Wednesday, April 28, 2010

His Dark Materials (Revised)

The blog I chose to revise in His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. Originally, the blog was only in reaction to The Golden Compass (the first in the series). Since then, I have finished the last two in the Series, The Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass. I really enjoyed this series but each book did get more and more bizarre. Each one took to the next level and was really pushing the limits. You actually learn something from Pullman. It is not just a pretty little fantasy story. His stuff really makes you think. Having read the entire collection, I feel I can give a more in-depth reaction to the book. I know there was a lot of controversy surrounding the book before I read it. I know that people of the Christian faith do not like it because they feel that it bashed religion and mocks it. I am not a religious person, but I get where they are coming from. The main goal in the story is to destroy the Magesterium (the church) and the Authority (God).

In the second book we meet Will, who is from our world, and he and Lyra run into each other in another world. Will found a door in his world. The world that they are in is infested with Spectors, who feed on peoples souls. Only children are not affected by them because children have not sinned yet. Will become the bearer of the Subtle Knife, which is a knife that can cut doors that open new worlds. Little do Lyra and Will know is that every time Will makes a cut, the knife is creating another Spector.

Apparently we find out that Lyra is really Eve. The Magesterium wants to find her and kill her before she commits the original sin. If Lyra commits that sin, then dust will live on forever. Dust is what the Magesterium believed to be the cause of sin. Dust is your soul. In Lyra's world their souls are on the outside in the form of daemons. Every single world has dust, which means that everyone sins. In the first book the Magesterium tried intercision, which is cutting daemons away from children so that they don't sin, but it turned out ugly because people can not survive without their souls. Most of the last book, The Amber Spyglass, was about how all the worlds will eventually disappear because the dust in leaving the worlds. It is being sucked into this huge abyss that the Authority created.

Since the Authority has been in charge, everyone who dies is kept in this dark nasty world where the dead are constantly being tormented by harpies. Lyra and Will travel to the world of the dead and eventually recuse the dead by cutting a door they can escape through. In order to do this, Will and Lyra has to leave behind their souls. Lyra had to leave her daemon, Pan.

The Magesterium fails in killing Lyra so she does sin. Her and Will fall in love. They grow up and are now prey to the Spectors. They find out why there are Spectors so an angel comes and helps them close all of the doors that knife has created. Lyra's parents, Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asrial both die in a battle against Megatron (which is a really odd name), who is the head Angel on the side of the Authority. In order to protect everyone and save dust, Will and Lyra will not be able to see each other anymore. A person can only live their entire life in their own world. Lyra and Will have to separate because they need to leave the door open they created for the dead.

Everyone has to make sacrifices for life to go on. Things are done because they are the better choice. People need their souls to survive and our souls are responsible for our sins. But without sins, we would not have souls and it would just be worlds full of zombie like people who are slaves to God. To sum it up, organized religion is bad because it is trying to control everyones lives. In order to be free from it we must rebel and have a war and hope that you win. I agree to an extent, but I am not one to bash God so I wont. And, once again, children are responsible for saving the world. Love it when that happens. Be yourself and do not let anyone control who you are and who you become.

Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood was an interesting novel. It is written as a more realistic future than most science fiction novels. In most realistic futures, things are bleak and depressing. I find that the way this book was written very similar to how A Wild Sheep Chase by Murakami was written. It was very slow, very mellow, and very depressing. Mainly because the main character, Snowman, was not a very animated character. He was pretty down most of the time and didnt show much emotion towards anything. It may be because there really is nothing else he can do. He is (I think) that last human (that we are familiar with) left on earth. His friend, Crake, was some crazy smart scientist guy who messed with genetics and created an entirely new species of man. He also tried creating this drug that would pretty much make people live longer, have more sex, and not reproduce. Oryx, who was working with Crake, and whom Snowman had a mad crush on, went to different cities and distributed the drug for tests. Apparently, the drug was not quite right and ended up being a highly contagious virus that killed everyone. Everyone, except for Snowman and the new human species, who are called Crakers. Crake gave Snowman a vaccine that has prevented him from getting sick. Snowman and the Crakers were sealed off from everyone in this secret laboratory where Crake did all of his experiments. Crake kind of went crazy and when the virus hit hard and slit Oryx's throat in front of Snowman, so in return, Snowman shot Crake, which left Snowman in charge of taking care of the Crakers. The crakes now think Snowman is some sort of higher being and listen to all of his "wisdom" and all.

