Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K Dick

What are you up to?

Reading a Dick novel.

A what!

"Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said"

Dude, is this your coming out?

my what!!

^True story.Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said.png

In a highly reductionist view, this novel is Borne Identity on drugs and in reverse, with Dick’s own domestic Jason.

Jason Taverner is a ‘six’, a genetically superior elite human, both in looks and skills. He is wealthy, extremely successful as a TV musical personality and well popular among ladies. Though written a bit insolent with narcissist tendencies, Taverner is a reasonably decent man, maybe as much as Bester’s Foyle. After being attacked by a parasitic life form, Jason finds himself in a warped reality where every evidence of his existence has been erased, from minds of people and public archives.

The plot that follows is very surreal and dream like, there are no constants or focal points as far as the narrative is concerned. Its like being in a half lucid dream, where you are conscious about things you need to do, but are paralyzed to do so. Story’s varying premises with broken shards of reality don’t entail any rational conclusion as well. The dystopian society is more or less an NPC filled open world where neither the writer nor the protagonist is interested in fleshing out any of the characters, or the central narrative. And if you are someone who insists on stories making logical sense or involving conclusive tropes, this might be a bit off putting, even with the expected messiness of a PKD novel.

Speaking of Dicksian weirdness, the usual suspects were there in open – authoritarian state, radicalized students, genetic superiority, patronizing men, futuristic society, pornography, mind altering drugs, yadda yadda yadda. There was this one specific aspect of the Welfare/Authoritarian state that disturbed me. Going from a well known celebrity to nobody, our protagonist finds it almost impossible to do the very basic things like traveling, eating, shopping etc without being picked by police for his lack of identity. And I found his struggles through the underground economy to avoid labour camp prophetic towards current refugee crisis and rising nationalistic sentiments. Another disturbing element was the random act of kindness by the end of the book, like some sort of apology against novel’s racial selectivity. It is nagging me more than novel’s incongruous epilogue since that unprecedented ‘act’ forms most of book’s title.

[Spoilers in below para]

Well, later contemplations frustrated me even more. The alien creature Taverner got attacked with, at the start of the novel, the one incident that triggered the warped realities in first place was neglected into oblivion ever since, with zero revisit even by epilogue. Maybe the attack was the hidden twist, a ‘bardo’ between the incident reality and the one in which Taverner finds himself lost. And a ‘Jacob‘s Ladder’ reading was intended of novel’s open interpretation. It will actually elucidate the rationale behind story’s lack cursory or even deus ex machina explanation for Taverner’s survival, if one considers the madness that followed as an uncollapsed limbo. 

Whatever the case is, ratiocination wasn’t Dick’s primary objective here and it is better to sit back and enjoy the book on its own illogical terms. I am more inclined to parody it as the Android cried me a river though.

These words from early pages of the book perfectly summarizes my feelings, towards this book and PKD in general.

“The terrible power, he thought, of illogic. Of the archetypes. Operating out of the dear depths of the collective unconscious which joined him and her- and everyone else – together.”

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All Systems Red by Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries #1)

32758901.jpgDo Androids dream of electric sheep? Our half droid here sure loves TV series.

Gurathin hesitated. “It’s downloaded seven hundred hours of entertainment programming since we landed. Mostly serials. Mostly something called Sanctuary Moon.” He shook his head, dismissing it. “It’s probably using it to encode data for the company. It can’t be watching it, not in that volume; we’d notice.”

I snorted. He underestimated me.

Martha Wells ‘The Murderbot Diaries’ can be compared with Nnedi Okorafor‘s ‘Binti‘ in narrative style: first person accord through a marginalized character, in a serialized story, structured through novellas. I didn’t go well with ‘Binti’, but, ‘All Systems Red’ hit all the right spots. It was refreshingly short, minimal in execution, well fleshed and lively, despite its premise where, literally, all systems were red.

Protagonist is a security bot -half android and half human, like a cyborg, and from the story it can be inferred that this futuristic society has co existence of humans, bots and special purpose half bots. Interestingly and also a bit disturbingly, the murderbot is never assigned a gender or a name, and is almost treated as a property by the expedition team than an individual, thanks to the universal SecUnit armour that covers everything organic and metallic. Author doesn’t treat this as an existential problem, as the Murderbot itself is content with strict work interactions.

“SecUnit, do you have a name?”

I wasn’t sure what she wanted. “No.”

“It calls itself ‘Murderbot,’” Gurathin said.

I opened my eyes and looked at him; I couldn’t stop myself. From their expressions I knew everything I felt was showing on my face, and I hate that. I grated out, “That was private.”

The silence was longer this time.

