gotten to hear from many great people struggling for better conditions for workers - a tradition that Pittsburgh can be very, VERY proud of! Through them, I've learned about the Fight for Fifteen movement, a movement for $15 an hour to be the minimum wage for fast food workers & others. AND I SUPPORT IT! I've worked for less than minimum wage - & I don't recommend it!"
"[The full speech can be witnessed here: http://youtu.be/FUY9DwiE1Dk ]
"In the long run, I really am a "lone wolf lunatic fringe individualist" & don't fit in very well w/ such groups as Fight Back. Nonetheless, I don't see working w/ other people as necessarily being "an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual" in all cases - even if it is so in most.
""Egoism not only has the problem of being unable to define when any particular Individual appears, but also when any Individual at all first appeared. Egoism cannot say whether there were egoist Neanderthals, or before them egoist possum-critters who stole dinosaur eggs, or perhaps egoist dinosaurs, or egoist fish, egoist algae... don't stop at selfish genes when you can imagine selfish molecules. There is likely a line of before and after egoism emerged in evolution. Egoism cannot say when that line is drawn." - p 8
"I'm reminded of a friend's dad, someone I like very much. We were sitting around talking when the dad sd something about his being the type of person who "lives in the moment". Being the pain-in-the-ass stickler that I am I replied w/ something to the effect of: "Do you know who I am?" to wch he replied: "Yes" - "Then you don't live in the present moment b/c you learned who I was in the past & have to be living partially in that past to remember me - Do you understand these words?" "Yes" - "Then you don't live in the moment b/c the language we're using is something from way before that wdn't exist as it does for you if you were only in the moment, its use relies on its vast history." You get the idea. Trevor hunts down the usually unexamined broader implications of egoism where few egoists have even had the imagination to consider going before.
""Solipsism slips in the egoist envelope. Solipsism is on board with the Unique One, going further to say that all else is a projection of that one. Egoism is okay with others existing, just not in elevating them above the Self. But who that Self is, and how there can be more than one One, and why it might be that others aren't just imagined, for these egoism is left shrugging." - p 14
"I'm fascinated by solipsism in a similar way to how I'm fascinated by Zeno's Paradox. If one accepts that one's perceptual apparatus is the way thru wch one is able to perceive & if one accepts the notion that that perceptual apparatus is subjective by definition then one is confronted w/ the notion of one's subjectivity being the center of one's universe - in order to reach 'objectivity' one has to get halfway there 1st & then halfway there again.. ad infinitum. In the mid-1970s I coined the word OGJECTIVE to signify a state of perception that defies subjectivity and objectivity to prove themselves to be true. 'Reality' is a Möbius Strip of self-inclusive sets - but that doesn't make it any less painful.
""Politics, philosophy, ethics, all those thinky things, can be corralled into two camps. One is the prescriptive, which can tell you what to do. One is the descriptive, which tell you what happened. Egoism is an exceptionally isolated lone little doggie in the descriptive camp." - p 17 ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 02, 2018
Jan 06, 2018
Jun 20, 2013
Apr 28, 2015
really liked it
Christopher Priest's The Adjacent
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 19-21, 2017
I've probably read 4 Priest novels now: Indoctrinaire review of
Christopher Priest's The Adjacent
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 19-21, 2017
I've probably read 4 Priest novels now: Indoctrinaire (1970), The Inverted World (1974), The Extremes (1998), & The Adjacent (2013). Alas, I only remember The Inverted World, wch I liked very much, & The Adjacent, wch I liked almost as much. As such, I don't feel prepared to generalize about his writing. One of the 1st things that caught my attn in this one was:
"They walked as far as what Gordon described as the decoy site, one of dozens that had been built around London as a fire lure during the Second World War, to try to keep the Luftwaffe bombers away from the city. Bracknell then had been a village three miles away, and the decoy was out in the wild. There was not much to see; the remains of a dugout shelter, bricked up and overgrown with weeds, and some half-visible piping firmly buried in the soil. Gordon said he took an amateur interest in those old decoy sites, and described how they had been used." - p 14
These sites were known as "Starfish" b/c the "S" & the "F" stood for "Special Fires". Simulations of buildings set ablaze by bombings were created to make the bombers think they'd hit their targets. There were 237 of these sites wch are reputed to've diverted 730 bombing raids.
The story begins in the 21st century, focusing on a photographer whose wife has recently been apparently annihilated by a mysterious weapon. The world is even more war-torn than it was in the 20th century.
"Tarent spent the rest of the morning in the guest room, making a start on the immense task of sorting through the thousands of photographs he had taken during the trip. At this stage he restricted himself to looking for the dud or unfocused shots and erasing them. Fortunately, the signal was strong in the Roscoes' house, so he could access the online library without any problems. He kept all three cameras on recharge, because online editing quickly depleted the batteries." - p 16
Tibor Tarent, the photographer, has just returned to Great Britain & is confused about what his official status is as he travels under the auspices of a government agency:
"They passed through increasingly built-up areas, approaching the capital. The younger official leaned forward to the driving compartment, said something quietly to the driver, and almost at once the smoked-glass effect deepened on all the windows as well as the dividing glass, making it impossible to see outside. Two dome lights in the car's roof came on, completing the sense of isolation.
"'Why have you done that?' Tarent said.
"'It's beyond your security clearance level, sir.'
"'Security? Is there something secret out there?'
"'We have no secrets. Your status enables you to travel freely on diplomatic business, but national security issues are a matter of internal policy.'" - p 21
He switches to traveling an armored personnel vehicle:
"The Mebsher was originally designed for military use: a means of transporting troops and matériel through hostile territory in a vehicle that could withstand most forms of violent attack, including RPGs and IEDs." - p 25
I wonder: Is it common to most readers's vocabularies that RPG = Rocket Propelled Grenade & IED = Improvised Explosive Device? Do we really live in a world that violent? Alternatively, how many readers know that EG = For Example (translated from Latin to English)?
The reader gradually learns that Britain is apparently under Moslem control:
"They were soon under way again. As the Mebsher moved slowly out of the town centre one of the crewmen came on the intercom. It was a formula greeting: peace be unto you, Allah is almighty, welcome back aboard, keep your seat-belts fastened, food is available in the galley but remember that no alcohol is allowed aboard, please follow all instructions from the crew in the event of emergencies, Inshallah." - p 34
"After a year's visit to the USA he returned to Britain while the political and social upheaval that accompanied the foundation of the IRGB was still in progress." - p 39
The reader deduces that IRGB = Islamic Republic of Great Britain.
As Tarent travels, he tries to make sense of what's happening:
"Yet he was also convinced that none of the people he had encountered in the last few days had any conception at all of what he had been doing abroad, what the chaos of events there was like, the morbid sights he had witnessed and the terrifying events he had experienced, the parlous state into which so many parts of the world had fallen. Half of Europe was now virtually uninhabitable." - p 43
The reader is moved on to an earlier time period, WWI, where a stage magician & a famous SF writer are en route to France to add their expertise to the British cause:
"While the ship was immobile I could never quite throw off the fear that a pack of German U-boats must be speeding towards us, lining up their torpedo tunes. Our ship was so small, over-loaded, thin-hulled, seeming to me vulnerable to almost anything while it floated on this troubled sea." - p 74
"['] They are ruled by Prussian imperialism, and their economy is dominated by Krupp, the maker of armaments. Krupp and the Kaiser stand side by side. It has become an inhuman system. [']" - p 86
"I remembered what Simeon Bartlett had said about the giant Krupp cannon. Was it real? Would they really target bases like this one before turning it on Paris? I also remembered that H.G. Wells had prophetically written about the power and influence of the Krupp company." - p 102
I wonder: How much of the USA's economy is dominated by arms dealers? & how hidden is this dominance? According to an Amnesty International website, the USA is the largest exporter of major arms tallying 31% of the global shares ( https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/new... ). The same website claims: "A definitive figure for the value of international conventional arms transfers is difficult to calculate with precision. In 2010, the total value, as recorded in national statistics, was approximately US$72 billion. Since then, it is estimated that" [..] "the arms trade has been approaching US$100 billion annually."
I've sd it before & I'll say it again: if arms dealers were held accountable for what their weapons were used for, the international murder rate wd go way down. I think executing an arms dealer for every death caused by their weapons is an excellent idea - starting w/ the CEOs. The arms dealer's entire assets wd then go to improving the lives of those close to the original victim. It seems only fit that the arms dealer's spoiled families shd become homeless.
"'But you couldn't have written that book. It was by H.G. Wells!'
"Captain Wells nodded again. I stood up in astonishment, then sat down again suddenly, because the carriage was rocking. I gripped the edge of my seat.
"'Then you are...' I said." - p 87
Yes, he's Nicolas-Edme Rétif de la Bretonne! & this bk is about a secret weapon disguised as a shoehorn! Nah, I'm jest joshin'.
"British merchantmen had been attacked by German submarines from almost the first days of the war. The U-boats scanned their targets and took aim from beneath the surface, using the periscope." - p 107
Since the periscopes looked like fancy women's shoes from the late 18th century, the only defense against the diabolical German U-boats was to train shoe fetishists to look for the periscopes. Sighting them caused immediate ejaculation & the genetically-modified sperm swam quickly to the submarine 'egg' & penetrated its hull causing it to sink.
The magician muses on misdirection as camouflage, the reviewer muses on misdirection as spoiler-spoiling:
"There is one more method magicians use to make something seem to disappear. It is in fact one of the main techniques of stage magic and is employed in almost every trick you ever see performed." It is the art of misdirecting the reader. (p 108)
Finally we get to a shoe that's right next to the title:
"Another kind of misdirection is in the use of adjacency. The magician places two objects close together, or connects them in some way, but one is made to be more interesting (or intriguing or amusing) to the audience." - p 110
The time shifts to an earlier part of the 21st century:
"I had interviewed a Nobel laureate before — the writer, philosopher and pacifist Bai Kuang Han, who was awarded the Peace Price" [sic] "in 2023 — but Thijs Rietveld was a much more formidable challenge as a non-specialist journalist." - p 168
"Using what quantum physicists sometimes call annihilation operators, an adjacency field could be created to divert physical matter into a different, or adjacent, realm. An incoming missile, to use the famous example described by Professor Rietveld, need not be intercepted or diverted or destroyed — it could be moved to an adjacent quantum dimension, so that to all intents and purposes it would cease to exist." - p 169
It's kindof like diverting bombs to someplace where some nice peaceful birds & squirrels are living in the woods. What if that missile goes to an alternate dimension where there aren't any arms dealers?! There goes the neighborhood, right? Out of sight, out of mind. But what if that missile turned out to be like the 1987 "Gar-barge", a barge filled w/ NYC garbage that 6 states & 2 countries wdn't allow to be dumped in their turf. What if that alternate dimension sends that damned missile right back. It'd be like a toxic badminton match.
That sd, I've always wanted to be able do something like that. Imagine how much I cd've improved life in Baltimore if everytime some group of idiots in a passing car shouted out "Faggot!" I just made them go away. I promise to be selective about where they go. The sun might be nice. Then I can charge them tanning fees (in advance, of course).
"But then Tibor Tarent said, 'Would you help me get my stuff back in the car?' He led me outside—his car was parked opposite the house. As soon as we were away from the house he said, 'That is one of the most amazing men I have ever met. I'll never forget what happened. Did you see what he was doing while I was taking pictures of him?
"'I was in the kitchen — I couldn't see too well.'
"'It's impossible to describe. I'll show you the photos tomorrow. He was like a magician — he could make that big sh"oe "appear and disappear. I couldn't see how he was doing it.'" - p 174
Shoe fetishism was developed by Rétif de la Bretonne as a form of birth control by misdirecting jism from its human target. That's what the neolojism "fetishjism" refers to. Alas, what started out as a civic-minded way of keeping the population down w/o harming anyone during the French Revolution was immediately turned to harmful profit by the arms dealers:
"'You obviously now realize what happened to me a few years ago when I was in Strasbourg. We were naïve, all of us but especially me — we thought we were making a breakthrough into something that would neutralize" unwanted pregnancies from much-needed hedonism. "It would always be safe to use, non-aggressive in nature, harmless because it would remove harm. But what we all feared soon came to pass: minds other than ours worked out how to make quantum adjacency into a weapon of war." The shoe was on the other 3rd leg. (p 175)
Don't even mention WWII!:
"In charge of the Instrument Section of the squadron was Flight-Sergeant Jack Winslow, and RAF regular who had joined up in 1935, and who seemed to the new recruits almost omniscient about they aircraft they serviced." - p 183
"Zaremski finally realized I was there.
