Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Week 14 - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I definitely enjoy the podcasts that we get to listen to because to be quite honest it’s helpful to just have to auditorily listen to something while still being able to do other things and our time is sometimes restricted according to everyone’s major. It was quite a refreshing comical relief kind of podcast following the adventures of hapless Englishman Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect, an alien who writes for the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, a pan-galactic encyclopedia  in comparison to some of the other novels that we’ve read that have deeper concepts that leave you thinking way long after the story has ended.  After Earth is destroyed in the first episode, Arthur and Ford find themselves aboard a stolen spaceship commandeered by a motley crew including Zaphod Breeblelox the depressed robot Marvin and Trillian, the only other human survivor of Earth's destruction. I really enjoyed the theme tune used in it so I looked it up and found out that it is "Journey of the Sorcerer", an instrumental piece that was composed by Bernie Leadon and recorded by The Eagles on their album One of these nights. Adams chose this song because of its futuristic-sounding nature, but also for the fact that it had a banjo in it which as Geoffrey Perkins recalls Adams said would give it an "on the road, hitch-hiking feel". Overall I like the style of this genre it’s a lighter load kind of feeling.


week 1 - Frankenstein

Frankenstein Mary Shelley

Frankenstein is a classic. I remember reading it in high school. After reading it again got a different perspective on it. The main storyline talked about a scientist who creates a monster which unfolds awful events throughout the story. After learning that he could give life to another being he uses that knowledge to do just that. I believe his original reasoning for doing so was to lead to other scientific advances. The monster was a brutal one that I would sympathies with because of his loneliness and rough treatment in society. The scientist Victor was a arrogant man who would not take any blame for the monster he created so Frankenstein must answer for all actions even when he was unaware of what he did. Not understanding basic morals this was difficult for the monster. Overall the writing in complex and very vivid expressing horror and madness amongst the characters. I remember enjoying the novel in high school and after reading it again I remember why. Frankenstein can be seen in many different ways and I believe the monster was brought into a world that would not accept him. Of course who would when everything they do causes terror, pain, and trouble. In the end I became frustrated with Victor and his arrogant self righteous narration only because of his actions but it was a good read for a second time.


Week 13 - Oryx and Crake

        Oryx and Crake definitely hit me a lot harder than I had expected it to. It’s Margaret Atwood, so one can expect the deft characterizations, innovative narrative structure, and social criticism. What I wasn’t prepared for was the powerful emotional impact it had behind it, and the thoughts it made me ponder over. In essence, Atwood asks a simple question: “What type of world are we creating, and does it deserve to exist?  Do we deserve to exist if we stay on the path we are continuously pursuing?” This is not a new question. Plenty of dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels have asked it in a variety of forms. Oryx and Crake is one of the most eloquent and harsh condemnations of the world we have created, whether intentionally or not, that I’ve read in the last few years.  The story is also about the online world we have created for ourselves, and with just the slightest bit of exaggerations, shows us the childhood of Snowman and Crake, growing up on a steady diet of online public executions, 24/7 webcams, Noodie News, assisted suicide, frog squashing, and snuff videos. It’s all just standard stuff for kids in the future. Looking at all the content that the Internet offers without any restrictions to anyone with a smartphone, including kids of all ages, I think any parent out there is uncomfortable and fears about what this unrestricted flow of information can do to young minds not prepared to know the difference between what we still attempt to categorize as “good” and “bad.” Definitely a read that makes you ponder long after reading it.                                

Week 12 - Dawn

   Butler is an author I’ve been meaning to read forever and this was an intriguing place to start. The dilemma of Lillith, deciding the fate of humanity and resigning herself to be the betrayer, was tense and well thought out. The characters themselves were nuanced and made me seriously look at how I thought about prejudice, human-ness, and my attitude to the new and unknown. I look forward to seeing how she moves the world forward in the next book. A reflective and meditative yet very dramatic read. Interesting from so many points of view, really well written and deeply insightful. I can't think of any other book I've read that tells a similar story and I found this a very unique tale which was told brilliantly. This was my first Octavia E. Butler and it more than lived up to all the great things I’ve heard about her work. The insights into human nature are too much to list, made without seeming to try. The aliens are striking and just so alien. One of the best examples of the insight into human nature comes early in the book when the protagonist meets her first alien. The journey Lilith takes throughout the course of the novel is deep and convoluted and entirely engaging. It isn't always easy to read, but then again, I think that truth rarely is. To be honest though, this book has left me with many questions. Nothing to do with the book, but with myself, questioning raised because of the book. What I mean to say is that the book has created an inner dialogue within my mind. Where suddenly you find yourself speaking out loud to yourself and asking yourself questions.


Week 11 - Anubis Gates

     Definitely a really fun fantastical read. Tim Power probably at his best with wacked-out time travel stories, and that's precisely what this is. He basically took the entire collection of English-language literary devices and tossed them into one book. Basically it is a story about time travel. It reminded me a lot of the Doomsday books by Connie Willis which is one of the best books I have ever read so I mean this a treat most definitely. The method of travelling is very original and the purpose very devious. Having travelled our hero spends a large part of the book living in the past and often suffering accordingly. We meet Coleridge and Lord Byron and travel geographically as well as time wise. Magic comes into play but it is a very flawed magic and does not always behave as it should. Occasionally I must admit it all got too smart for me and I got a bit lost as to who was who. Overall a clever, epic story. Time travel, body swapping, Dickensian London, Egyptian mythology, Romantic poets, evil wizards and exploration of fatalism, props to Tim Powers for managing to combine all this into something that wasn’t bad because with all these factors things can get messy and just not good. Good story, good characters, great settings and ideas, and the ending was my favorite part. I haven't read a time travel book in a long time, but loved this one, as the descriptions of London in 1812 were very rich. I loved how Lord Byron and other famous poets were running around, and the descriptions of all the beggars were fascinating.

Week 10 - Babel17


         I can see why it has won some literary prizes back in its day. It packs quite a lot of ideas for the number of pages it has. Most of those ideas relate to language and communication, but there is also weapon development, faster than light navigation, genetic enhancement, a bit of battle action and a memorable trip through a dystopian city peopled with oddball characters, both alive and incorporate. It centers around a woman called Rydra Wong who is a gifted poet and linguist in a far future where an alliance of humans and aliens is at war with other aliens. She is approached by the military to decode a strange language that appears to be being used to sabotage weapons and ships across the galaxy. Delany’s prose is beautiful and filled with energy, the plot also whips you along through huge drama and betrayals, but then there’s also poetry and moments of reflection on societal norms and the self. It’s a clever book. To read something so playful in language, so inventive in language, is a treat. To read something so intelligent regarding language, to decide what language is important and how it becomes important and why different languages may possibly lead to different cultural ideas is also a treat. To have it wrapped in a wonderful bundle of book full of spies and adventure was more than I could’ve asked for. One of my most interesting reads yet I want to say. I really liked the style of the author and they way he wrote so it was an easier read for me to follow along and the fun-packed adventures made it the kind of book where you don’t want to stop reading.