As I progressed further in the story, I started to identify myself with the Meursault like SecUnit than its human companions. Its shy, prefers face and expressions hidden under visor, and escapes loneliness by watching television series. Murderbots have a governing module as per job purpose, and their decision making is strictly through game theory probabilities, but the organic parts make it constantly self aware during the process. Even now I am feeling a little discomfort in addressing Murderbot as Murderbot or it; turns out Shakespeare was wrong, there is a lot in a name.

Format of the story is reminiscent of classic tropes, where a bunch of diverse individuals have to make their way out of trouble through smartness and wit. Basically it is a science fiction adventure with some hard sci-fi and cyberpunk elements, like descriptions of expedition and alien environment, corporate contract control, elements of Westworld and Culture like the bio boasts etc. But, the perspective of narrative is worth mentioning, like the title suggests, reader is taken through the com logs and thoughts of Muderbot, which gives the whole thing a coming of age feel; and it is infact weird and amusing to discover oneself through the eyes of a ‘lower species’ like android/cyborg/synthezoid. It also subtly questions morality, existence, trust and friendship over human reluctance to escape from conventions of contemporary society.

I was more or less constantly reminded of Halo and Master Chief during the read. Anyway, this book is a prime example of how fun and uplifting reading could be, and I am more than eager to enter the next installment.

 

The Vision, Volume 1&2 by Tom King

Picture2.pngThis comic has a laughable formula, and in first look is a quixotic attempt to sell the family life of an Avenger. Yes, Hawkeye worked, but here the variables are entirely different. Vision is a synthezoid, and probably everyone’s least favourite.

King’s take on Vision reminded me of Gaiman’s Black Orchid run, reinventing a not so mainstream character, by embracing the original handicaps with fresh perspectives. I read a little deep into fan letters and found these words of King himself, “For me, Vision is the chance to explore the alienation that sometimes attract people to comics, the tension that comes from not being normal in a society that demands normality“. This summarizes the series so perfectly, comic is still a misfits medium, despite the cameo popularity during major movie releases. Vision maybe an Avenger, who has saved the world multiple times; but he is always an outsider to societal standards, and is forced to make do with that.

20848449._SX540_Vision felt less Marvel and more Vertigo or Image in execution. Virginia’s mental struggle to balance morality and motherhood, Viv and Vin’s longing for acceptance in normalcy and image of Vision torn between his identity, loyalty and family are going to stay with me for a long while.

The story had a running monologue in flashback, though the panels moved in real time. This monologue in initial issues were illustrated in ‘purple’ boxes with creativity and affection. Towards the final issues the independence represented by ‘purple’ colour gave way to aggressiveness of ‘red’. This synesthetic approach managed to maintain a whole universe with its intricacies in background, which could have easily overshadowed the former narrative. I adored the pace, and cross tie in elements and throw backs. Though introduced via Agatha’s prophecy the disturbing <i>Wanda</i> story line from golden ages formed a strong physiological backing here, and it was devastatingly beautiful.

To conclude things with brevity, King’s miniseries is more than just paranoid people making androids paranoid. It is Vision’s Planet Hulk.Picture1.png

The first words the synthezoid ever heard were the words of his father.

“Welcome to the world of the living”, Ultron said. “You will never know, but a half-life.” His father continued: “I am Ultron 5–, but you shall call me Master”

“Yes Master”, the synthezoid replied. “Why have you called me to life?”

“Not to ask such human like questions, Android!”, Ultron answered.

The synthezoid crossed his arms. “I somehow sense you speak the truth Master, Yet I am consumed with curiosity.”

“Such emotions are for humans fool”, Ultron said. “You and I were born for better things!” Ultron then explained: The synthezoid had the ability to control its own body mass. He could become light enough to float on air itself or walk through impenetrable steel walls. Or he might become massively strong and at the same time unbelievably heavy.

When Ultron had finished, Vision said: “You have told me only what powers I possess, not what I want to know. Who am I, what name is mine?”

“No name, Clown”, Ultron said. “What need has an inhuman slave of a name, even a number? I gave you a mind so that you can obey me, not dispute me.”

The synthezoid objected. “Then, the mind is of no use if it cannot question.”

“Think what you like, Android,” Ultron said. “But you shall perform the mission for which you were created.”
“You must kill the Avengers.”

 

Origin by Robert Langdon

Well, I won’t lie. I had fun. Origin-Dan-Brown-Pdf.jpgDan Brown novels are like Michael Bay movies, both were once cool and are now timeworn by overstaying the welcome. Well, if you are content with what to expect, both could still be solid no brainier entertainments. But this one surprised me, by being bad. I was more curious about whether everything in this book will remain in Spain or move to Catalonia by the time I finished it, than the promised big secret. ‘Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition’, right?

