Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

For readers, there is no mercy.

Philip K. Dick doesn’t tolerate ineptitude in his readers. As I started his book (per Adam’s recommendation) I felt like Neo from The Matrix, except instead of taking the blue OR the red pill, I had somehow consumed both, with no antidote.

Dick’s writing proved to be the elixir. Mood machines, kipple, the enviable possession of live animals, radio religion, and the post apocalyptic world of human and android existence propels readers—or rather immerses them—in a deep analysis of the philosophical quandaries of envy, love, materialism, and solitude. The values are recognizable, but the setting demands attention. Planet Mars, anyone?

The novel is technically one day in the life of Rick Deckard, android slayer. He’s meeting his capture quota until, halfway through the book; Dick hurls the reader down a different rabbit hole, rearranging the motives between the antagonists and redirecting the storyline.

Even before this point, I couldn’t stop reading.

The efficiency of Dick’s writing evokes an interpretive response from who love to dissect the significant details of the insignificant moments in life. What really separates an android from a human? Are we only as special as the possessions that we covet? Who do we trust when our world rearranges itself? 

The answers are not here. And if they are, I haven’t decoded them yet. The ending of the book is as brilliantly, manipulatively crafted as the middle, beckoning readers to re-read, re-analyze, and re-discover this imaginative world of electric sheep.  

Review by Tina Panik, guest blogger

Chech out some other books by Philip K. Dick:

Or watch some movies inspired by his writting:

The Adjustment Bureau (in theaters March 2011) 

Search the library's catalog and place them on hold today

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Charles Stross' "Wireless"

With a string of recent Hugo novel nominations:
Saturn's Children (2009)
Halting State (2008)
Glasshouse (2007)  
And, novella wins 2005 for "The Concrete Jungle" and 2010 for "Palimpsest"
British born sci-fi author Charles Stross would seem to be on a roll.  

Therefore, it was with great anticipation that I picked up a copy of
his latest, "Wireless."  Wireless is a collection of short stories, including
two novellas:  Missle Gap and Palimpsest.  In his introduction Stross
says that he prefers short stories because, "I get to play with new ideas
in a way I can't imagine at novel length."    

"Ideas" is the key word here.  Stross does not let us down because
"Wireless" is full of ideas, like: 
What if the Internet didn't develop as a free resource?  ("Unwirer")
Wouldn't the human race be better off if we were part of ensemble intelligences.  ("Missle Gap".)
What if, as a result of global warming, the West Antarctic ice shelf collapsed
plunging the British Isles into a sub-artic deep freeze and the only way
to save England was to make a deal with the Devil?  ("Snowball's Chance")     

My personal favorite of the selection is "Missle Gap."  The way Stross crosses
plot paths back and forth between two sets of humans, and some non-human beings,
kept me entertained from beginning to end.  Enjoy.

FYI>  Not all of the stories in "Wireless" are sci-fi.   For example, "Down on the Farm"
         is a spy story.  But, who cares?  It's entertaining and provides Stross
         with another idea vehicle.

Tom Smith, MLS
Sci Fi Collections and Reference Librarian
New Haven Free Public Library     

Also check out Tom's interpretation of the classic film 'Solaris

Comments and feedback are encouraged!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Star Wars Fatal Alliance

Star Wars The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance” by Sean Williams is a must read for fans of the Star Wars franchise. It contains all the necessary ingredients of a great Star Wars novel: a Hutt crime lord, an evil Sith Lord and his apprentice, an insecure Jedi Padawan, and a mysterious Mandalorian.

In this novel, a Hutt crime syndicate comes into possession of a wrecked starship that contains a mysterious cargo. The Hutts attempt to auction the secret contents of the ship to the highest bidder. The Sith Empire and the Republic send representatives to negotiate for the Ship.

Tensions rise as the true value of the wrecked starship is revealed; its contents could influence the ongoing war between the Sith and the Republic. Both sides resort to clandestine attempts to steal the starship from a high-security vault. Nothing is as it seems in this tale from the Old Republic Era.

If you’re a fan of the Star Wars saga or if you’re looking for a quick read, click here to place it on hold now.

Check out Sean William’s other novels below:

Star Wars The Force Unleashed

Force Heretic 1: Remnant
Force Heretic 2: Refugee
Force Heretic 3: Reunion

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The God Engines

Initially I hesitated to read “The God Engines” by John Scalzi because I had read and enjoyed “The Ghost Brigades”, but I didn’t enjoy “Zoe’s Tale”. However, once I cracked open this book I realized I was going to be late for work. “The God Engines” is a short novella that is impossible to put down.

This imaginative SciFi-fantasy mixture tells the tale of Captain Ean Tephe and the crew of the Righteous, a ship powered by an enslaved god. Tephe and the crew are tasked to travel to a distant planet with the intent to convert the local population into worshipers of Captain Tephe’s god. Something about the mission is amiss from the very beginning. Tephe’s superiors in the Bishopry Militant give far too few details, something that Tephe accepts out of faith and duty. Throughout the story Captain Tephe attempts to piece together the true nature of his mission. Unfortunately the mission turns extraordinarily horrible and Tephe’s faith is shaken to its core.

The God Engines” is powerfully dark and definitely worth reading.

Here are links to Scalzi’s other books in our catalogue:

Old Man’s War
The Android’s Dream

If you've read any of Scalzi's work leave a comment below. If not, stop into the Avon Library and check them out.