The thing I do not get is why Snowman is still alive. His life is so so so crappy. That vaccine Crake gave Snowman was pretty much a curse. He had to live through the human race dying, including his family and he had to watch Oryx be killed before his eyes by his best friend. He is all alone, except for the Crakers, who are not very advanced in society. They were created to live like jungle folk. They eat complete different food Snowman does, their mating rituals are freaky, they only know what Oryx in the beginning and what Snowman have told them. The world has changed so much that Snowman is not adapted to the climate the Earth has become so he can not go in the sun. They have all these freaky mutated animals that were created that are running lose now and are really dangerous. He is starving, he lives in a tree, and he has no real human contact anymore. Why does he still live? He has pretty much given up already so why not just end it? He is obviously not happy. He must be staying alive because of the Crakers. Oryx and Crake put him in charge of the Crakers just in case something went wrong, so maybe he is afraid of disappointing his best friend and his love. I guess this book really shows how far one would go for love, even if that love is lost.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lilith's Brood: Dawn

Lilith's Brood: Dawn by Octavia Butler is my favorite Science Fiction book we have read so far in my literature class. The story was really good and the characters are really well developed. Reading it is like watching a really good TV show. It was not as fast paced and action packed as some of the others we have read, but the story line is the best so far. Dawn is book one out of three so I plan on reading the next two. Dawn is one of those books that after you read it you start to think, is this possible? Could this happen to us? I am usually not a fan of 'end of the world' type movies, but I like them in book form so some reason.

The story is about a women, Lilith, who was rescued from Earth, along with the rest of the survivors, by extraterrestrials. Our human nature caught up with us I guess, because we all ended up killing each other and Earth had a giant war and it eventually went into what sounds like another ice age. The extraterrestrials came and got us and put some of the humans in plant forms which hold the humans in suspended animation, meaning they do not age while they are "asleep." The whole ship is alive and the extraterrestrials live off of the ship. They do not use machines or technology, which is what makes this story stand out from others. They did keep some awake for studies, and the would awaken a few here in there and put them asleep again to study them too.

They decide to keep Lilith awake after so many times of awakening her and putting her back to sleep. They like her. The ETs are very fascinated by humans. They keep her awake with the intention of having her awaken a number of other humans and train them so they can go back to Earth and rebuild their civilization. They would be starting from scratch in a jungle. They are not cities left, and all the technology they once knew no longer exists. They would pretty much be like cave men. In order to train her they have her live with a family of ETs, which she becomes really attached to one in particular. For one, they do some weird sexual pleasure like thing with their sensory arms. Its like mind sex I guess. Eventually, all the humans that have been awaken, get their own ET to 'bond' with. It is a strange love story, because the ET do not have genders, they are called 'its.' Did I mention that the ETs want to do some kind of DNA experiment between the humans and themselves, so that every generation of humans is more and more like the ETs. Crazy. So I think there is a lot more the ETs are not telling Lilith. They are coming off as helpful, but I think they have a hidden agenda that we have yet to find out.

In the end of book one, the ET send all the humans back down to Earth, except for Lilith because they were afraid that the other humans would turn on her and kill her. I forgot to mention, the ET gave her special powers that the rest of the humans did not have, so the other humans felt that Lilith was not human. That is where the story ends. It left me with enough to satisfy the story but not so much, that Im not excited about the next book. I am looking forward to finishing the last two to see what happens with Lilith and Earth and the Extraterrestrials.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Snow Crash

Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson is a very fast paced cyberpunk novel. There was never a dull moment throughout the entire book. This was my first time reading cyberpunk and I rather enjoyed it. I like books where something important is happening on every single page. There was a lot of dialogue, which helps me better understand the novel. For some reason, I understand a lot better when the characters are talking to each other rather than just the narrator talking or the author. The idea of this world that Hiro Protagonist (great name for a main character) and Y.T. (Yours Truly) live in is not so far fetched from where we are now in the world. Being that technologically advanced and having our lives depend on big business and the internet is way more believable than driving flying cars or living on mars. The world they live in is a world without laws so nothing is illegal anymore. The mob, whose figurehead in Uncle Enzo, is pretty much in control of the place. He owns everything, including pizza delivery chain stores. You can tell the book you are reading is going to get kind of wild when you find out the main character in the beginning is a pizza delivery guy who carries samurai swords on his back and lives in a U-Stor-It (which is hilarious by the way) by LAX and also is a freelance hacker. The heroine is a fifteen year old smart ass girl who works as a skateboarding kourier. It really is an underdog story. The world described by Stephenson in this novel is kind of scary. It is like all the nations just blurred together, so there are random properties that represent certain nations like the Greater Hong Kong and even the Untied States is a heavily guarded section on the world. Nobody even really knows who the President is either. The mob had more power than he does.

