(recommended by Kemper)
A guy called Snowman is playing caretaker and prophet to a strange new race of people he calls the Crakers in the ruins of civilization. As Snowman forages for supplies, his recollections make up the story of what caused a massive biological and ecological disaster that has apparently wiped all the old humans out except for him.
Snowman’s past takes place in our near future where he was once known as Jimmy in a society where genetic engineering was commonplace and the privileged lived in compounds owned and maintained by the corporations they worked for. Jimmy/Snowman’s memories of his brilliant friend Crake and the woman he loved, Oryx, haunt him even as he struggles to survive.
Fascinating book that seemed all too plausible in its depiction of a future state where brainless, nerveless chicken blobs with multiple breasts are created in a lab for chicken nuggets and animals are routinely crossbred. And all this set against a society where the only thing that matters is the bottom line so the idea of questioning the ethics or morality of what’s being done makes you a traitor.
This is a story that takes the idea of playing god to a whole new level. When you can create any kind of life you can imagine, where do limits come in? And if you think that human society is beyond saving, what kind of people would have the arrogance to think they can come up with something better?
(recommended by Becky at Escapism Through Books)
I thought that it was brilliant. I know that I have seen the movie long ago, and remember the big reveal at the end and Charlton yelling about damning everyone all to hell, but I don't remember much more than that. I'll have to watch the movie again.
I really loved the subtle cautionary tale running throughout the story. Maybe it's just my feminist liberal bleeding heart whispering to me, but I feel that Boulle just plain hated live-animal experiments and was determined to show people that the tables could be turned one day. Easily. But more than that, the book cautions us not to be complacent and lazy about our place in life and in the food chain and to keep striving and learning and bettering ourselves, but NOT at the cost of other life-forms. We're on top now, but only time will tell if we stay there.
And do we actually deserve to be? We, the "Lords of Creation," seem to think that we can do anything and everything we want to do. We're so filled with pride that we never think that OUR civilization could fall. Those kind of things are for history books, not real life. Yet we consume resources like they're going out of style, and pollute the earth like we have a spare, and just generally act like there's a "Reset" button somewhere that we can just press when we've reached the point of no return. Why shouldn't another species give running things a try? If they can do it better...
But that's the thing. They imitate us, so WOULD they do it better? At one point in the story, when Merou was being shown the experiments, I thought to myself, "They are proud of the fact that they are keeping the "animals" down... Taking any vestiges of humanity or rational thought away as soon as it is displayed in order to protect themselves. They are so fearful of the possibility of human uprising that they commit atrocities to prevent them." And then I thought to myself, "Oh, snap! So do we." We can justify anything. And so can Apes, who apparently learned from the best. In examining the Apes, we're looking at ourselves. Can we really pass judgment?
But, I was happy to see that the three "races" of Apes could cohabitate and cooperate in peace, which is more than we've accomplished so far. Our differences divide us, but the Apes recognize and relish their differences and use them well. But Apes still seem to rival Man in the fear department: the unknown is scary, so just destroy it and move on.
I do have to say that I was kind of annoyed with Merou's assumption that life forms in a far, far away galaxy would automatically be human to be intelligent. It just goes to show that our pride will be our downfall. But it reminded me of a quote from another science-fiction book that I enjoyed, Solaris by Stanislaw Lem:
"...We take off into the cosmos, ready for anything: for solitude, for hardship, for exhaustion, death. Modesty forbids us to say so, but there are times when we think pretty well of ourselves. And yet, if we examine it more closely, our enthusiasm turns out to be all sham. We don't want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos. For us, such and such a planet is as arid as the Sahara, another as frozen as the North Pole, yet another as lush as the Amazon basin. We are humanitarian and chivalrous; we don't want to enslave other races, we simply want to bequeath them our values and take over their heritage in exchange. We think of ourselves as the Knights of the Holy Contact. This is another lie. We are only seeking Man. We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. We don't know what to do with other worlds. [...:] We arrive here as we are in reality, and when the page is turned and that reality is revealed to us--that part of our reality which we would prefer to pass over in silence--then we don't like it anymore."
Oh, it's so apt. We inherently assume that anyone of any worth or intelligence will be just like us. Even the "Little Green Men" type aliens that pop up in the Weekly World News magazines are still modeled after humans, and hell, they are nicknamed "men"! I just hope that one day we'll be able to see the bigger picture.
(recommended by Michael at Literary Exploration)
Yevgeny Zamyatin wrote his seminal dystopian novel We (1921) based on his personal experiences during the two Russian revolutions (1905 and 1917) and the first World War. The book ended influencing dystopian authors like Aldous Huxley and George Orwell. This book not only influenced the dystopian genre but could also be the influence towards the post-apocalyptic genre as this was set in a world where all was wiped out but “0.2% of the earth's population”. The book is set in ‘One State’ which has been organised to be a workers' paradise; everything has to work like clockwork and everything is based on logic and mathematics. This society is heavily surveillanced, has martial law and is heavily censored; a totalitarian world.
The protagonist, D-503, is an engineer who begins writing a journal (much like in 1984) to document Integral, the spaceship being built to invade other planets. D-503 is under constant surveillance by the Bureau of Guardians (the secret police) as is everyone else. He is assigned a lover O-90, but ends up having an uncontrollable attraction to I-330. This leads to nightmares and furthermore into what could be considered a mental illness. I-330 reveals to D-503 a world that was previously unknown to him. Will he hang onto hope or will reason get the better of him?
We was an impressive novel; not only with the themes that it explores but also with the technology and the simple fact that it was years and years ahead of its time. While some say We was released in 1920 and others 1921, there is no denying that, because of the subject matter, this was an impressive piece of literature. If it wasn’t for this book we may never of been able to enjoy Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) or even Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano (1952). By today’s standards this book would be overlooked but something innovative and so complex to be written so long ago makes this worth a read.
