|The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells
Narrated by Greg Wagland
Dark Eden demonstrates the irony that change is needed to survive, but change is destructive to survival. It’s not just a book about changing the world. It’s also about how the world changes the individual. The main characters in the book, especially John Redlantern and his lover Tina Spiketree, develop into strikingly different people as they adapt to the changing world. Innocence is replaced with deviousness. Ivory towers collapse, covering all bystanders with dust and grime. This is a story of identity.
I want to give a good review for this book with so much Meaning. I mean, it should have been good. It had Meaning. But a great book has both Meaning and an ability to fascinate even if you don’t see the Meaning. Dark Eden did not. In Dark Eden, the story was lost in the darkness because you were blinded by the bright, shiny Meaning. It was too slow, the hero wasn’t even likable if you considered him an anti-hero, and it was thoroughly uncaptivating. I totally understand why it won the Arthur C Clark award and why it comes so highly recommended. Beckett’s world was unique – colorful and dark at the same time. The setting was unsettling and realistic within the boundaries of science fiction. The lingual drift was a nice, realistic touch. But most of all, the book was slow and Meaningful.
|3.5 snowflakes for unique world building and Meaning|
As an afterthought – I would like to post this Twitter conversation:
Her stories were incredibly creative. They covered important issues like race, slavery, sexuality, and identity, all in the guise of alien occupation or dystopic disease and other dark fantasy themes. Her prose was smooth and eloquent.
The most interesting of the stories was her novella Bloodchild, which is about a child that is about to be “sexually” adopted by some alien worm-thing. The story encompassed the feelings of the boy, his mother, and the alien – providing some very startling insight.
After each story, Butler included a short essay of what she intended the story to mean or background in her life when the story was written. These brought further understanding to the story, though I was a little skeptical when she insisted that she hadn’t intended Bloodchild to be about slavery. But, I guess, sometimes meanings creep in there unintended. And there’s also something to say for the readers’ interpretation regardless of intended meaning. To me, slavery was one of the many underlying themes of the story.
At the end of the book, Butler included a couple of essays about what it was like being an African American science fiction author, and encouraged young people to follow their dreams and become authors. Finally, there were a couple of never-before-published stories.
This little book is well worth your time if you are interested in deeper cultural issues of race, slavery, and sexuality – possibly even if you are not specifically interested in science fiction and fantasy.
|For pure brilliance|
Octavia E. Butler was born in 1947 into an impoverished African American community to a 14-year-old girl. Despite struggling with dyslexia, she had a passion for reading and writing ever since she was very young. As a teenager, she started attempting to publish her stories, despite the extreme difficulty for African Americans publishing science fiction / fantasy. At the time she was one of only a couple African American sci-fi writers. Despite being taken advantage of by money-hungry agents, she finally published Patternmaster in 1976. This book was praised for its powerful prose, and she ended up writing four prequels. She finally became mainstream upon publication of Kindred in 1979. Butler died outside of her home in 2006.
The Many-Colored Land, by Julian May
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy Mesh (Adult)
Reason for reading: I read this book a long time ago and always intended on picking up the rest of the series. This year, I convinced my real-life book club to read it. So hopefully I’ll get to the rest of the series soon!
Synopsis: In the near future, an alien federation called the Galactic Milieu has intervened on Earth, and welcomed humans into the its fold. For most of humanity, the Milieu is a blessing. Long life, health, an ethical law system, the adventure of space travel – these are the perks that humans enjoy. But some feel confined by the rules of the Milieu and yearn for a simpler life. And some are too sociopathic to be accepted in the Milieu’s society. These people can go into Exile – they are sent back in time to the Earth’s Pliocene epoch. The Many-Colored Land follows the story of one group of exiles as they discover what lies on the other end of the time-portal. Life isn’t as simple as they expect, and they are soon swept up in a world of war and conspiracy.
My thoughts: I must have read a lot more hard-core science fiction when I was a teenager, because I don’t remember this book being as heavy as it felt this time around. All the descriptions of futuristic technologies / cultures slowed me down because I don’t read enough science fiction to be used to the terminology. It may have been slow reading for me, but I felt refreshed by the newness of the plot. This is a very complex book, with many layers of hidden foundation. Superficially, I think the characters could have used a little more development – but I’m sure they grow throughout the series. This first book in the Pliocene quartet was mainly world-building. We were introduced to the alien cultures – both the good and the bad aspects. We got a hefty background on the Pliocene epoch. And we got some hints of how these events in the Pliocene might have impacted humanity’s development millions of years later. It’s a fascinating set-up, and I’m eager to see how the rest of the series plays out. I’ve heard so many good things about it.
2012 Book 131: A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (9/8/2012)
Reason for Reading: Coursera Science Fiction and Fantasy course. 🙂
In the post-Civil War era, John Carter enters an Arizona cave and is unexpectedly whisked away to Mars. There, he witnesses the depravity of a “highly developed” race of people who, because medicine helps them to live long lives, they perform population control by warring with each other. In some ways, though, they’re happier than people on Earth, because they have no lawyers. John Carter takes Mars (and a Princess’s heart) by storm. I’m not a huge fan of pulp fiction, so I expected very little out of this book. Because of that, I was impressed at how “not bad” it was. Actually, it was sort of interesting in a history-of-science-fiction sort of way. It did have some rather racist comments about Native Americans (an artifact of when it was written), and the Princess was a weak annoying little thing whose only virtues were rare beauty and a penchant for getting into trouble so that we could witness the excitement of her rescue (this is an artifact of being pulp). Overall, not too shabby. But not literature, either. I DID wonder whether John Carter was meant to be some sort of pulpy Christ figure. He was very good at saving people. And he had the right initials. 😉
2012 Book 18: Calculating God, by Robert J. Sawyer (1/29/2012)
An alien lands in Toronto with hopes of studying the ROM’s fossil collection; meanwhile she provides “scientific evidence” for the existence of God. This book had a good idea with poor execution. Sawyer completely ignored the “show-don’t-tell” rule of novel-writing. The book is a clod of sci-religious dialog decorated with a thin veneer of plot. The scientific evidence consisted of debates about: 1)What are the odds? and 2) Where did altruistic behavior come from? Neither argument is fresh, but it’s interesting to have it all thrown into the mouth of an alien (who is also using facts that only the fictional aliens know to support her pro-God arguments). The second argument falls flat since cooperative behavior (i.e. “altruism” as Sawyer was defining it) has evolved in more than just humans. Also, Sawyer adds a short punt about abortion. Although I completely agree with his point of view, I don’t read novels to get a lecture on these views. SHOW-don’t-tell!!!! On the other hand, this book won the Audie award, which means it had a fantastic performance—which I enjoyed on a long car trip I just took. That made the book worth it for me. 3/5 stars