"We were to evacuate again, he announced, this time towards Bucharest. No civilians would be transported — priority would be given to air force personnel. The intention was to regroup and form an independent detachment of the Polish Air Force . We would then launch guerrilla air raids on the occupying armies of the homeland. Zaremski named an air base in the north of Romania where we had permission to land and where there would be all the facilities we needed." - p 226
"Staring down at the large field below the end of the main runway, Torrance looked for and found the still-visible trace of where H Henry had crashed after being shot down: the large black triangle burnt into the crops by the wreckage was starting to be grown through, and would soon disappear." - p 236
Not if I have anything to do w/ it. While we're not mentioning WWII:
"The reality was that in April and May 1940, which was around the time Krystyna had travelled from France to England, the Soviet authorities in Occupied Poland rounded up the entirety of the officer corps of the Polish army and air force, some twenty-two thousand men in all, transported them to the Katyn Forest near Smolensk in Russia, and massacred them." - pp 248-249
Was that really necessary?! No doubt that was some megalomaniac's wet dream, presumably Stalin's, but it's not mine. I have a bk entitled Katyn - Stalin's Massacre and the Triumph of Truth by Allen Paul wch I haven't read yet & may never read. According to the back cover blurb of this bk, the "U.S. government cover-up of the crime continued long after the war ended." Naturally, that makes me curious: Why wd the US do this?
When Tarent is 1st traveling in the Mebsher & he's been taken to the destination chosen for him the driver doesn't take him to the gate. It was unclear to this reader whether that was b/c there was no road to the gate or b/c the driver of the Mebsher had too busy of a schedule for such precision:
"'But which direction is it from here?'
"'Along this ridge,' the driver said, gesturing with his hand. There was a trace of an old footpath leading away. 'Parts of it are too narrow for this vehicle. You'll have to walk the rest of the way. Sorry about that but it's not far. This is as close to the place as we could take you, and this diversion means we are now running late.'" - p 136
The "Parts of it are too narrow for this vehicle" seems to indicate that the road leading to the gate was inadequate for the vehicle. However, 146pp later:
"He look across to the south, through the few trees that still stood there, past the first of the Warne buildings, and was rewarded with a glimpse of the huge dark shape of the Mebsher, heading slowly towards the main gate." - p 282
Did you find yrself doing the math to check whether I was correct about the 146pp difference? This apparent discrepancy between descriptions isn't a continuity error on the part of the author, it's an indication of the constantly shifting realities. Even tho he's seen his corpse in a metaphorical shoebox:
"The soldier straightened, glanced around, and for the first time looked directly at Tarent. The two men stared at each other.
"It was Hamid, the young Scot who had been one of the drivers of the Mebsher that brought him here." - p 285
Is my "Even tho" sentence misdirection or a clue?
"'Flo?' Tarent said, his heart racing.
"She looked at him more intently. 'Why do you call me that? Who are you?'" - p 287
This is a shoe-in for one of the most spoiler-spoiling reviews possible. I want to give you the story, b/c I'm writing about it & find it interesting, but I don't want the story to be spoiled for you. As such, I give you significant moments taken so far out of context that they become insignificant for you in terms of The Adjacent & only dubiously significant for you in terms of this review. It's my hope that you'll read this bk & have an AHA! moment in relation to this review. The narrative keeps refreshing itself (p 295), the narrative is a gradual reveal:
"These covered most of their faces, so Tomak Tallant did not even glimpse the woman's face until the second day." - p 297
"Tomak Tallant"? That's awfully similar to "Tibor Tarent", eh?! Priest does what I think most good writers do, he puts it there in front of the reader but doesn't hammer it into the reader's brain, the reader puts whatever number together w/ whatever number to reach whatever number. The characters don't understand what's happening but try to & the reader's put in the same situation. It's not really that hard but the clues take their good ole time to appear:
"'I thought Prachous City was the largest on the island.'
"'It's the capital, but Adjacent is more populous.'
"'What is that name you are using?' Tallant said.
"'The shanty town is know as Adjacent.'
"'Adjacent to what?'
"'I have no idea.'" - p 310
Most wars create refugees but the war or wars in The Adjacent put a new spin on that. Is the 21st century going to be worse than the 20th?!
"'Who are they?' Tallant said. 'Where have they come from? It's supposed to be impossible to get past the border controls.'
"'The people in Adjacent have found a way. In theory they are all at risk of deportation.'
"'So how do they do it?'
"'I've no idea.'
"'You said you were there. Didn't you ask them?'
"'I heard many answers, none of which I understood, and anyway I think none of the stories are true. Ask yourself, Tomak: how did you get to Prachous? Where were you before we met?'
"Tallant felt a cold, familiar inner fear, something he habitually shied away from." - p 311
"Using the ambient light in the hangar, Tarent took a series of rapid shots of the two Lancasters, expecting at any moment that he would be shouted at, or manhandled, or threatened with some breach of the regulations covering this place. But is was as if he was not there. Everyone ignored him. He moved towards some of the men as they worked, took close shots of what they were doing. They continued to ignore him." - p 409
Strange. People are ignoring you? You must be getting older. Maybe they want you to go away & stop being such an embarrassment.
"It was a long room, packed with airmen, the air thick with cigarette smoke. Tarent's first breath made him reel back, gasping. He turned away and re-opened the door, seized by a bout of helpless coughing. Never before in his life had he been in a place so full of smokers." - p 411
He hasn't been to a party in the 1970s yet.
The last page gives mod-a-go-go info-a-go-go:
"For more fantastic fiction, author events, exclusive excerpts, competitions, limited editions and more:
VISIT OUR WEBSITE
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK
FOLLOW US ON TWITTER
I like it, there're some communication possibilities. I read an enormous amt of SF & it was nice to read something by someone who's, presumably, still alive. Now the reviewer is gone. ...more
Notes are private!
Dec 08, 2017
Dec 21, 2017
Jun 28, 2005
Greg Bear's Dead Lines
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 4, 2017
Greg Bear's Quantico followed this one. In my review of that I wrote review of
Greg Bear's Dead Lines
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 4, 2017
Greg Bear's Quantico followed this one. In my review of that I wrote:
"Ok, I've previously drawn parallels between Greg Bear's "Blood Music" & Michael Crichton's "Prey" that were unflattering to Crichton (see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34...) & then I HATED Crichton's "State of Fear" (see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15...). SO, I credited Bear w/ being original & discredited Crichton w/ being a paltry 2nd (or 3rd or whatever). THEN Bear writes this - a novel not that dissimilar from Crichton's "State of Fear" but coming out a yr or 2 later." - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...
The reason why I start this review off this way is because Dead Lines, as the predecessor of Quantico, puts Quantico somewhat in perspective. I speculate (does that makes this SR instead of SF? Speculative Reviewing?) that Bear was trying to make more money by writing in established popular genres. Who knows? Maybe everyone in his family had flesh-eating disease & the bubonic plague, I mean he might've been desperate for money.
Dead Lines has a list of writers that it's "FOR":
"J. Sheridan Fanu.
M. R. James.
H. P. Lovecraft.
Bruce Joel Rubin.
Scary people, all." - p vii
I've heard of most of those authors, some of them are popular horror writers, others a bit more ambiguous. I read an entire Dean Koontz novel & found it to be a bit predictable in its chain-pulling, I read one Stephen King short story & have never had the desire to read anything else by him since - although I've seen more movies based on his bks than even a hypnotist cd ferret out. I don't think of either authors as being worth emulating but, having worked in the bkstore biz for 8 yrs, I can say that King was the most popular writer I've ever known of so if you want to make money that's apparently the way to go, or the road to hoe, or the road to ho.
&, heck'a'goshen!, King even endorses Dead Lines on the back cover: "A REALLY EXCELLENT NOVEL". I hope he didn't think too hard about that.
Bear, even at his worst, wch is what I'd say Dead Lines is, still has interesting ideas that put his stories a notch above the furthest my belt can stretch. In this case, a new post-cell-phone technology taps into some unexpected places. The pre-story flash-forward (of sorts) hints at the ambitious plot:
"We were all there in that city that draws its paycheck from the manufacture of ghosts. We were there when one man started handing out free talk. And we are there now, sad little dolls made of dust." - p 1
Ain't it the truth. But what is all this 'free talk' stuff I've been hearing about? Is it like 'Freedom Fries'?
""If you take the damned thing, turn it off while you're here/"
""They don't turn off," the young man explained to Peter, drawing closer. His wide blue eyes assessed Peter's character and the size of his wallet. "You can turn the ringer down, however."
"Peter smiled as if at a half-heard joke. "What is it?" he asked.
""Free talk," Joseph said. "But it doesn't work.["]" - p 12
That's b/c freedom isn't free. It is on sale this wk only tho. Buy 2 get 1 free. Unfortunately, all 3 of them are ghosts:
"With Baslan out of the doorway, Peter had a clear view through an arch to the dining room, about thirty feet from the porch. A little boy in a frilled shirt and knee stockings stood there. He looked sick; not sick, dead; worse than dead, unraveling. His face turned in Peter's direction, skin as pale and cold as skim milk. The head seemed jointed like a doll's. The grayish eyes saw right through him, and suddenly the outline blurred, precisely as if the boy had fallen out of focus in a camera viewfinder." - pp 35-36
Oh, he probably just came back from the dr's. You know what I say: A highwayman said: "Your money or your life!", a dr just thinks: "Your money & then you life." Business is business. Maybe the dr just gave him a steroid shot in the hip. The next thing you know, a mere 23 pp later, you're seeing another ghost:
"Through his tears, he saw that the woman's face was like a flat sheet of mother-of-pearl. Her eyes opened to quizzical hollows. Less than solid, she resembled a paper doll frayed by careless snipping. Peter could actually see her edges ripple." - pp 59-60
If I don't write something here before I move on to the next quote it'll seem that the ghost above is the "she". The wd be funny but I've decided against misleading YOU, dear reader, in that way.
"She introduced the guests to Peter. Two he had met long ago, writers from a group Phil had belonged to for almost thirty years, the Mysterians." - p 69
Now, maybe that's a take-off of "The Futurians", an early-to-mid 20th century SF group. Or maybe Peter's the question-mark. Get it? Question Mark & the Mysterians? HahahAHAhahA.. Another good touch is to have Peter be a former sexploitation Psychotronic moviemaker a little down on his luck:
"["]Out of the onetime slammer comes a promo campaign headed by Peter Russell, the edgiest sexploitation director ever." Weinstein's face grew serious. "And to be honest, Russ Meyer turned us down. But then he suggested you, one Russell to another."" - p 101
The clues fall into place like glue traps raining from heck:
"["]In less than twenty years, world will run out of bandwidth. Radio, TV, cell phones, wireless, all will halt screeching growth." He smiled. "But world's problem is solvable, I have solved it."
"Kreisler rose and started to move his arms, slowly at first, then describing large arcs. No need for waves, for radiation. I discover new source of bandwidth, forbidden information channels, not truly radiation at all, unknown until now. Channels in what I call Bell continuum" - p 105
I call it the "Taco Bell Continuum" but it's basically the same thing.
""Like cell phones, Trans units always tie into network. They are always on. What is more remarkable, as they work, they actually change surrounding space, perhaps permanently. They alter information permittivity." - p 107
Hence, Free Love.
""Yes, but we use term as a metaphor," Kreisler said. "A capacitor stores up charge. Space stores up information, but over time, it fades, dissipates. When Trans accesses the forbidden channels, she increases space's permittivity. Information does not fade, but builds up until it jumps like a spark.["]" - p107
It's like when you go to hug someone & you get shocked by static electricity & the next thing you know their whole life story flashes in front of you & you realize they're a serial killer & they know that you know & they stab you to death. Happens all the time.
As a (non-Psychotronic) moviemaker myself I appreciated this next bit:
""I presume I'm going to shoot HD video," he continued, his tongue gluey. "I've never used a Betacam, or whatever it is now. I'd like to see some of the equipment, just to know what to rent."
Karl shrugged. "Hell, with what's in Circuit City right now, you might as well buy. Only cost you a couple of grand for something pretty terrific."
"Peter shook his head. "This is professional, Karl."
""That's what I'm saying, Peter. Something the size of your hand, locked onto a hundred-dollar tripod, will give you great results. What kind of budget?"" - p 142
A "couple of grand"?! Pshaw! I use a $35 'sports' camera bought at another famous chain store & I'm the best moviemaker in the world!
"Peter stopped at an old pay phone near an Asian grocery, one of the last pay phones in Los Angeles—they were being dismantled everywhere. Everyone was going wireless." - p 231
True dat. The reader reading this might not even remember pay phones. They were the things that rival drug dealers pissed on the mouthpieces of.