(recommendation by Jeffrey Keeten)
Our hero is Benedikt and he is living in a post-apocalyptic world where rabbits are toxic, food in general is scarce, and nearly everyone is exhibiting Consequences as a result of THE BLAST event that happened 200 years ago. Benedikt transcribes old books, written before the THE BLAST, and they are presented to the world as the writings of their leader Fyodor Kuzmich, Glorybe. The scribes begin to question that the writing style of their dear leader changes so much from book to book, but it is best not to have any association with Freethinking.
Anytime you feel different than you should you must be careful. "When you growl through your teeth, grumble and grouse--the anger feels good, it kind of rolls around all prickly warm inside you. You wanna show off your strength. Kick a fence. Or a dog if you meet one. Or smack one of the guys around. Whatever. There are all kinds of things you can do. But sometimes you don't feel like getting mad. It's like there's a sadness inside. Like you feel sorry for someone. Must be feelosophy.
Bureaucrats control every faze of their existence. These are for the most part self appointed people who have taken over collecting taxes, rationing of script, and managing the distribution of goods. Most are corrupt and cut a fat hog while the rest of the population is near starvation. The main source of protein and bartering power comes from one little critter that most of us don't even want to contemplate adding to our diet, and certainly it makes me shiver to think of my survival depending on my ability to build a better mouse trap.
Trade is determined by how many mice something is worth. Benedikt carries them around in braces under his jacket to barter them for more variety in his food diet. When he goes to see the widow Marfushka he must have enough mice for the legs to part.
"Benedikt went to see the widow woman Marfushka about the woman business: maybe once or twice a week, but he'd always go to see Marfushka. You couldn't exactly say she was pretty. In fact, her whole face was sort of crooked, like someone hit her with a battle ax. And one eye wandered. Her figure wasn't all that great either. She was shaped like a turnip. But she didn't have any Consequences. She was rounded out where she out to be and caved in where she out to be. After all, he didn't visit her to look at her, but to take care of the woman business. If looking's what you want--well, you can go out on the street and look until your eyes pop out."
Benedikt's life takes an abrupt turn when he decides in a moment of starry eyed lust to ask the beautiful Olenka to marry him. Her family is wealthy and part of his new father-in-law's job is to track down old books. It is illegal to own books printed before the blast and even though most of the population has been made afraid of being in the same room as a "toxic" book from the past there are still people brave enough to squirrel books away in old wells or hidden in walls. It is a life changing moment for Benedikt when he finds that his father-in-law has a room full of books, and once Benedikt gets over his inherent superstitions, and begins to read, he is absolutely lost to the world of books. He inhales them. He spends so much time reading that his wife complains that he isn't paying attention to her anymore. He begins helping his father-in-law to find more books. He becomes an insane (more than just gently mad) bibliophile. He becomes desperate when he realizes that he has...READ THEM ALL.
His father-in-law, a few cards short of a full deck, dangles the prospect of liberating the books held by Fyodor Kuzmich, Glorybe and what ensues is not only hilarious, but a wonderfully constructed piece of social commentary.
The world after the blast has slid backwards. Food is an issue. There is never enough of it and too much of what used to be a staple of the Russian table has proven to still be toxic from the blast. Half-human, four-legged Degenenerator's are used to pull sleighs, and the sarcastic word exchanges between one in particular and Benedikt elicited more than one snicker from me. The book receives high marks for originality, humor, and "feelosophy". "Don't you shake your beard at meeee! I with utmost confidence HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (book vs movie)
(Originally posted by Michael at Knowledge Lost)
Normally I would stand by a simple truth; “The book is always better than the movie” but that is not always true. In the case of The Hunger Games, I’m not going to say the book is better than the movie. I think they were both great but I can’t pick one over the other. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you would have heard of this book and the movie adaptation but just in case you haven’t, let me quickly sum it up. The Hunger Games is the story of a 16 year old girl that takes the place of her younger sister to compete in the annual televised event ‘The Hunger Games’. This is an event where a young boy and girl are called up randomly to participate in a fight to the death for survival for the entertainment of the rich and powerful.
Katniss is a strong character, with all the normal awkwardness you would expect from a teenager; having to deal with love, death and loneliness in this dystopian world that she lives in. But in the book it tends to focus a little too much on the cutesy teenage girl aspect and less on the darkness of her situation. The movie does have this same element but a lot of this has been cut down to make room for the main plot line. When it comes to the violence, the book seems more violent and the movie felt a little anti climatic at the end. Also I’ve found in the movie the tributes were very two dimensional and very annoying but when reading the book I didn’t notice this at all. Capital’s fashion was terrible in the movie and I was glad I didn’t have to be subjected to seeing it while reading the book. In the end, the movie slightly departs from the book but it really sets up the next movie (If it gets made) really well.
While I’m talking about this movie, I want to know what was with all the racism with the twelve year old from Division 11? In the book it mentions she had dark skin but people seemed so shocked when in the movie she turned out to be an African American. It shouldn’t matter what colour her skin was all that should matter is that Amandla Stenberg played the role perfectly.
The faults I had with the movie balanced out my problems with the book. I don’t think I can pick one over the other. I’m interested in seeing how the series plays out as a movie adaptation but at the same time I don’t have much of an interest to continue the series. I think as a stand-alone book, it’s fantastic; but if I try to predict the rest of the series and all I can see are love-triangles, fighting authority and a lot more romance. If this isn’t the case, I might read the other books; but at the moment I just think it works better as a single story. Problem is, if they are making the movies I feel inclined to read the book before seeing the movie.