The whole idea behind this book is that we have gotten so advanced in our technology that now our own brains can get viruses from the computers we use by showing us crazy amounts of code which in turn, crashes our systems, literally. Somehow they package this reaction as a drug and sell it on the market as Snow Crash. Since everyone in this world is either a programmer or a hacker, almost everyone is in danger of catching the virus. When the world spends more than half of their time living in this alternate metaverse (virtual reality), which is where they catch the virus, it becomes even more dangerous. This metaverse is something we kind of see in our world right now. All the people out there who are plugged in into these role playing games often enjoy that life way better than their real life. In the metaverse you can be whomever you want to be (with limitations of course). These ideas are scary because they are not the far off from where we are now. We are already plugged into our phones and computers half the time anyway, so why not set up a whole other life where we can escape to.

There was so much going on this book, it is hard to pinpoint anything in particular. A lot of it had to deal with ancient religions and language. L. Bob Rife, this crazy Priest guy is also in charge of things similar to Uncle Enzo. Rife is the bad guy and Enzo is the good. Crazy right? I guess to sum it up, if we ever get this advanced watch out for crazy religions that make you speak in tongues and do not take random programs from strangers in the metaverse. That is how you end up a lifeless vegetable in the real world. If you are in danger, just hope that a pizza delivery/master swordsman/freelance hacker will be there to save you, along with a wise cracking tough-as-nails skateboard kourier chick. And just one more thing, do not let random huge dudes with glass knives have the atomic bomb. It just makes things more complicated.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Babel-17 by Samuel Delaney was my second science fiction novel and I was looking forward to it because I enjoyed The Stars My Destination so much, but Babel-17 fell a bit short for me. Similar to Stars, Babel threw you right into the story without out giving much background at all, which is okay. I liked it in Stars so why not here. I knew that it would take a chapter or two to finally realize what was going on, I expected that, but I dont know if I ever really KNEW what was going on. Delaney is a good writer, but when it comes to letting you in on where you are in the story and what is going on, he fails. This was a very confusing read for me. I liked the main character, Rydra (which I started to call her Ryda because Rydra was awkward to say). She was smart, strong, fearless, and she was a poet. So she was a bit artsy. A little famous too. I like that she took it upon herself to figure out the mystery behind the language Babel-17. The fact that she went to a wrestling match to find a pilot was entertaining. Do they just walk around naked in this future though? I kept reading about them having to take their clothes off. Anyway, once the crew go involved I got really confused. Once more than a couple characters started coming into play because it was hard for me to distinguish who was who throughout most of the novel. I guess people get some really bizarre cosmetic surgery done in this world too. It was crazy trying to picture some of the characters. I would be interested in how they would be interpreted in a movie. The world Delaney was creating seemed very visual and interesting. I just wish I could picture it a little better. Maybe it was because I was so determined to understand what was going on. There were a few parts that I really enjoyed and they stuck out in my mind. I really liked the part where they visit with the Baron and Baroness. She was pretty entertaining. She was all about food and alcohol. She just wanted to have a good time. It was crazy because Rydra was telling them that something bad was about to happen but they all just kept on with the party and payed no attention. She was trying to prepare them and the Baroness just handed her a drink. I guess that could help calm the nerves. The scene where Rydra and Butcher start to connect was really deep and opened up a few more ideas for me to figure out what was going on. I figured out he spoke Babel-17 way before Rydra did though. It was pretty obvious in the novel. Especially when you compare what they knew about Babel-17 and the way Butcher talked. He didn't use words like I, me, you. That was a red flag. The whole novel was a bit fuzzy for me. Maybe it was because I read it pretty fast. I bet if I read it again it would make a lot more sense. Maybe Ill read Empire Star. I think that is the sequel or a spin off of some sort. Some writers I like really well, and some are acquired tastes. I think Delaney is going to be an acquired taste for me. I wont give up on him just yet. I wont give up on Sci Fi either.