For the fifth time in a row, existence of the world is threatened by a ‘secret’; unraveling of which, requires a complicated scheme of identifying patterns and solving codes hidden in modern art and literature by nefarious cults over centuries. And again for the fifth time in a row, it is up to Harward symbologist Prof. Robert Langdon to solve this mystery alongside his brand new disposable female Boswell, while being chased by Police, though cooperating with them is a perfectly logical option. I was all in for this formula, but Brown decided to up the game by giving Langdon a personal Jarvis and his own version of conspiracy reddit filled with cancer inducing hash tags. And if you, like me, are expecting some continuation or even mention of the Childhoods End scenario, Inferno had left us in, prepare to be disappointed; it gets zero mention at all. The trans-formative discovery at the end of the book, which is the primary incentive for readers, was doomed to be a presentation on thermodynamics and diffusion physics from the very start, despite the over dramatic built up of an Apple event. I was left all the more infuriated by Brown comparing his big secret with Copernicus’s heliocentrism, Darwin’s evolution and Einstein’s relativity, while all he did was to pretend like he just invented the genre of cyberpunk.

3.danbrownI might have grown too old to enjoy this, but more importantly, I think Dan Brown has grown older. You know it’s too far fetching when Langdon has to deduce corporate logos such as Uber, to show his specialty of ‘romance in short notice.’ Dan Brown repeatedly asserts Langdon’s female companion as a woman of her own, and then goes ahead to prove her otherwise. He was trying too hard to be cool, by hook or crook, from Asimov, Clarke, Blake to Star Wars and Fermi Paradox and Ted Talks and Neil deGrasse Tyson. And there were product placements, I don’t know whether that is a thing for books, but, CNN, Uber, Tesla, Apple and FedEx do seem to have their hand in sponsorship. Below is a cringy example

“In reality, Edmond loved attention, and admitted to keeping his plane at Sabadell only to have an excuse to drive the winding roads to his home in his favorite sports car—a Tesla Model X P90D that Elon Musk had allegedly hand-delivered to him as a gift. Supposedly, Edmond had once challenged his jet pilots to a one-mile drag race on the runway—Gulfstream vs. Tesla—but his pilots had done the math and declined.”

Usually data dumping and random facts in Dan Brown novels concatenate to some extent, here they weren’t conclusive at all, even If one ignore the significance. Also most of the things that he explains as cutting edge technology like bone conducting headphones, dark web, advancements in AI were already too main stream to incite any awe; and he seemed to have saturated the conspiracy resources from the past as well. Also the world is more liberal to have been shattered by the prospectus of religion or death of it.

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Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao; The Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Despite everything, this book had me hooked. I finished it in a day, and there isn’t a single book that can boast that in recent times. I was fascinated by the introduction to arts and architecture like Guggenheim Museum, Sagrada Familia and other works of Gaudí. The book had its redeeming elements, the edginess that might have been appealing to your teenage self openly and your old self as guilty pleasure. Atheism and Christian imagery, Historic figures and mysterious cults, Langdon figuring out codes that no one else can and feeling embarrassed that it had taken him so long, Artemis Fowl-ish know-it-all-do-it-all technocrats, over dramatic introductions, pompous arts and academics, edgy philosophy, extreme displays of royalty, loyalty and fanaticism, factoids and verbatims, matter of single digit minutes spanning over chapters in double digits, forgettable ladies etc. And above all, Robert Langdon surviving a fall. There were many serious deviations from Dan Brown’s usual structure as well. Langon came out more as a gunter researching on Halliday than the eminent scholar of ancient history he is renowned for. Also whole episode happens in Spain, or what is now Spain, rather than the Universal or Eurasian aspect of previous installments. Who knows, maybe he is counting on the Catalan referendum.

Origin is the least entertaining work by Dan Brown in my opinion, at least among Robert Langdon series. Nevertheless, if you are up for a no brainier, fast paced, conspiracy filled read, this book has you covered. There is enough to make you feel like an armchair conspiracy theorist, though it may not be the best use of your time.

Langdon watched the phone plummet down and splash into the dark waters of the Nervión River. As it disappeared beneath the surface, he felt a pang of loss, staring back after it as the boat raced on.

Robert,” Ambra whispered, “just remember the wise words of Disney’s Princess Elsa.

Langdon turned. “I’m sorry?”

Ambra smiled softly. “Let it go.”

I have decided to follow the wise words of Disney Princess Elsa and let it go, at least till the next book. 🙂

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

The hype in ‘Hype’rion is real. This book is awesome.

Picture1.pngEntering this story was like entering a chat room full of veterans, as a total noob. There were no expositions, no introductions, no explanations on the world order  for a highly allegorical story filled with passing references to things unknown. Yet, by the end of the book, I found myself transformed from “What is a Shrike?” to “What the Shrike!