& that, gentle wo(men), concludes today's PowerPoint on sails. ...more
Notes are private!
Nov 30, 2017
Dec 04, 2017
Jun 12, 1984
really liked it
John Brunner's The Crucible of Time
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 26, 2017
I've already thoroughly praised Brunner in many other review of
John Brunner's The Crucible of Time
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 26, 2017
I've already thoroughly praised Brunner in many other reviews but I had the vague feeling that I might've exhausted my praise for him insofar as I thought that anything I might read new by him wdn't surprise me. I was wrong. The Crucible of Time surprised me, it was significantly different from anything I'd already read by him & satisfyingly epic.
The Foreword establishes what I assume to've been the basis for the bk:
"It is becoming more and more widely accepted that Ice Ages coincide with the passage of the Solar System through the spiral arms of our galaxy. It therefore occurred to me to wonder what would become of a species that evolved intelligence just before their planet's transit of a gas-cloud far denser than the one in Orion which the Earth has recently—in cosmic terms—traversed.
"In my attempt to invent history I have frequently relied on the advice of Mr. Ian Ridpath, whose prompt and generous aid I gratefully acknowledge." - p ix
Brunner wasn't satisfied to just take the reader thru such an imagined major shift in a planet's ecological condition. He invented a species, a protagonist being, & its culture & provides an epic in 7 parts + an epilogue to show this species faces near extinction over & over again but still manages to have enuf survivors to enable evolving to the degree of being able to attempt to cope w/ these cosmic catastrophes. Each section evolves into the legend of the next section. Each legend feeds the evolution. The initial protagonist is Jing, whose heritage forms an important lineage throughout the bk. One aspect of the epic thread is religion vs science:
"Shuddering, yet determined to pursue his quest, Jing eventually discovered the secret of their dominance. It lay not in their armies, nor their treasures. It consisted in the deliberate and systematic exploitation of the dreams of those less well-to-do than themselves, a possibility which had never occurred to him, and which the language barrier prevented him from comprehending until a lordling he had disappointed in his hope of brand-new armaments set sacerdotes upon him at his lodgings." - p 6
It's never completely obvious what sort of creatures these main characters are:
"children as yet unable to raise themselves upright were playing with a litter of baby canifangs, whose claws were already sharp. Now and then that led to squalling, whereupon a nursh would run to the defense of its charge, mutely seeking a grin of approval from the fathers who sat from left to right. Each had a female companion, and if the latter were in bud made great show of providing for her, but otherwise merely allowed her to bite off a few scraps." - p 12
The language is just close enuf to using (English) human terms to anthropomorphize the situation - but these aren't humans. "canifangs" could be 'canines with fangs', puppies in this instance playing w/ babies; "nursh" obviously is close to 'nurse'; "in bud" = pregnant.
"And strode forward fully upright, not letting the least hint of pressure leak from his tubules. Arriving in front of the Count, he paid him the Ntahish compliment of overtopping him yet shielding his mandibles." - p 14
We read physical descriptions of the characters involving tubules, mantles, & mandibles. I think of insects but I also think of Kafka's purported avoidance of having an illustration of what Gregor Samsa turned into in "The Metamorphosis". In other words, I'm not so sure that Brunner wants the reader to think of these creatures in an absolutely defined physical way, it occurs to me that he might want their alienness to be sufficient & for the reader's attn to be directed to more philosophical aspects of the story.
Jing is traveling to investigate rumors about a fantastic observatory in the far north:
"However, he was finding it a disappointment. It was a mere depression in the rock. Walbushes had been trained to make a circular windbreak, and their rhizomes formed crude steps enabling one to look over the top for near-horizon observations. A pumptree whose taproot reached down to a stream of hot water grew in the center where on bitter nights one might lean against it for warmth. A few lashed-together poles indicated important lines-of-sight. Apart from that—nothing." - pp 15-16
These beings specialize in some sort of bioengineering, as alluded to above. Almost everything they have is made of plants controlled to their purposes & other beings that they'd domesticated:
"Next day distraught parents came crying that a snowbelong had killed a child from the furthest-outlying village, and the Count hauled himself out of his sitting-pit and set out to hunt it down with hoverers and canifangs." - p 23
Given that this is an epic, it takes the reader thru the looooonnnnngggg term development of the technology needed for, eventually, leaving the planet:
""Ah! You found another magnifying drop. It's especially clear and fine, I must say."
""Not found," Twig announced solemnly. "Made."
""How? Out of what?"
""Sand, would you believe? Yes, the same sand you find beside the hot marsh! Keepfire's flames are getting better and hotter—oh, I know people are complaining about the smell, but that's a small price to pay!—and this time he's excelled himself! And there's more. Look at this!"
"He produced what he had in his other claw. It was of similar material, equally clear, but twice the size.
""Hold them up together—no, I don't mean together, I mean—Oh, like this!" Twig laid claws on Jing in a way the latter would never normally have tolerated, but it was certainly quicker than explaining. "Now look at something through both of them, and move them apart or together until you see it clearly. Got it?"
"Jing grew instantly calm. There presented to his eye was an image of Twig, albeit upside-down . . . but larger, and amazingly sharp except around the edges." - p 33
Yes! The people with claws have discovered the can-opener! After Jing is the 1st person to cut his claw on the can-opener he gets poisoning, his mantle turns paisley, & he has a vision:
""If stars are fire, then new stars happen when fresh fuel is fed to them. What fuel is there, barring worlds like ours? If we would rather not be fuel for a star, there's no one who can save us but ourselves . . . I've dreamed. It's made me weary. I must rest."" - p 44
So, the people tie a can-opener to a string & launch it with a kite & the sky cracks open! The story jumps forward in time. Out of the vagina in the sky, well, really, out of the hairs surrounding it, come giant crab-like creatures that the people tame as boats. Due to a cloacal misunderstanding, they name them "briqs" after "briq-shithouse".
"The sound he had recognized was the unmistakable munch-and-slurp of Tempestamer feeding.
"Week exhultation filled him. Surely she was the finest briq ever to set forth from Ushere! He had pithed her personally with all the expertise at his command, leaving untouched by his prong nerves which other Wego captains customarily severed. At first his rivals had derided him; then, however, they saw how docile she was, and how fast she grew, and in the end came begging a share of his knowledge, whereupon it was his turn to scoff. Now she had proved herself beyond doubt, for she had defied the worst weather in living memory and—he looked about him—brought her crew to a safe haven" - p 63
It was at this point that yr astute reporter, ME, realized that, YES, this IS an epic:
". . . In a giant tree at the heart of the city, hollowed out deliberately and ornamented with the finest and handsomest secondary plants, a glass container sealed with wax, through which could be glimpsed the original of Jing's scripture." - p 80
B/c, you see, Jing is long since dead, defunct, deteriorated, dried-up, all washed-up, you name it, but his WORD lives on! Hal 'til you're BLUE ya! I still don't get what any of this has to do w/ that Duchamp installation a the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It took me entirely too long to note the way the middle letters of words acted as hinges between 2 words happily conjoined in budding marriage these words into one. I must be becoming unhinged:
"Braverrant had not returned albeit her master was Boldare, wily in weatherways. No more had Governature with Gallantrue and Drymantle, not—next most envied after Tempestamer—Stormock, whose commander had been Cleverule, sole among them to make two-score voyages.
"Nor Wavictor, nor Knowater, nor Billowise . . . and even Tempestamer had not reported back." - p 87
Now, I don't mean to rub your face in this but I'm going to unspell it out for ya: "Braverrant" = "Brave" + "Errant" (like brave knights errant of old n'at), "Boldare" = "Bold" + "Dare" (the bold one is likely to marry Dr. Kildare), "Governature" = "Govern" + "Nature" (as in 'I'm going to govern nature if I have to bulldoze every damn tree in this fucking Amazon forest!'), "Gallantrue" = "Gallant" + "True" (Elvis offered his groupie a beer can tab for a ring before getting down to business to show how gallant & true he was), "Drymantle" = "Drym" + "Mantle" (Drym used his mantle as a surfboard in order to keep dry). Well, you get the idea.
On p 123 the epic jumps vastly ahead in time again & we're going to join in that process by jumping even further ahead to p 157 so that I can quote a section that refers back to a part that I didn't quote so that you wdn't understand what's going on if I hadn't just told you:
"["] At Ripar, do they know the legend of Skilluck?"
"Yockerbow looked blank, but to his surprise Arranth, standing by as usual but less bashful than before, said, "If the name is Skilq, we have the same tale, probably."" - p 4,000,968,157
I prefer to pronounce it "Scalduck" but maybe that's too much of a corruption. Just say "Balduck" & click yr heels together & you'll be at p 183 but while you're being silly I'll already be at p 188:
"A cable like a single immensely long nerve-strand had been laid along the sea-bed between the two places, and covered over with piles of rock carefully set in place by divers wearing things called air-feeders: ugly bulging, parasitical organisms bred from a southern species unknown, and unhappy, in these cool northern seas, which somehow kept a person alive underwater. Also they had means to lift even extremely heavy objects, using such substance or creature that contracted with vast force." - p 4,000,968,188
They have some nerve! In our world these "ugly bulging, parasitical organisms" are called millionaires but we misbred them so they're without hearts. They can only survive by sucking the blood out of non-millionaires. Gotta do something about that. Thanks to that not-really-a-joke, time is just flying by here as I make the greatest leap yet to the next era starting on p 241. True to the nature of bankers, a potentially sympathetic figure becomes a figurine of a jerk:
"But if he expected to impress her by boasting, he was wrong. Nothing could have more firmed her determination than this display of the luxury Awb had attained through corrupting the minds of the younger generation. Had she not needed food to power the argument she foresaw as inescapable, she would have voiced her contempt of his tactics; as it was, she resignedly filled her maw and, confident that even yet he would never have been trained in the Jingfired's techniques of dark-use, waited until he chose to speak again." - p 290
Turning on my darklite so I can blind better (or is it blend butter?) I scry that "Awb" is short for "Awful Banker" although these days "Awful Health Care Provider" or "Awful TV Newscaster" might be a more heinous insult. Now that we've mastered darkwordplay there's no reason to jump to the next era, we can just calmly walk there w/o necessarily even looking where we're going:
"At first Chybee was too startled to respond. This magnificent home had overwhelmed her even as she approached: its towering crest, its ramifying branches garlanded with countless luminants, its far-spread webs designed to protect the occupants against wingets and add their miniscule contribution to the pool of organic matter at its roots, cleverly programmed to withdraw before a visitor so that they would not be torn—all, all reflected such luxury as far surpassed her youthful experience." - p 299
& I thought that teaching my dog to fetch was something. So what if he's fetching a new girlfriend for me? "Out of the mantles of young'uns" (p 309) as we say.
Remember "Voosla"? One of those post-briqs that became a giant floating city but then got forced way inland b/c of a tidal wave generated by a meteorite crash? NO, of course, you don't remember it! This is the 1st you've heard of it! &, even then, only if you pronounced the word out loud:
""As nearly as we can establish, Slah was once a city of the People of the Sea," Ugant expounded in a perfectly relaxed tone. That may sound ridiculous, given how far it now lies above seas-level, but our researches have confirmed what for countless generations was only a folktale. When the Greatest Meteorite hit, the city Voosla was borne many padlonglaqs from the nearest ocean. Naturally the over-pressure killed its inhabitants." - p 316
Naturally. Our dear friend Chybee gets inveigled (don't you just love that word?) into infiltrating a CULT that may've been a descendent of the Awful Banker. J u s t a s y o u a r e b e i n g i n v e i g l e d i n t o a c u l t r i g h t n o w b y e v e n r e a d i n g t h i s w e i r d r e v i e w.. Boy will she be sorry.
"Impressed, Cometaster said, "And your means . . . ?"
"With stiff dignity, Chybee answered, "Those who attain enlightenment will recognize its import in due time."
"The other three exchanged glances.
""Aglabec is going to be very interested in you," said Witnessunbride. "He's the only other person I ever heard say anything like that. And the only other person so advanced he can contact other planets without needing to fast. That is, assuming you got your knowledge about Sluggard direct. Did you? Ot were you just told it by your budder or someone?"" - p 332
Yes, join my cult (a s i f y o u h a d a n y c h o i c e), & you will never have to eat again! I will take on that Earthly responsibility for you. SO, you joined the CULT OF THE BOOK REVIEWER & the next thing you know you've jumped up to another section beginning on p 357 & tripped over to p 359 where the pre-launch routine is in-progress:
""Propulsion mass and musculator pumps?"
"There were no complaints from the docile creatures responsible for his maneuvers in orbit. He said so.