The Stars My Destination

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester was my first science fiction novel. I never really read them in the past because I imagined them all being about Star Wars and robots. Don't get me wrong, I love Star Wars, but I don't think I would enjoy reading about it. I really like Sci-Fi movies. I have always been more of a fantasy reader. I was nervous going into this book, because I assumed I would not understand and it would just be a bunch of science space babel. I also though that it would be really outdated since it was written in the 1950's about the future. So, not a lot of positive thoughts going into this novel. But I gave it a shoot...

...and I loved it! It was one of those novels that just threw you into it without giving you a lot of backstory but I like that because it makes you think about the story on a deeper level. It took a while for me to understand what was going on, but that just made me want to read it more. I was VERY surprised that this novel is not dated at all. What Bester wrote about then about the future is still what we currently think of the future. It is timeless, and I am assuming that timeless is a hard quality to find in science fiction novels, especially ones written in the 50s and 60s.

I have a love/hate relationship with the main character, Gully Foyle. In the beginning he is very cave man like and his speech it straight forward, sometimes rude, and very raw. I picture him being this huge brute of a man. He scares me a bit in the beginning. As the story goes on, Foyle gets more and more civilized. He realized he wont be able to get his revenge if he cant blend in with the crowd who possesses the knowledge he needs for revenge. He is also a wanted man, so getting rid of his tattoos (kinda), changing his name (kinda) and refining himself really helped him get to where he needed to be. It was just odd to me that he would not try to blend it though. His new persona is very charismatic and out there. Everyone knows who he is and what he does. He's famous. I guess that helps him even more, because nobody would suspect this new Foyle to be a ugly brute who is violent and vulgar. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Bruce Wayne in Batman. Bruce Wayne is Gully Foyle's new refined, suave, high class persona and Batman is the real Gully Foyle; the Gully Foyle who is angry and seeks revenge. He is a vigilante I suppose. Towards the end though, when he gets closer and closer to seeking his revenge he realizes that there is no good in hiding who you are. You need to face your problems and your past head on or they will never go away. But face them with sense and smarts. Otherwise, you really wont solve anything.

All in all, very good read. I highly recommend everyone read it, even if you dont like sci-fi. I thought I wouldn't like it but it turns out I loved it. I would really like to read more by Alfred Bester and more sci-fi, now that I know its not all space ships and robots.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Equal Rites

I thought I would really enjoy this book since it is about witches and wizards and the magical world. Usually, those things are a guarantee for me. I love the Harry Potter books. That is kinda what I was expecting when I heard it was about a young girl going to wizard school. When I started reading it it dawned on me that this world is more complex than Harry Potters world and the writing is a little more advanced and deep. It took a while for me to really get into this book. When I say a while, I mean a while, probably like more than half way through. It took a long time for the story of Esk's journey to becoming a wizard to start. Not that her stay with Granny Weatherwax wasn't enjoyable. Maybe it was because I was expecting something else. I usually do not assume anything about novels. This time I assumed that it would like Harry Potter, with teenage kids going through wizard school and running into problems with good and evil. I learned my lesson not to make assumptions about novel I do not know a whole lot about. Since the story started out pretty slow, once the story did start, it felt like it was over in a flash. I felt like the most important parts of the story were condensed to the last quarter of the book. Right when the book was picking up pace and getting exciting, it just ended. The ending was very abrupt. I'm assuming that the story continues in the following discworld books so maybe Ill pick those up in the future to read. I really like the characters. Granny Weatherwax is funny and Esk is entertaining. I really like the world that Terry Prachett created for the reader, I just wish more happened and faster. If I did not know that this book was part of a series I would be feeling pretty robbed right about now, but since I know that it continues, I don't feel so robbed.

When I get a chance to read the other Discworld books, I am hoping that the books after go deeper into Esk becoming a wizard and I hope that there is more action. I am usually a big fan of anticipation in novels, but this book took it to extremes and it got frustrating. I may read the first two books as well, then re-read Equal Rites just to get back into it. I think I have forgotten a lot of what happened already, lol. I just could not get into it, but I am willing to give it a second chance. I promise.