Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Arguably Philip K. Dick’s most well known novel today, it’s the perfect place to start reading the classic sci-fi author’s works.  It’s a short, fast read, but compact with action, reflection, and mystery.

Continue reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

A Dark and Stormy Night… A Review of A Wrinkle in Time

When I first opened the book and read that horrid first line, “It was a dark and stormy night…,” I only continued reluctantly.  It wasn’t necessarily an opening line to hook me in, considering its comic status as a horribly annoying line.  I had to remember that it was a children’s book and not to be so quick to judge.  Thankfully, I did continue.  I did enjoy the book.  Now realizing it is one book in the Time Quintet, I feel I must read the others.

Continue reading A Dark and Stormy Night… A Review of A Wrinkle in Time

The King in Yellow – A Review

The King in Yellow is a collection of short stories that resurfaced to popularity recently due to the HBO series True Detective.  I know this is what piqued my interest in purchasing and devouring the book in just a few short days.  The stories have inspired the writings of later writers, including Lovecraft and Stephen King.  You can still find writers contributing to the mythology of The King in Yellow.

Firstly, who is the King in Yellow?  It refers to a fictional play that Chambers uses in most of his stories.  The play is said to drive those who read it mad.  The play is central to most of Chamber’s short stories.  It features a fictional place called Carcosa, which can be found referenced throughout popular fiction, including True Detective.

Of the stories in the book, my favorite is the first– The Repairer of Reputations. It is told from the point of view of Hildred, a young man who has an accident and suffers from a severe personality change.  I enjoy stories told from a point of view of an unreliable character.  Hildred believes himself and his new friend Mr. Wilde to be part of a vast conspiracy.  Hildred’s friend Louis believes Hildred to still be insane, and humors him for a while.  Once the reader begins to realize that Hildred is delusional, other parts of the story told by Hildred become questionable.

I also really enjoyed The Mask, The Yellow Sign, and Demoiselle d’Ys. If you’re a fan of weird fiction from Lovecraft, or Poe, I would recommend reading Chambers.  I found this a great starting point before diving into Lovecraft’s complete collection of stories.

I Am Legend – A Review (No, not that terrible movie)

I was never really a fan of the movie starring Will Smith to begin with.  When it was recommended by several people to read the book, I was hesitant at first.   While they seem to share a few similarities, such as Robert Neville living alone as the last man alive, that’s where it ends.  They shouldn’t be sharing the same title.  After reading I Am Legend, my dislike for the film grew. It’s absolute garbage.  The book, on the other hand is brilliant and beautiful written.  Although I didn’t anticipate writing a comparative post on the two, it is important to point out some differences that make the movie terrible and the book superior.

I’ll start with our protagonist, Robert.  In the movie, he is a man on a mission, perhaps going a bit crazy from being alone for so long.  He is against the world, fighting evil, finding a cure to save humanity.  And he does in the end. He’s a big hero.  In the book, it appears he is fighting evil, finding a cure to save humanity, but as it turns out, he’s just crazy.  He’s not our hero.  He’s trying to find a cure for the vampire-like creatures who have evolved beyond humanity.  He is fighting this evolution.  He is resisting change.  Instead, he murders them.  In the end, you discover he is no hero, but our antagonist.

The movie portrays the creatures more as nocturnal zombies.  In the movie, Robert simply seems them as the enemy.  At one point he retorts that the social de-evolution is complete in the creatures.  I felt as though the movie portrayed the creatures as social–protecting their own and seeking revenge on Robert when he kidnaps them for his experiments to find a cure.  They are highly intelligent as well, managing to trap Robert at one point.  I think the movie ignored that, a disservice in making the situation completely black and white/good versus evil.

In the book, Robert meets a woman who he believes is a survivor.  Due to his loneliness, he easily falls for her, needing companionship.  It is revealed that she is undead as well–a spy.  This is the point that led me to realize that Robert is truly the enemy, going crazy.  The vampires, as they are described in the book, taunt him, yell at him all night.  It appears they just want him to join.  They have an organized social network and a community.   They aren’t necessarily the evil he believes them to be.  They may not abide by his particular code of ethics, but to completely demonize them is unfair.  Considering we read the story through Robert’s unreliable point of view, it’s fair to consider that they aren’t nearly as evil as he believes them to be.