""Sourgas level normal."
""Pheremone absorption?"" - p 359
These claw & mantle folks do things a little differently. For one thing, they know how to put farts to work, bless 'em. Anyway, I, as your book reviewer cult guru, am now ending this review as if I didn't have a care in the world. Good night, Tiny Tim, wherever you are. ...more
Notes are private!
Nov 22, 2017
Nov 27, 2017
Mass Market Paperback
really liked it
Paul Tabori's The Green Rain
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 27, 2017
When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was The Boy with G review of
Paul Tabori's The Green Rain
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 27, 2017
When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was The Boy with Green Hair (1948), ironically, I wd've witnessed it on a black & white TV. An online capsule description says this: "Peter (Dean Stockwell), an orphaned boy, is adopted by Gramp Frye (Pat O'Brien) after his parents are killed in Europe doing relief work. The boy feels safe with his new caretaker, but when he is taunted for being an orphan, he gets demoralized. The next day Peter wakes up with green hair. Enbarrassed and further ridiculed, Peter seeks solace in a nearby forest. To his surprise, he finds other orphans in the woods, who encourage him to spread the news of the injustices of war." At least he didn't wake up as a giant bug.
The film was directed by Joseph Losey, who I remember as a famous director even though I can't remember the names of any of his other films. Looking him up online I see that he studied w/ Bertolt Brecht, wch interests me. I see that he made Boom!, a movie I liked, & that he did a remake of Fritz Lang's M, wch surprises me. ANYWAY, as an adult, my childhood liking of The Boy with Green Hair is interpreted by me as having to do with intuitions of how anyone who deviates from the social norm, intentionally or otherwise, might be subjected to harsh societal pressure to conform. When I was 14, in early 1968, I started growing my hair long, against the strict instructions of my conservative mom, & was immediately subjected to what struck me as an insane amt of social hatred.
The Green Rain (1961) has a text below the title on the cover that reads: "A fantastic tale of a world gone made" wch is fair enuf but cd mean just about anything in an SF novel. The cover also has a somewhat Surrealism-inspired painting - something not too uncommon in SF at the time.
I wasn't familiar w/ the author, Paul Tabori, so I had no particular expectations. As it turned out, I probably did have some expectations b/c the bk took me somewhat by surprise. Just as I'm surprised to read that The Boy with Green Hair was partially an anti-war movie, I was surprised that The Green Rain seems to be partially an anti-racist bk.
Chapter 1 begins:
"SOMETHING WENT WRONG.
"Something always does, as Professor Pelargus used to say, smacking his lips. It was his pet opinion that humanity consisted entirely of bunglers—two and a half billion men, women, and children going industriously about their idiot affairs, creating—all unaware—monstrous linked chains of circumstance and consequence, and settling—still unaware—their own and everybody else's hash." - p 5
This bk was copyrighted & published in 1961. The world's human population is presented as 2.5 billion. I was born in 1953. I remember concerns about overpopulation appearing in the early 1970s, although I'm sure they appeared earlier. According to a Wikipedia article on world population the 1960 total was 3 billion - .5 billion more than The Green Rain wd have it. According to the same article, the population had increased to 4 billion by 1974. As of October, 2017, it's reputed to be 7.6 billion. That's quite the increase in a mere 57 yrs!! Some one alive today, born in, say, 2000, might be 74 when the population might 12.3 billion. A more conservative estimate from the UN has it at 11.2 billion by the yr 2100.
Plagues, wars, famine, & extreme weather conditions are the usual thinners of the herd & people are generally pretty unhappy to be exposed to any of those. I've been against human-inflicted misery my whole life - that means I'm against war, e.g.. Most people who think about these things are probably in agreement that humans cd act sensibly & curb population growth by more careful birth control & that, in turn, wars that result from attempted national boundary expansions & the like cd be curtailed, etc..
But will it happen? It doesn't seem likely. I was reading a very dry analysis of overpopulation in an impoverished place & details of economic conditions were the only data provided to explain the population growth. Nowhere was the pleasure that people get from sex mentioned. I found that quite strange. Isn't it obvious that if you're poor & living in overcrowded slum conditions that one of the few pleasures that might not cost you anything is fucking? & that fucking will produce more mouths that can't be fed? ETC?!
If people had fewer children, plagues, wars, famine, & even things like earthquakes might be less likely to happen. A generally better quality-of-life might result & people wdn't have to forego their pleasure from sex, just be more careful about family planning. Is that too much to ask? Alas, humanity seems to be like a race car driver ever more eager to drive faster & faster w/ newer models & in denial about the big wall that they're going to crash into ahead. But I digress.
"Perhaps they remembered the careful calculations of the German historian who asserted there had been only thirty-four years from the birth of Christ to the end of the nineteenth century when men were not trying to kill each other either with stone axes or high explosives" - p 13
In the unlikely event that those 34 yrs were contiguous imagine what an interesting time that wd've been to be alive in!
"In 1934 a sensitive, articulate and highly civilized writer named Aldous Huxley visited Guatemala. This visit set him to think about nationalism, war and hate. He decided that the three were more or less parts of the same whole; facets of the same horror. He quoted, with approval, Dr. F. Vergin's 'Subconscious Europe' in which the doctor contended that war was an escape from the restraints of civilization and that hate paid a higher psychological dividend than could be obtained from international amity, sympathy and cooperation." - p 14
So, what's the solution? Become a multiple-personality instead of having kids:
"The bottles, the whitewashed mural on the front of the house—and now this. Dr. Lukachevski's neighbors were all in his mind . . . if he was a schizophrenic he must have split into not two but three. Four if you counted his normal, brilliant, scientist-self." - p 10
Ok, I was kidding, I just wanted to segue to that last paragraph quoted.
"Chlorophyll, as any botanist will tell you, is a mixture of two green and two yellow pigments. The greens predominate; one is called Chlorophyll A and its chemical formula is C55 H72 O5 N4 Mg, while Cholorphyll B has been determined as C55 H70 O6 N4 Mg. The yellow pigments are carotin (C40 H56) and xanthophyll (C40 H56 O2)—if you insist." - p 12
What if I don't insist? What if I, instead, propose what Daniel Tonzig has suggested to me that Chloroplasts be used to pigment the skin to enable humans to draw nourishment from the sun - inspired by the interview that I link to next. Check out how Tonzig explains it in this section of my movie Don't Walk Backwards ( https://youtu.be/kODzM_2_bRM ): https://youtu.be/kODzM_2_bRM?t=4h32m12s .
"There are some plants that have no chlorophyll—fungi and a few flowering plants, among them the Indian Pipe." (p 12) Fancy that, I just happen to have footage of the latter in a different movie of mine, Spectral Evidence, wch you can witness at 1:06:52 at https://archive.org/details/SpectralE...
Tabori's writing is such that he uses the plot as an excuse for introducing various factoids that help enrich one's perception of the overall theme &, for me, are just generally fun to read:
"Green us one of the three primary colors. A green house is a house painted green but a greenhouse is a glasshouse for the growing and preservation of especially rare and delicate plants. Greengages are yellow-green plums which Sir Henry Gage made popular in England; he wasn't so successful with purple or blue gages." - p 27
When I really started to get interested was when Tabori started parodying racism, starting off w/ a parody of South Africa, wch was still in the grip of apartheid at the time:
"In the shadow of the Great Table Mountain the Trial of the Century entered its forty-first year. There were only sixteen defendants left; the others had died of old age or various ailments and of the original two hundred and thirteen twenty-two had actually been discharged for the lack of a true bill. The trial had used up over a dozen prosecuting attorneys—and because they were more advanced in age—over twenty judges." - p 32
So begins chapter 9. Something has happened worldwide that's causing people to turn green. Imagine the fuss that cd stir up in a society that's dependent on a skin color hierarchy:
""Are you a doctor?"
""No, but I could get one. What's the matter with Judge Prenger?"
""He . . ." the usher took a deep breath as if he needed extra strength for the enormity of his news, "he . . . he's started to turn green. . . !"
"He pushed the journalist aside but the two of them reached the exit at the same time. The reporter sprinted for the telecommunications room, pondering how he could get this dispatch through the ever-vigilant All-White censorship." - p 35
""Why beat around the bush? IS a nigger a nigger when he was turned green? That's what I want to know!"
""Precisely," the Foreign Minister was unquenchable. "or you may put it the other way round. Is a white man a . . ."
""Don't say it! the Prime Minister intervened hastily, "Don't even think of it!"" - p 36
Ha ha! Tabori spares no political creed in his mockery but he does seem to have a special thing against the USSR - wch is herein called the "UPPR":
"M. Vertbois, the French delegate asked what the attitude of the UPPR was to the alleged revival of the Green International? There had been reliable reports that several thousand members of this organization had been executed and over a hundred thousand had been deported to Siberia. Was this discrimination or not?
"Mr. Zelonnee declared that this was typical slander by the capitalist press; that the Green International, if it existed, was a counter-revolutionary organization of Fascist hyenas, the descendants of kulaks and murderers. The UPPR was entitled to take any steps necessary against those who threatened her internal security. He would also like to remind M. Vertbois of the millions of oppressed colonial subjects who were still groaning under the yoke of French imperialism. He, Mr. Zelonnee, had no wish to acerbate the discussion but perhaps he might quote a Russian proverb: "An owl should not tell a sparrow that its head is too big!"" - p 54
I have to wonder what the political inclinations of Tabori were. The only use of the word "anarchy" that I noted was pejorative in the mouths of the South African racists. Ha ha!
"this is the moment of danger, the most terrible test of our great All-White Republic! It is for us to fight for our sacred principle—that blood is more important than color, that race is rooted not in surface pigmentation but in the ancestry and blood line of any human being. Unless we find an immediate solution to our problem—to differentiate clearly and swiftly between a green-white and a green-black—out heritage will be destroyed, our country driven into anarchy, our very name wiped from the earth.["]" - p 69
"When G-Day came, the first thing the greenbods did was to cut all telephone cables, destroy all electronic communications so that the All-White Republic was suddenly isolated from the rest of the world." - p 85
Sounds good to me!
"They reached Los Angeles, the biggest city on the American continent—its merger with San Francisco was to be decided by a referendum in a few weeks' time as the suburbs of the two metropolises were now only a few miles apart" - pp 80-81
HHmm.. waddya think Rump's take on such a thing wd be? I think maybe he'd have a wall built between the 2 cities, maybe mine the intermediate zone? Put some billionaire buddies in charge of each city? Contract Haliburton to build the wall? Or is Haliburton out of favor now that Cheney & the Bush whackers are gone? I'm thinking a new highway shd be built across Washington DC that just has to cut the White House in half. Sorry about that but the urban planners know best. Is nothing sucrose?
Tabori's full of interesting ideas:
"Mimosa even developed the counter-plagiarism or 'theft-by-attribution'—he would trot out one of his dreary and shabby clichés and make it decisive, important and brand new by ascribing it to Lenin, Aragon, or any other approved Communist deity." - p 88
It's interesting that the Surrealist writer Louis Aragon is thrown in there w/ Lenin, I don't think that wd happen these days even tho he was a long-term Communist Party member. I've only read one of his bks, Paris Peasant (barely reviewed here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ) but I'd like to read more. As for "'theft-by-attribution'"?: I can think of at least one writer who'd take to that like a rat to a garbage can.
"There was a comparatively wise one among them who put it all into the mouths of a cockroach who could use a typewriter; it was all about a toad named warty bliggens:
"a little more
that warty bliggens
considers himself to be
the center of the said
universe" - p 95
That's one of those cultural references that wd've been widely recognized in 1961 that might only be remembered by a very few in the yr of writing this review (2017). The quote is from "warty bliggens the toad" wch I have as part of a bk called "archy and mehitabel" by don marquis. I have a "dolphin book edition: 1960". Here's the ad copy from the back cover:
"Don Marquis first introduced archy the cockroach and mehitabel, a cat in her ninth life, in his newspaper column, "The Sun Dial," in 1916. In a previous incarnation archy was a free-verse poet, while mehitabel's soul once belonged to Cleopatra. She is toujours gai, but archy is more philosophical. It is he who records their songs and observations on the boss's typewriter late at night. But he is not strong enough to make capital letters so it all comes out lower case:
"the main question is
whether the stuff is
literature or not.
The green-skinned people become more powerful - mainly b/c the people who were accustomed to seizing & wielding power before they were green now have a new excuse for doing so. Their cult issues commandments:
""Thou shalt obey no laws, decrees, commands, or temptations that are not hallowed by Gloriana.
""Thou shalt multiply in greenness and increase the ranks of those Chosen to be Green and shalt have no intercourse with any female who is not green." - p 103
&, this being a power struggle, those who win are those who play the dirtiest. Personally, I'd like to see that change in favor of integrity & mutual aid but I may very well be in the minority.
"Just two weeks before the Chicago Convention, the 'Byelo letter' was released. It was infinitely more skillful a forgery than the Zinoviev letter that had cost Labor so dearly in a historic" [Ah, English!, 'shdn't' that be "an historic"?] "British election earlier in the century." - p 137
The 1st paragraph of the Wikipedia entry on the "Zinoviev letter" states:
"The "Zinoviev letter" was a controversial document published by the British Daily Mail newspaper four days before the general election in 1924. It purported to be a directive from Grigory Zinoviev, the head of the Communist International (Comintern) in Moscow; to the Communist Party of Great Britain, ordering it to engage in all sorts of seditious activities. It said the resumption of diplomatic relations (by a Labour government) would hasten the radicalisation of the British working class. If true, it was a deeply offensive interference in British politics to the detriment of the Labour Party. The letter seemed authentic at the time, but historians now agree it was a forgery. Historians also agreed that the letter had little impact on the Labour vote, which held up in 1924. However, it aided the Conservative Party, by hastening the collapse of the Liberal Party vote that produced a Conservative landslide. A. J. P. Taylor argues that the most important impact was on the psychology of Labourites, who for years afterward blamed their defeat on foul play, thereby misunderstanding the political forces at work and postponing necessary reforms in the Labour Party." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinovie...
"Exactly twenty-one months to the day since the coming of the Green Rain, Gloriana was inaugurated in Washington and a Demo-Republican (or as some called it, a Repu-Democrat) administration was installed in the great Republic." - p 139
I find the above particularly interesting b/c of the use of "Demo-Republican" & "Repu-Democrat". Political activist occasionally say Demmicans or Republicrats to mock the insufficient differences between the 2 parties. Note the voice of Mumia Abu Jamal in "Tails from the Unconvention" (2000): https://youtu.be/b-HKzrINS3M?t=12m41s .
This was written in London from January-July, 1960. Even tho. in some sense, it's an eco-disaster novel, it's more of a parable about human foibles than it is a warning about probable outcomes of current eco-insensitive practices. It even predates J. G. Ballard's 1st eco-disaster novel: The Wind from Nowhere (1962) but not M. P. Shiel's The Purple Cloud (1901). I'll definitely be reading more by Paul Tabori if I can find anything by him. ...more
Notes are private!
Oct 13, 2017
Oct 28, 2017
Jan 01, 1994
Dec 01, 1995
really liked it
Bruce Sterling's Heavy Weather
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 24, 2017
[See the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/s review of
Bruce Sterling's Heavy Weather
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 24, 2017
[See the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ]
I keep picking on Cyberpunk writing in much the same way I pick on Surrealist writing. At the same time that I like it in theory I'm annoyed by it in praxis. What was the last cyberpunk novel I read & reviewed? Weeellll, that depends on how one defines Cyberpunk, obviously. Is Cyberpunk any story in wch societally fringe & rebellious characters are expert with computers? Hackers perhaps?
Wd a novel like Geoff Ryman's "The Child Garden"https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) Or do I have to go all the way back to January 6, 2011, to my review of William Gibson's "Spook Country" (2007)? ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... )
The point is that as soon as a genre name is coined & a vague definition attached to it there're bound to be people who then point out examples such as the above that might not be slotted into the market-speak but wch might still qualify - or proto-examples that lessen the importance of the term by significantly predating it. I think of Cyberpunk as starting with Gibson's Neuromancer (1984) but, then, wouldn't Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) have an important place in there somewhere? A place that seems monumental in contrast to Neuromancer? Or what about Alfred Bester's Golem100 (1980)? Visually, Golem100 is stunning in contrast to the design-banality of Neuromancer.
Heavy Weather, for me, is clearly Cyberpunk from the get-go & that probably helps sell Sterling's bks - but I don't really know if Sterling likes the term or just accepts it as a 'necessary evil' for marketing. I liked Heavy Weather, it's about storm chasers in a near-future (or present at this point 23 yrs after the bk was published in 1994) when the ecosystem has become increasingly disturbed by human intervention & extreme storms are more & more common. I can't object to that, the more humanity's reminded that our uses of the environment do have effects that we'd better take into consideration the better. Still, I think of John Brunner's The Sheep Look Up (1972) ( http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/3... ) as a much more important example.
What happened when I started reading this? I was immediately sucked into the writing, it was thrilling, it's a thriller of sorts. I could identify with the characters, the lunatic fringe obsessed w/ studying tornadoes. Am I a storm chaser? Nope. Am I a meteorologist? Nope. Am I a hacker? Nope. So it really just plays into an aspect of my fantasy life. I am, however, an 'outsider', a person barely tolerated by a society of robopaths. & it's from that highly experienced position that I started questioning the narrative POV of Heavy Weather: Is this something written by someone who knows how to write a thriller but who doesn't necessarily come from the social milieu that his heros are located in? I don't know, I don't know anything about Sterling so my suspicion that he's more cyber than he is punk is a gut-level reaction. At least he's sympathetic to the ecologically concerned instead of dismissive of them as Michael Crichton is in his State of Fear (2004) ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15... ).
OK, I'm pretty pessimistic at times about the present, I think what passes for the 'news' for most people in the world (if I can make such a generalization) is such despicable propaganda that I find this amusing:
"And some English-language happytalk news. Spanish happytalk news. Japanese happytalk news. Alex, born in 2010, had watched the news grow steadily more glossy and cheerful for all his twenty-one years. As a mere tot, he'd witnessed hundreds of hours of raw bloodstained footage: plagues, mass death, desperate riot, ghastly military wreckage, all against a panicky backdrop of ominous and unrelenting environmental decline. All that stuff was still out there, just as every aspect of modern reality had its mirrored shadow in the Net somewhere, but nowadays you had to hunt hard to find it, and the people discussing it didn't seem to have much in the way of budgets." - pp 5-6
It's funny-odd to me how I react to the above: for one thing I'm sooooo sick of how the so-called 'news' distorts life to make it seem like a constant threat - to keep people mentally-glued to the disasters & tragedies that the stns are just using as fodder to attract advertisers & suckers alike. On the other sharpened hook, I'm against censorship. Is the happy medium to devote the amount of media time that's statistically appropriate to the subject? Hence murder cd still be reported about accurately but wd occupy a very small time slot? That wd be a disaster for those poor struggling arms dealers - I'm told that after the latest mass murder in Las Vegas by one of those responsible legal gun owners the NRA is always telling us about gun sales went waaaaayyyyyy up. Fancy that. Fear tactics are the best marketing strategy. Maybe the accountant/murderer was just trying to give the economy a boost, eh?
"Concepcíon left Alex in the treatment room to wait for Dr. Mirabi. Alex was quite sure that Dr. Mirabi was doing nothing of consequence. Having Alex wait alone in a closed room was simply medical etiquette, a way to establish whose time was more important." - p 7
Go get 'em Sterling! I was once denied treatment at a clinic by a so-called doctor when, as response to the question: "How are you?" I replied: "I'd be alot better if you hadn't kept me waiting for an hr & 40 minutes." This in a clinic devoid of patients other than me. When I become supreme dictator, doctors who keep patients waiting will have to have a patient's excuse to justify it (that's a take-off on doctor's excuse, get it?) & if the patient kept waiting doesn't accept the excuse as valid then the doctor will have to pay the patient the doctor's own wages for that time period. 3 strikes & they have to practice in prison until the patients say they may be released. It's only fair. I go to the doctor's as a patient not to become IMpatient. Doctors beware, my supreme dictatorship is just a hop, skip, & a jump away so get yr shit together you pompous pampered creeps.
"Jerry was thirty-two, and he could remember when people did most of their own driving, and even the robots always left their headlights on. Jane, by contrast, found the darkness soothing. If there was really anything boring about the experience of driving at night, it was that grim chore of gripping a wheel with your own hands and staring stiff-necked for hours into a narrow-cone of glare. In darkness you could see the open sky. The big dark Texas sky, that great abyss." - p 24
Hhmm, a robot car driving w/ its headlights off might be a tad bit dangerous for us pedestrians. Living in Pittsburgh, as I do, where robot cabs are common, I love being a mere 23 yrs in the future of the novel's copyright date & being already almost there. How many people wd've believed that there'd be robot taxis in 2017? I still haven't ridden one. Sterling's good at descriptions of what he imagines as post-industrial conditions:
"Here and there along the highway dead windmills loomed, their tapered tin vanes shot to hell, their concrete cisterns cracked and dust empty above an aquifer leached to bare sandstone. . . . They'd sucked the landscape dry, and abandoned their mechanical vampire teeth in place, like the torn-off mandibles of a tick. . . ." - p 33
Concerns about aquifers are important. Ask an Australian aboriginal forced to live in the outback by the European invaders. My collaborator etta cetera & I made a movie in Australia called Don't Walk Backwards & we visited a camp of resisters to in situ leeching whose concern was w/ the destruction of the aquifer by uranium mining. The link to a possible beginning to the relevant section is here: https://youtu.be/kODzM_2_bRM?t=1h48m9s . Thrilling novels are designed to provide depictions of heightened situations, Heavy Weather does an excellent job of this, the reader is likely to be engrossed & excited. For a more realistic look at such activism, that is, nonetheless, not didactically dry, one might try absorbing the whole experience of Don't Walk Backwards instead.
""What the heck kind of drought can kill a mesquite tree?"
""Look, dude, if it doesn't rain at all, for more than a year, then everything dies. Mesquite, cactus, everything. Everything around this place died, fifteen years ago."
""Heavy weather," Buzzard said somberly.
"Martha nodded. "It looks pretty good right now, but that's because all this grass and stuff came back from seed, and this country has been getting a lot of rain lately. But, man, that's why nobody can live out here anymore. There's no water left underground, nothing left in the aquifer, so whenever a drought hits, it hits bad.["]" - p 77
How many people read such a passage & become concerned imagining the possibilities? If you lived near Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre you'd be likely to take such a threat a bit more seriously - esp if the lake became increasingly smaller bodies of water without returning periodically a few times a century to its more filled condition.
"Now Alex understood why Buzzard and Martha lay half-collapsed in their sling chairs beneath their sunshade, the two of them torpid as lizards while their eyes and ears flew for them. Sweat was water too. Civilization had been killed in West Texas, killed as dead as Arizona's Anasazi cliff-dweller Indians, because there just wasn't enough water here, and no easy way to get water anymore." - p 92
Of course, Cyberpunk novels just have to have cutting edge technology in them & characters who get their kicks pushing that technology to its limits. On example of this, here, is the use of ornithopters. An ornithopter is an aircraft that imitates birds by having wings that it flaps. The storm chasers use them to get close footage of the heavy weather in action.
""There's no light inside the core, either. It's almost always pitch-black inside a twister. But Jesse has a little night-light—red and infrared. I dunno what we'll see, dude, but we'll see something."" - p 103
"Jesse", an ornithopter, is about to flown by remote-control into a tornado to get data. The person controlling it will be experiencing it as virtual reality, it'll be terrifying but at least they'll be able to breathe. This is what they do.
"The Troupe had scared up an F2" [a scale rating for a tornado] "early in the day. The spike had come very suddenly, and rather unexpectedly, and out in the middle of nowhere. And that was all to the good, because the Troupe had had the spike all to themselves. Greg and Carol had taped the entire development sequence, from wall-cloud to rope-out, at close range from the ground. Buzzard and Martha had nailed it with chaff, so Peter and Joanne in the Radar Bus had gotten some very good internal data. That one had to be counted a success." - p 110
Purposeful social groups tend to organize around direction. I prefer the anarchistic ones where direction is provided by the most articulate spokespeople rather than by the people who consolidate power around themselves through dirty tricks. Sterling has the 'mastermind' of this group request something of one member after she'd gotten into a fight with another.
"A vow of silence was a very weird request. But she had never seen Jerry more serious. It was crystal clear that he was giving her a deliberate challenge, setting her an act of ritual discipline. Worst of all, she could tell that Jerry really doubted that she had the necessary strength of character to go through with it." - p 112
I think a temporary vow of silence would be an interesting discipline for many people to go through - just like I think fasting is a good thing. Like fasting, it could just be for a day or a wk or 2 wks or 3 wks or a mnth. A mnth seems stretching it. A thoughtful person might learn something from the increased introspection. I'm tempted to try it. Answering the phone wd be tough. Does txting break the rules? I think so. It wd have to be a vow of no communication maybe.