I really enjoyed this book overall.  The one I read included a collection of some of his other stories, which I also highly recommend.  Richard Matheson is a brilliant horror storyteller who also wrote some of the stories featured in The Twilight Zone. Many of his other books have more successfully been recreated on the silver screen.

Have you read I Am Legend?  What are your thoughts on my interpretation?

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange…..

Well, droogs, let me tell you that I wasn’t a big fan of this book (or the movie) much to Cam’s disappointment.  I’ll start with the distracting slang.  Reading the book on my tablet, I didn’t realize that there was a reference guide until the end of the book.  After a few pages, I was able to decipher a lot of the cryptic Nadsat language.

One thing I did find interesting was the change of the ending.  Apparently, American publishers originally didn’t like the fairly happy ending.  Like the film, it was left with narrator Alex in the hospital “cured”.  The version of the book I read was the full ending in which Alex sees the errors of his ways, grows up, and dreams of settling down.  He is redeemed.  Sorry, but it’s rather disappointing.  In part one, he commits terribly violent acts.  In part two, he has terribly violent things done to him by the state in order to reform or “cure” him.  In what near-future dystopia does any of this lead to redemption?

Overall, I’m glad I finally got around to reading the novel to see what all the fuss was about, but I was really disappointed. Perhaps it’s because I prefer my dystopian novels written by Margaret Atwood, as evident in my review of her novel The Handmaid’s Tale.

Review of The Invisible Man

At some point in everyone’s life, they’ve dreamed of what it would be like to be invisible.  It’s one of those things we include in questions like, “What superpower would you like to have?”

H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man explores the darker side of what it would feel like to be invisible.  He didn’t get too involved in explaining the scientific aspects of how Griffin became invisible.  It’s explained in a few lines, and not really central to the story.  Invisibility is instead brought to life by Wells’ visual details.  Visualizing smoke filling Griffin’s lungs makes the concept seem more realistic to me.

It is the story of a man who is obsessed with the fame he dreams he’ll receive from his scientific discoveries.  He experiments on himself, discovering that he can make himself invisible.  While I find the concept interesting, I thought that the point of view of the story was wrong.  Although I didn’t particularly like Griffin, the main character, I might have enjoyed reading the story from his perspective.  I also might have sympathized with him.

Overall, I really enjoy H. G. Wells’ storytelling, and I can’t wait to read some of his other books, but this may turn out to be my least favorite.  At least I have some of his other stories to look forward to.

Animal Farm – Worth a Reread

I first read this book when I was too young to understand the satire or the political motivations that motivated George Orwell to write it.  I then read it in high school, and had a vague understanding that is was an incredibly important book.  I also had the vague notion that great authors wrote fiction for political commentary and awareness of social injustice.  I read it as a child and enjoyed reading about animals.  It’s no more violent than stories we already read to our children.  Now, as an adult I can appreciate Orwell’s criticisms, having developed my own political viewpoints.  As a child or even as a teenager, I could not have articulated those.

I remember that it didn’t really appeal to me, even though we thoroughly discussed the symbolism and dissected each character’s motives.  I am not going to do that in this review.  Simply, it is a beautifully written short novel that someone can finish in a day.  The language is simple, the characters intriguing.  Even without understanding that this was a representation of the Russian Revolution in 1917, one can appreciate it as a well written story.

From the beginning, I really wanted the animals on the farm to work together and succeed.  Of course, that’s not going to happen.  As things progressed, the leaders of the revolution became too powerful and created the same conditions the animals rebelled from.  Orwell was clearly not a fan of Stalin or the corruption of the Soviet government.  While most people see this as an indictment of Orwell’s dislike of communism or socialism, I also see it representing corruption in any form of government.  Government is a man-made institution and can be as flawed as the people who create it.  Without an educated populous, the leaders cannot be kept in check and can create a regime just as corrupt as the previous one.

Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, it’s important to continue to reevaluate your viewpoints and how they stand up to an ever-changing social context.  It is still a relevant book that is definitely worth a reread every now and then.