Cyberpunk novels seem to thrive on zeitgeists of fairly large subcultures. A little anti-money sentiment goes a long way w/ me:
"Rick grimaced. She'd brought up the subject of money; the Troupe's ultimate taboo. From the look on Rick's round, stubbled face, he seemed to be in genuine spiritual pain. She knew he'd be too embarrassed to complain anymore." - p 114
There will always be barter, there will always be bad deals where someone feels like they got the shitty end of the stick, so what's the solution? For every transaction to have to meet a standard of absolute integrity? & what wd that be? There will always be generous people & there will always be thieves.
""The density of information embodied in the modern technological object creates deep conceptual stress that implodes the human-object interface. . . . Small wonder that a violent reactive Luddism has become the definitive vogue of the period, as primates, outsmarted by their own environment, lash out in frenzy at a postnatural world."" - p 170
& now there's a Center for PostNatural History created & operated by Rich Pell in Pittsburgh. Check it out!
"Before heavy weather, there had been about nine hundred tornadoes every year in the United States. Nowadays, there were about four thousand. Before heavy weather, a year's worth of tornadoes killed about a hundred people and cause about $200 million (constant 1975 dollars) in damage. Now, despite vastly better warning systems, tornadoes killed about a thousand people a year, and the damage was impossible to estimate accurately because the basic economic nature of both "value" and "currency" had gone nonlinear." - p 182
So where are we at in 2017? A wikipedia page informs me that there've been 1,234 tornadoes so far this yr in the US (as of October 24, 2017) so, apparently, we're not quite to heavy weather yet. What about mass shootings in the US? There're plenty of statistics on that online, a chart from Mother Jones online covering 1982 to 2017 yields:
1982: 1 mass shooting, 8 killed
1983: NO mass shootings
1984: 2 mass shootings, 28 killed
1985: NO mass shootings
1986: 1, 15 killed
1987: 1, 6 killed
1988: 1, 7 killed
1989: 2, 15 killed
1990: 1, 10 killed
1991: 3, 35 killed
1992: 2, 9 killed
1993: 4, 23 killed
1994: 1, 5 killed
1995: 1, 6 killed
1996: 1, 6 killed
1997: 2, 9 killed
1998: 3, 14 killed
1999: 5, 42 killed
2000: 1, 7 killed
2001: 1, 5 killed
2002: NO mass shootings
2003: 1, 7 killed
2004: 1, 5 killed
2005: 2, 17 killed
2006: 3, 21 killed
2007: 4, 53 killed
2008: 3, 17 killed
2009: 4, 39 killed
2010: 1, 9 killed
2011: 3, 19 killed
2012: 7, 71 killed
2013: 5, 35 killed
2014: 4, 18 killed
2015: 7, 46 killed
2016: 6, 71 killed
2017: 8, 83+ killed
I was planning to look at the statistics from various sources but I think the above will do. Mass shooters in the US haven't quite become a force of nature yet but maybe if they had a convention they could pool their resources & practice on each other. It would be good to have all the arms dealers there too explaining why guns are such a great idea. Since pro-gun people seem to pull out a fair amount of statistics on how knives have been used in more murders, maybe at the convention they could have a contest to see who could kill the most people?: the automatic weapons users or the knife-wielders? The arms dealers could each get a steak knife, e.g., & they could prove their point by killing all the guys who have machine guns aimed at them. Just a thought, y'know, sometimes I'm moved by an image of an arms dealer going hungry while one of those vicious knife murderers carves up a juicy steak that's rightfully the dealer's.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, I was hoping Sterling wd throw in a little Fortean froggian stuff n'at:
""That's nothin' either. Once I saw a rain of meat."
""Meat fell out of the sky," he said simply. "I saw it with my own two eyes." He sighed. "You don't believe me do ya, kid? Well, go back in the anomaly records sometime and have a look at the stuff people have seen in the past, faling out of the sky. Amazing stuff! Black hail. Black rain. red rain. Big rocks. Frogs. Rains of fishes. Snails. Jelly. Red snow, black snow. Chunks of ice have fallen out of the sky as big as fuckin' elephants. Dude, I saw meat fall out of the sky."
""What kind of meat?" Alex asked.
""Shaved meat. No hair on it or anything. Looked kinda like, I dunno, slice mushrooms or slice potatoes or something, except it was red and bloody wet and it had little veins in it.["]" - pp 191-192
Next thing you know I was wackin' myself off & that meat was talkin' to me!
That's nuthin', man, I saw rain once that wasn't acid rain.
No fuckin' way!
I've been lovers with many women who were prone to self-destructive activities who weren't so self-destructive when they were with me even if we had very volatile times together. As such, I highly identify w/ this next passage:
"Jerry made her do crazy things. But Jerry's crazy things had always made her better and stronger, and with Jerry around, for the first time in her life she no longer felt miserably troubled about being her own worst enemy. She's always been wrapped too tight, and wired too high, and with a devil inside; in retrospect, she could see that clearly now. Jerry was the first and only man in her life who had really appreciated her devil, who had accepted her devil and been sweet to it, and had given her devil some proper down-and-dirty devil things to do. Her devil no longer had idle hands. Her devil was working its ass off, all the time.
"So now she and her devil were quite all right, really." - p 203
So, yeah, my friends & I have done pretty 'extreme' things but what would we have been doing if we hadn't learned to channel our anger as creatively as we have? What if I were just a psychopath instead of a psychopathfinder?: "Seriousness is Death": https://youtu.be/fIr1_U-dDHI .
"every once in a while some anxious weedy-looking guy would show up at camp who didn't give a hit about tornadoes and really, really wanted Jerry to forget all about it and get back to proving how many soap bubbles could fit inside a collapsing torus in hyperspace. Jerry was always terribly kind to those people." - p 205
[See the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ] ...more
Notes are private!
Oct 25, 2017
Frederik Pohl & Jack Williamson's Undersea City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 22, 2017
I've been praising Frederik Pohl for a review of
Frederik Pohl & Jack Williamson's Undersea City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 22, 2017
I've been praising Frederik Pohl for a few yrs now - esp his collaborations w/ C W Kornbluth. As far as I can recall, I've never read anything by Jack Williamson before - although I've seen his name many times.
An interesting thing about Science Fiction is the way that scientific data can be explored, somewhat as background, in an action-packed plot that's designed to keep the reader's interest w/o being too drily didactic. Sometimes the science is more interesting to me than the story or it, at least, gives more substance than the story does. That might be the case here.
I found this to be like a Robert A. Heinlein novel aimed at teens. I'm reminded of Heinlein books like Space Cadet (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... ). Both bks might appeal to a young adventurous spirit, to imagining the challenges of a possible near future - in Space Cadet the challenges of extraterrestrial travel, in Undersea City the challenges of undersea living for humans. Both try to imagine the possibilities using a somewhat reasonable scientific basis. No doubt the basis is too simple to satisfy real scientific rigor but, HEY!, these are novels, not treatises.
I note that Undersea City's copyright date is 1958 but that its 1st printing is shown as April, 1971. What that signifies might be something already addressed by someone more knowledgeable than me. My primitive interpretation of it is that it was written no later than 1958 but didn't find a publisher until 13 yrs later. Why? Maybe Pohl & Williamson didn't promote it, maybe publishers rejected it. If the latter was the case, as it was, e.g., with Philip K. Dick's non-SF novels, then I find that annoying.
Considering the possible implications of the above paragraph gives me the excuse to laud this day & age in wch rejected writers can fairly easily put their own writing on the internet & let publisher be damned. I direct the interested reader to my own "Censored or Rejected" website: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/s mentality.
I'm reminded of a woman that I had the misfortune to live with in 1995. She was young & pretty & I'm sure that those were her main 'qualifications' for the job she had vetting manuscripts submitted for advice & critique to a company that charged for that service. Imagine, you've written a novel & you want 'professional' opinions about it & advice about how to get it published & your manuscript, after you've paid a few hundred dollars, ends up in the hands of a barely literate young woman who could care less about you or doing her job. Now imagine that your novel's title is "Country Airs" or some such & that your main character is a woman with large breasts. The young woman being paid to read your ms says: "Who cares what the air in the country's like?!" because she's too ignorant to know that "air" can also refer to "melody". So much for the expert opinion. &, then, you had the audacity to have your character's breasts be a focus of attention! Well, that makes you a sexist scumbag. Your manuscript doesn't even get read & you're out 4 or 5 hundred dollars. Of course, you don't know that that's the process, your book just gets some short critique that's very negative, you get discouragement for your buck because the anonymous person you've paid is an exemplary shallow dipshit.
But I digress. The main subject of this novel being the threat that seaquakes provide to underwater cities the reader gets plenty of interpolated tech-talk including this acronym explanation:
"He only said: "It was necessary. But I found no one. I believe the sea-car was struck by boulders thrown up in the eruption and disabled. The locks were open. All the scuba gear was gone."
"And that marked him as a true sea-man too, for no lubber would refer to Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus by its nickname, scuba." - p 12
"The word SCUBA was coined in 1952 by Major Christian Lambertsen who served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1944 to 1946 as a physician. Lambertsen first called the closed circuit rebreather apparatus he had invented "Laru" ( acronym for Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit) but, in 1952, rejected the term "Laru" for "SCUBA" ("Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus") Lambertsen's invention, for which he held several patents registered from 1940 to 1989, was a rebreather and is different from open-circuit diving regulator and diving cylinder assemblies also commonly referred to as scuba.
"Open-circuit-demand scuba is a 1943 invention by the Frenchman Émile Gagnan and Jacques-Yves Cousteau, but in the English language Lambertson's acronym has become common usage and the name Aqua-Lung, (often spelled "aqualung"), coined by Cousteau for use in English-speaking countries, has fallen into secondary use. As with radar, the acronym scuba has become so familiar that it is generally not capitalized and is treated like an ordinary noun. For example, it has been translated into the Welsh language as sqwba." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scuba_set
Regarding the Welsh, I like to quote an old Welsh proverb (I'm glad to see that someone's pro-verb, I want to see some scuba action around here - but, hey!, wait!, isn't scuba an adjective there?!):
"["] Cefais fy syfrdanu'n syfrdanol, i weled, yn bellter o sawl milltir, ac yn meddiannu cnetre'r arena, strwythur rhyfeddol, a adeiladwyd yn ôl pob tebyg os jâd werdd. Eto, ei hun, nid darganfyddiad yr adeilad oedd mor syfrdanol i mi; ond daeth y ffaith, a ddaeth bob eiliad yn fwy amlwg, nad oedd y strwythur unig yn amrywio o'r tŷ hwn lle rwy'n byw ynddo, heb fod mewn lliw a'i faint enfawr. ["]" - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
THERE! That's everything you'll ever need to know! You can relax now.. just don't relax toooooo muuuuuccchh or you might start vomiting boulders. Don't you just hate it when that happens?! I broke a Jethro Tull record that way once. I guess I should be glad I didn't make it to the toilet in time because I can't afford to replace my toilet. Vomiting boulders did work to my advantage once though when some blue-boy was pointing a TASER at my SONAR.
The plot hints then thickens.
"Working Model of
Mechanical Ortholytic Excavator
Experimental craft of this type, now under test by the Sub-Sea Fleet, offer the promise of new opportunities to Academy graduates. With it explorations may be made at first hand of the strata beneath the sea bottom."
"Danthorpe confessed, "Well, all atomic drills generate a lot of heat—and the ortholytic drill cuts faster, but it makes more heat. And the earth's crust is already plenty hot, when you get a few miles down. They've got a terrific refrigeration problem."" - pp 17-18
Have you ever noticed that? Whenever I get an Earth's Crust delivered I won't eat it if the cheese's still bubbling. No sense in burning the roof of my mouth just because I'm so damned hungry.
""Alright you men! Let's get ready to debark!"
"Eskow looked at me and scowled, but I shook my head. Because Danthorpe's name came ahead of our's alphabetically, it had appeared first on the orders—and he had elected to assume that that put him in charge the detail." - p 20
May Alphabeticists be doomed to Lemming Detail, ten hut!
68 pp later:
"Complete data for a really accurate quake forecast would, I believe, require complete information about every crystal—perhaps even every molecule!—in the curst of the earth." [Ok, ok, it really does say "curst" - a lesser writer might've written "wretched"] "You would need to know the temperature and the melting point, the chemical constituents and impurities, the pressure and the shearing strain, the magnetic moment and the electrostatic potential, the radioactivity, the anomaly of gravitation, the natural period of vibration . . . all of those things. And then, having learned them all, you would know only a tiny fraction; for you would have to learn how all of those millions of tiny measurements were changing; whether they were going up or down—how fast—regularly or unevenly. . . ." - p 88
Then again, if you lived in Pittsburgh, you cd just say: "It's going to rain" & you'd probably be right. Are you picking up what I'm putting down? If so, why are you doing that? Are you my servant? This was a predictable novel, the boy gets the girl but then they get arrested for public indecency. ...more
Notes are private!
Sep 21, 2017
Oct 24, 2017
Mass Market Paperback
Jul 15, 1995
Frederik Pohl's The Voices of Heaven
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 29, 2012
Reading this was just what the doctor ordered, not that I' review of
Frederik Pohl's The Voices of Heaven
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 29, 2012
Reading this was just what the doctor ordered, not that I'm likely to follow doctor's orders. In other words, I started reading this yesterday b/c I was dreading working on a review of a much more problematic bk & b/c I wanted to actually enjoy something. & I DID enjoy it. & that's why it was "just what the doctor ordered" b/c I really need a fucking break.
Anyway, Pohl is possibly a writer whose work wd've seemed just a tad too easy to me a few decades ago but now I'm glad for it. I wdn't call The Voices of Heaven a 'masterpiece' but it was well-conceived & well-written enuf to keep me completely engrossed.
The problem w/ writing a review about it is that I don't want to create spoilers by addressing the plot too much but that's really what there mostly is to address. Basically, there're thrills & spills, there's nefariousness, a bit of Jim Jones, quite a bit of commentary re religion (hence the title), a nice depiction of an 'alien' society that smacks a little of 'anarcho-primitivism', all sorts of plot-propelling goodies.
The thing is: I read this bk to be entertained, to be stimulated, for its escapist value & I got exactly what I wanted to out of it.. &.. now.. that I'm trying to write the review of it, I'm probably right back to where I might've been 30 yrs ago: it just ISN'T ENUF, even tho I almost gave the bk 4 stars. I LIKE Frederik Pohl!! But I ultimately want MORE out of EVERYTHING than just escape &, oh well, I'm not going to get it out of fiction. But I'll still READ FICTION in preference to going crazy from frustration w/ the 'real world'. ...more
Notes are private!
Sep 22, 2017
William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 18, 2017
One, of course, doesn't expect honesty review of
William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 18, 2017
One, of course, doesn't expect honesty in advertising, so it's no surprise that the front of this bk quotes H.P. Lovecraft as saying "A classic of the first water" when the supposed actual fuller quote is "but for a few touches of commonplace sentimentality [it] would be a classic of the first water". ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William... ) Not quite the same, eh?!
I'd never heard of the author when I picked this up from my local favorite used bkstore. Perhaps I liked the promise of the back-cover blurb: "a blend of horror, fantasy and science fiction." I agree that it is that. I can't really agree that "As a beautifully written work of pure imagination it has few equals" or "Will produce genuine gooseflesh" since it certainly didn't do the latter for me. In fact, I found it mostly quite plodding. Heck!, it didn't even turn my penis into a turkeyneck.
The action takes place in an unnamed place:
"Yet, in spite of its desolation, my friend Tonnison and I had elected to spend out vacation there. He had stumbled on the place, by mere chance, the year previously, during the course of a long walking tour, and discovered the possibilities for the angler, in a small and unnamed river that runs past the outskirts of the little village.
"I have said that the river is without name; I may add that no map that I have hitherto consulted has shown either village or stream." - p 1
Given that I've been working on an 'opera' about endangered languages for the last 20 months (see a documentary about the work-in-progress here: https://youtu.be/fiAVrCNtKvQ ), the following section was of particular interest to me. The narrator comes upon some locals & attempted to engage them in conversation:
"I asked them casually about the fishing; but, instead of answering, they just shook their heads silently, and stared at me. I repeated the question, addressing more particularly a great, gaunt fellow at my elbow; yet again I received no answer. Then the man turned to a comrade and said something rapidly in a language that I did not understand; and, at once, the whole crowd of them fell to jabbering in what, after a few moments, I guessed to be pure Irish." - p 3
""Yabbering" and "jabbering" are interesting words. They show up all over the English-speaking world whenever a speaker feels like sneering at animals or a minority people. Look up "jabber" in the Oxford English Dictionary, and you'll find quotations in which the term applies to monkeys, Flemish servants, seabirds, and Jews. It often betrays contempt, the dictionary observes, for "the speaking of a language which is unintelligible to the hearer."" - p 21, Mark Abley's Spoken Here - Travels Among Threatened Languages
In honor of the 'jabber' that the narrator couldn't understand, I've decided to create a dialog in Irish esp for this bk review. Isn't that clever of me?:
An gceapann tú go bhfuil an duine seo díreach jabbering? Nó an dóigh leat go bhfuil sé ag labhairt teanga i ndáiríre nach bhfuil cuid mhaith príobháideach ann? Tá sé deacair a rá, nach bhfuil sé? Is cosúil go gcailltear é ionas go bhféadfadh sé a bheith míchothromaithe go meabhrach freisin. An gceapann tú go bhfuil sé ag iarraidh iarracht a dhéanamh linn a ithe? Nó mátálann lenár mhná? B'fhéidir gurb é an norm is dóigh a thagann sé as an tslí sin. - Irish
Now, if you don't speak Irish & you're not a lazy good-for-nothing piece of shit that emits more methane than the oxygen you breath in can replace then you'll copy the above paragraph into an Irish-to-English (if that's your preferred language) translator & find out what I've written. C'm'on, it'll only take a few minutes, why not take advantage of these translation programs? WE ARE SO DAMNED LUCKY TO LIVE IN A TIME WHEN THEY EXIST!! Really.
The protagonists find a manuscript at a ruin & decide to read it. Hence we enter the fantastic part of The House on the Borderland. As a literary device, the found text is about as bad as 'it-was-all-a-dream'. Oh, well.
"Then Tonnison asked me to get the manuscript out of my satchel. This I did, and then, as we could not both read from it at the same time, he suggested that I should read the thing out loud. "And mind," he cautioned, knowing my propensities, "don't go skipping half the book."
"Yet, had he known what it contained, he would have realised how needless such advice was, for once at least. And there seating in the opening of our little tent, I began the strange tale of "The House on the Borderland" (for such was the title of the MS.)". - p 13
What the heck, since I already interpolated a little Irish Gaelic I'm going to translate the MS parts into each of the other Gaelics (identifying each one at the end of the translation - I faled with Manx, Cornish, & Breton). You, dear reader, might find this exasperating, but, I swear upon my word as a Homonymphonemiac & a Practicing Promotextual that this little exercise in languages is well worth it!
""Gu h-obann, dh'fhàs mi mothachail nach robh mi a-nis anns a 'chathair. An àite sin, bha coltas gu robh mi a 'cromadh os a chionn, agus a' coimhead sìos air rudeigin rudeigin, sàmhach agus sàmhach. Ann an greis bheag, bhuail sguab fuar orm, agus bha mi a-muigh san oidhche, a 'seòladh, mar bholb, suas tron dorchadas. Mar a ghluais mi, bha e coltach gu robh fuachd reòite orm, agus mar sin ghluais mi. ["]" - p 17, Scots Gaelic
Well, yes, the experiences that the narrator w/in the narration recounts are definitely, ahem, out of the norm. Eventually, they get so cosmic that, despite the author's intentions, it becomes more or less a technical description of what scientists of the time probably imagined the end-of-the-universe to be like n'at. In the meantime, our narrator w/in the narration is still somewhat grounded:
"["] Cefais fy syfrdanu'n syfrdanol, i weled, yn bellter o sawl milltir, ac yn meddiannu cnetre'r arena, strwythur rhyfeddol, a adeiladwyd yn ôl pob tebyg os jâd werdd. Eto, ei hun, nid darganfyddiad yr adeilad oedd mor syfrdanol i mi; ond daeth y ffaith, a ddaeth bob eiliad yn fwy amlwg, nad oedd y strwythur unig yn amrywio o'r tŷ hwn lle rwy'n byw ynddo, heb fod mewn lliw a'i faint enfawr. ["]" - pp 21-22, Welsh
You know the scale's starting to change when the GODS come in:
"["] Bhí a fhios agam go raibh mé ag féachaint ar léiriú iontasach Kali, bandia an bháis Hindu.
"["] D 'imigh cuimhnemheasanna eile de mo laethanta mac léinn i mo chuid smaointe. Tháinig mo shúile ar ais ar an rud ollmhór a bhí i gceannas orthu. Ag an am céanna, d'aithin mé é le haghaidh an t-eagrán Dia hÉigipte ársa, nó Seth, an Destroyer Souls. ["]" - p 23, Irish
Speaking of scale, this seems relevant: "According to the ancient Sanskrit traditions, human history is divided into four periods, or yugas. The first yuga is a golden age, but the second and third yugas become progressively less virtuous, more violent, and short-lived. The present yuga, the fourth by this reckoning, is the Kali yuga, a dark age of suffering, strife, war, and social disintegration. The present Kali yuga—there are many in the great cycle—began Friday, february 18, 3102 B.C., and will last 432,000 years. Together with the three previous, longer lasting yugas, the great cycle, called the Maha yuga ("great yuga"), lasts for 4,320,000,000 years. One thousand Maha yugas constitute a single kalpa, which is a day in the life of the Demiurge god Brahma." - p 257, Howard Rheingold's They Have a Word for it
'All I can say is:' that "golden age" must not've had any humans in it b/c humans just can't wait to kill anything different from them:
""Airson, 's dòcha mionaid, bha mi a' coimhead air a 'chreutair; An uairsin, nuair a dh 'fhalbh m' inntinn beag, chuir mi grèim air an eagal mì-shoilleir a ghlac mi, agus thug mi ceum a dh'ionnsaigh na h-uinneig. Fiù 's mar a rinn mi sin, chaidh an rud a dhubhadh agus a chall. Thionndaidh mi chun an dorais, agus dh 'fhosgail mi timcheall, gu cruaidh; ach cha do thachair ach na luachagan agus na preasan a bha a 'strì ri chèile a' coinneachadh ri mo shùil.
""Thill mi air ais dhan taigh, agus, a 'faighinn mo ghunna, thug mi a-mach a rannsachadh tro na gàrraidhean. ["]" - p 36, Scots Gaelic
"Fel y gwelodd y Nod fi, rhoddodd squeal sydyn, anhygoel, a atebwyd o bob rhan o'r Pwll. Yn hynny o beth, cymerodd tost o arswyd ac ofn fi, ac, yn plygu i lawr, rwy'n rhyddhau fy ngwn yn ei wyneb . ["]" - pp 41-42, Welsh
Will "human" one day just be synonymous with "gun nut"? As for "uncouth squeal"?: What type of squeal wd you make if you saw someone coming towards you to kill you w/ gun who you hadn't done anything to?
Now this guy lives w/ his sister &, boy-o-boy, they must've both been a piece of work b/c they BOTH think each other is crazy:
""Ansin, ag dul go dtí an leaba, chuaigh mé thar mo dheirfiúr, agus d'iarr sí di conas a bhraith sí; ach chuaigh sí ach níos mó, agus, i bhfad mar a bhí sé in ann dom, ní mór dom a ligean isteach go raibh an chuma air a bheith níos measa.
""Agus mar sin, d'fhág mé glasáil an dorais, agus an eochair a phóca. Is cosúil gurb é an t-aon chúrsa a bhí ann. ["]"- p 61, Irish
Weeellllllll, I almost stopped reading this bk when I realized that there probably wdn't be any secret passageways but at least there's a trap door:
"["] A 'gluasad gu luath, chùm mi an coinnle, agus chunnaic mi gu robh am ball a bha mi air a bhreabadh, na fhàinne mòr meatailt. a 'lùbadh nas ìsle, ghlan mi an duslach bho timcheall air, agus, an-dràsta, fhuair mi a-mach gun robh e ceangailte ri doras-gaisgich, dubh le aois.
""A 'faireachdainn mìorbhaileach, agus a' smaoineachadh càite an toireadh e, chuir mi mo ghunna air an làr, agus chuir mi an coinnle anns a 'ghàradh thionndaidh, ghlac e an fhàinne anns an dà làmh, agus thug mi air falbh e. Bha an gaol ag àrdachadh gu h-àrd - am fuaim a 'seinn, gu cruaidh, tron àite gu lèir-fhosgladh, gu mòr.
""A 'giùlan an oir air mo ghlùin, ràinig mi airson a' choinnlein, agus chùm mi e san fhosgladh, ga ghluasad gu deas agus clì; ach cha b 'urrainn dha dad fhaicinn. Bha mi duilich agus chuir mi iongnadh orm. Cha robh soidhnichean ceum ann, no eadhon an coltas a bh 'ann a-riamh. Chan eil dad a 'sàbhaladh dubh dubh. Is dòcha gum bi mi air a bhith a 'coimhead a-steach gu math gun chrìoch gun taobh. ["]" - p 67, Scots Gaelic
Doesn't everybody have a trap door leading to an apparently bottomless pit in their basement? My question is, if it's bottomless why doesn't it go all the way thru the planet?!
Now, I'd be the 2nd-to-the-last person to accuse anybody else of being foolish but, I mean, c'm'on!:
""Yn araf, wrth i'r dyddiau lithro, fy ofn i'r Moch - daeth pethau'n emosiwn o'r cof gorffennol - mwy annymunol, anhygoel, nag unrhyw beth arall.
""Felly daeth diwrnod, pan daflu meddyliau a ffansiynau, cawsis rhaff o'r tŷ, ac ar ôl ei wneud yn gyflym i goeden gref, ar frig y darn, ac ychydig o bellter yn ôl o'r Pwll ymyl, gadewch i'r pen arall lawr i mewn i'r clust, nes iddo gael ei blygu ar draws ceg y twll tywyll.
""Yna, yn ofalus, a chyda llawer o gamddeimladau ynghylch p'un ai nad oedd yn act anghyffredin yr oeddwn yn ceisio, rwy'n dringo'n araf, gan ddefnyddio'r rhaff fel cefnogaeth, nes cyrraedd y twll. ["]" - p 82, Welsh
But, hey!, our hero is only getting started, it's about time for time to start speeding up!:
"["] Chonaic mé an t-ardú na gréine, ó chúl na spéire. D'ardaigh sé le huaire seasta, inghlactha. D'fhéadfainn é a fheiceáil ag taisteal suas. I nóiméad, bhí an chuma air, go raibh sé ag barr barr na gcrann, trína ndearna mé faire air. Up, up-It was lightlight an lae anois. Taobh thiar dom, bhí a fhios agam go raibh buzzing géar, cosúil le mosquito. Chonaic mé thart, agus bhí a fhios agam gur tháinig sé ón gclog. Fiú amháin mar a d'fhéach mé, marcáil sé uair an chloig. Bhí an lámh nóiméad ag bogadh thart ar an dhiailiú, níos tapúla ná gnáth-dara láimhe. D'aistrigh an uair an chloig go tapa ó spás go spás. ["]" - p 105, Irish
Eventually, our hero thinks of leaving this house where the swine-things threaten him & where, you know, time changes & he sees the kalpa pass in a hop, skip, & a jump.. but nnnoooooOOoOoOoooooO, not this guy, he's seen his dead love thanks to the Sea of Sleep & he's not letting go.
""Anns an ùine a leanas, tha an smuaintean a 'leum tron eanchainn, carson nach fhàg thu an taigh seo - an taigh dìomhair seo agus eagal? An uairsin, mar gum biodh e anns a 'fhreagairt, tha mi a' sreap suas, thairis air mo shùil, sealladh air Muir iongantach a 'chadail, -the Sea of Sleep far a bheil i fhèin agus mise air a bhith comasach coinneachadh, às deidh na bliadhnaichean de sgaradh agus de bhròn; agus fios agad gum fuirich mi an seo, ge bith dè a thachras. ["]" - p 170, Scots Gaelic
But back to our 1st narrators:
""Was he mad?" I asked, and indicated the MS., with a half nod.
"Tommison stared at me, unseeingly, a moment; then his wits came back to him, and suddenly, he comprehended my question.
""No!" he said." - p 179
If you say so. But he might've been angry. ...more
Notes are private!
Sep 16, 2017
Sep 18, 2017
really liked it
Judith Merril's The Tomorrow People
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 15, 2017
One of the 1st, if not the 1st SF anthologies I ever review of
Judith Merril's The Tomorrow People
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 15, 2017
One of the 1st, if not the 1st SF anthologies I ever read was one edited by Judith Merril called 6th Annual Edition The Year's Best S-F (1961). I was probably a teenager when I read it & I'm sure the work was very fresh to me at the time. Looking at its Table of Contents now I only recognize about half the names & I find that interesting in itself because it might hint that the editor was widely read & not just pushing the canon. Whether I'd like the collection now is hard to say & I'm not likely to reread it given how many other things there are out there for me to read. I wanted to read SF written by women & since I didn't know of many women SF writers I kept Merril's name in mind as someone whose work I should look out for.
WELL, now, maybe 50 years after my reading the comp, I finally read a novel by Merril. In a way, I don't particularly like dividing creative producers into gender categories: WOMEN writers & MEN writers but I find this categorizing being somehow too much at the forefront to ignore sometimes. As such, even though Merril's characters of both sexes are reasonably & believably portrayed there're still touches that seem more likely to've been thought of by a woman writer (although I don't think that 'has to be' the case.).
The Tomorrow People was 1st printed in 1960. It already has people living on the moon & a returned expedition to Mars by 1976, a mere 16 years away. That was rather optimistic of the author. A safe bet would've had the action take place 100 years later, instead she imagines such a massive change happening w/in her lifetime (she didn't die until September 12, 1997). Did she imagine living in 1976 & comparing that time to the time imagined in her novel?
Merril writes from a man's perspective about his lover, a woman:
"Then it hit him again: the incredible fact of her presence, right there, in his house, in his bed . . . the look and shape of her, the curve of shoulder, the aliveness just below her skin, the way her cheek curved with her smile . . . smiling light in her eyes, and all for him . . . for him . . . even while the faint line of frowning . . . for him, too. . . lingered above. The cloudy feel and fragrance of her hair, and the strange blend of scents on her skin; soap, grass, sex, something else, something sweet and delicious and way-back in memory." - p 8
Do I think that's a realistic way for a heterosexual man to be thinking about his lover? Well, sure, it's possible, it's not like all men are homogeneous. I'd say he was in a loving, appreciative mood at the time.
Part of the novel revolves around the moon, I guess that makes the novel a satellite of the moon? (That's a joke.) There're capitalist & communist bases: "Dollars Dome" & "Red Dome".
"Across the broad pock-marked face of the Moon, like blue-tinged boils on chin, cheek, and forehead, three air-filled pressure domes gleamed in the hard rays of the naked sun.
"Largest and best-advertised of these was the joint military and astronomical observatory base of the United Nations World Peace Control and International Scientific Congress, nestled appropriately, or at least hopefully, inside a hilltop between the great dry "seas," Tranquilitatis and Serenitatis," - p 11
So, yeah, there's the usual competition between ideologies & military-tinged everything. One of the main characters is the only astronaut to've returned from Mars. It's a mystery about what happened to the other astronaut(s) that he can't solved because he has nothing in his memory to answer the questions.
"They told him that the information he withheld—from them as well as himself—would probably make a difference in years in sending out another ship.
"Okay," he said, with the same one-sided grin, "Do yourselves a favor. Don't find out."" - p 21
The front cover of the book says: "He came back from Mars with a secret too terrible to remember" & the back cover proclaims: "There was something in Mars that killed people". That tells more about the type of marketing deemed necessary for selling a bk than it does about the actual plot. What does it say about what the reading public wants? Death?! Thrills?! Terror?!
""I'll tell you what's out there: God, that's what. Mars is heaven, see—just like it said in the story—only different—and God lives there. So if you know some guy holy enough to meet up with the Hot Shot in person, send him on out. Otherwise, you better forget the whole thing."" - p 22
"it wasn't really his idea to start with. It was something Doug had said, in that bad month, the last month, before he went. . . ." - p 23
Not that you needed to know that. Johnny, the astronaut that returned, as opposed to Doug, the one who didn't, has a fantasy:
"That would be nice, he thought. Let it turn out poor old Doug was just a rabbit mesmerized by these snakey protozoan intelligences. Pretty soon they'd take the whole world over, too—except for The Hero, who'd dash in and save everyone just in time." - p 55
Hhmm.. snakey intelligences overflowing from God?
"As a matter of fact, the bugs had already, in one sense, overflowed the Dome itself. One farm-tank full had been "planted" in an open pavilion outside the walls, roofed against meteors, but incompletely enclosed: "The Shack" was the simplest way to conduct Moon-environment tests." - p 95
Well, maybe 'God's' love is spreading like an STD:
"But the scene here was not posed. Ot was for real. And it went on all the time, all the hell over this slaphappy Dome. And it was getting more pronounced. He noticed it more than he had at first, in spite of getting used to it. And he thought it had started to show up in the clinical picture too. Nothings conclusive yet, but—" - p 102
It's Johnny's lover, Lisa/Lee, who ends up stealing the show, & this is where this seems to become more of a 'woman's novel', much as it sortof irks me to say so. She's a famous dancer whose dancers are broadcast over some sort of 3D technical network, she's pregnant from Johnny, she's on the moon, Johnny isn't, & she decides to broadcast a dance taking advantage of the moon's small (Earth relative) gravity.
"Drums crashed—like the surf, like thunder, like an earthquake, like a bursting dam. With a final sweep of wing-width, Lisa leaped forward, beating and fluttering, beating with the arm-wings, a-flutter in a mist of multi-hued chiffon—leaped out and downward, turning and twisting with the slowest slant of the widespread wings.
"From the midstage high riser down to the floor, she floated like a dragonfly, drifted like a leaf." - p 120
Merril has a politician trying to advance his career by investigating the "Dollars Dome", 1st for a leak to the "Red Dome" of information about their Mars bug research but when that doesn't pan out, 2nd for being a "LUNA LAB LOVE NEST":
"In a press release issued after the conference, the nature of the alleged "impairment of efficiency and morale" was not specified, but another paragraph stated that "the findings of the investigators are such as to suggest a thoroughgoing congressional probe into the personnel of the Moon Dome and the moral attitudes and practices prevailing there."" - p 137
Merril is a fair-minded writer, she has 'good' men & 'bad' men, 'good' women & 'bad' women. Wd I point this out about a male writer? I don't recall ever having done so before so it annoys me to do so now &.. yet.. this passage caught my attn:
"A stiff-backed, powder-caked claw-fingered female, rushing on tight-toed stilt heels, miscalculated; a bony shoulder knifed his bicep; a sharp elbow rose reflexively, caught him in the chest.
""Whyncha look wareyagone?" she shrieked." - p 150
& then there's the psychoanalysis:
"When she was gone, he sat and studied that one out. He didn't get very far. It was easy to analyze—simple masochistic crap. And/or false superiority: Better to love and not have than to be needful and get? Feed that to the pigs—or the bugs. It wasn't for Kutler. Except it was. So?" - p 159
I seem to feel this is a 'woman's novel' partially because of the role the pregnant dancer plays, of the way that love factors heavily into it all - but surely men write novels with central pregnant women characters (have they?) & with the psychology of love as a central theme (have they?).
""Listen, Chris. I came for Lee. You can make it easy or make it tough. We used to be friends, so I tell you this once: I came for my girl. You and Mac can both go to whatever kind of Hell they keep for guys like you. And I'll foul you up as cheerfully as him if you get in my way. I came for my girl. The rest of your politicking fornicating foolishness doesn't concern me at all."" - p 179
This sortof becomes a sci-fi romance novel.. but in a 'good' way, if you can believe that. I mean it's not some muscly guy coming to the rescue of a starry-eyed damsel-in-distress & then ripping open her silk blouse for a little passionate climaxing (or whatever happens in those things) it's something alot more interesting.
"Without taking his eyes from her face, he reached up and undid the clasps on his, broke the gasket seal, and lifted the bowl off his head. He stepped forward, and she took one step at the same time, meeting him. For the first time in two months, they met each other's lips.
"He stripped off his gauntlets, and held her head in his hands, drinking in the touch and look and scent and feel of her. From the neck down, the limp pressure suits swathed them in formless fabric armor; but hands and heads were free to caress; a smile could be finger-traced as well as seen; a murmured word was close to a close ear." - p 189
As for the mystery of all this?: ""We came to the conclusion, tentative, that the pregnancy might be a factor," he finished. "It now seems this is justified."" (p 191)
I was planning to give this a 3 star rating. I liked it but I remember being somewhat bored halfway thru & not finishing it w/ much enthusiasm. Now, tho, as I've written this review, the bk seems well-thought out & to have many characteristics that make it somewhat unique. I liked it & can add Merril to the-list-of-people-I-wish-I'd-known-when-they-were-alive. After all, she didn't die until September 12, 1997, when I was 43 yrs old so we had plenty of crossover time. Too bad. Sheesh, she even lived in Toronto, for all I know she might've been at one of my many performances there. ...more
Notes are private!
Sep 02, 2017
Sep 15, 2017