The background is set in a distant future where humanity has spread across the galaxy under a decadent society aptly named as Hegemony of Man. Hegemony often finds itself in conflict with the original inhabitants and ‘intergalactic Ronins’ called Ousters, in their coercive efforts for incorporating every planet to their farcasted WorldWeb. Almost all of mankind’s technologies are controlled by an agglomeration of AIs known as TechnoCore, which also predicts future by extrapolating events from past and present, like Psychohistory in Foundation. The Ousters and Technocore, for half explained reasons, are obsessed with strange structures called Time Tombs in the distant planet of Hyperion. Time Tombs are surrounded by an anti-entropy field and are said to be under the protection of a legendary time traveling creature called Shrike. Seven selected individuals are sent on a pilgrimage to time tombs by TechnoCore for aiding Hegemony in imminent war for annexation of Hyperion to WorldWeb. If I may do a frail comparison with The Expanse, Hegemony is UN, Ousters are OPA, Pilgrims are crew of Rocinante and Shrike is the protomolecule in a macro scale.

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The Romanticist(John Keats) and the romancer(Dan Simmons)

Hyperion is also the name of an abandoned epic poem by 19th century Romaticist John Keats, and this novel draws huge parallelism with Keats‘ life and works. Along with that, the novel also expects readers to be familiar with Norse terminology, Biblical stories and many other things that I had no first-hand knowledge of. And further, the narrative treats readers like they are already familiar with the surroundings as much as any other Pilgrim is. But a well-conceived story line with fine prose, fascinating characters with well-developed stakes make the reading highly enjoyable even without any of above predispositions. Also I found the multiple pov unraveling of the universe more enjoyable than the usual biased view through the perception of a single character.

‘In Medias res’ is the literary practice of opening narrative amidst action; it enables the author to bypass superfluous expositions through variegated time lines and dialogues. Most of Hyperion’s story or story telling happens in a physical space by that name, where Simmons takes us through the intricate details of universe through character flashbacks. Rather fitting, I would say. Each Pilgrim story can be considered as a standalone book, and this seemingly fix-up structure with inside epistolary stories feels somehow supple even with main narrative’s expansive nature. Usual tendency among interconnected stories is to weave characters and events with each other through different vantage points; but here the stories more like separate novellas sharing same universe as those of Culture or Revelation Space. In a weird way, whole exercise reminded me of LOST.

Simmons has been offering theological, historical and literature allegories throughout the stories; often provoking our thought in its powerful narrative. Hyperion, Time Tombs and Shrike are a mystery for every faction in the universe to which everyone is somehow connected. Whole pilgrimage and Hyperion seemed to me like an allegory for purgatory and redemption. Each character has got his/her personal interpretation of Shrike and their own personal artefacts; like God being a different concept for each individual and faith being as personal as it can get.

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the Shrike Pilgrims

In Priest’s tale, Fr. Dure was modelled after historical figure of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the celebrated Jesuit palaeontologist who was exiled by Church for allegedly fabricating archaeological evidences of Piltdown Men. Bikura tribe, Tesla Tree and Cruciform were direct allegories towards the philosophy of afterlife and resurrection in Christian theology. I found it amazing and terrifying at the same time, along with story’s subtle critique on blind beliefs. Kassad’s space opera was spoiler filled and a bit timey-wimey like that of the Doctor and River Song, and was perhaps the weirdest among this weird lot. Third story involving the Poet Martin Silenus felt like a loose adaptation of Keats life, which could be tagged as paraphrased slash fiction. Sol and the ‘curious case of his daughter’ Rachel was the most compelling and emotional story for me. For Sol, Hyperion was the Moria Mountain for his personal binding of Isaac. Brawne Lamia’s (Lamia is the name of a poem by Keats) hard boiled cyberpunk detective story had the central plot of Altered Carbon up its sleeve as far as I was concerned. By the final story involving Consol and consequences of time debt in Interstellar travel; the universe has been wrapped up pretty nicely, though an excessive usage of Planet of Hats trope was hard to be ignored.

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confronting Shrike

After planet fall their ship Yggdrasil(the Nordic tree of universe) is said to have been destroyed by Ouster attack, and I couldn’t help but connect the burning of cosmic tree with end of the world, Ragnarok; thanks to Marvel. Time tombs and mystery of Shrike felt like a Skynet plot even from the interpretations of Ousters or AI. Also Simmons has done a commendable job in establishing the technological asymmetries between colonies and the Hegemony via farscaping and Hawkings Drive. I absolutely adored his attention to detail towards ways of old earth that tends to pop up now and then with romantic reverence, whether it is the usage of carpets or mythology or nomenclature of old technologies with archaic terms, like Benares for the Barge. Things were mostly explained as status quo and left to be picked up in the reading process. For example, Silenus house having real time windows to different planets had left me perplexed during Poet’s story, only to have it later explained by Siri (yes, Siri) as farscaster portals in Lamia’s story. I loved this style of writing and it left me like a teen who just got treated like an adult like he always wanted to have.

I would totally understand the criticisms against this novel though I have a strong leaning towards book that invests on plots over characters. The whole thing feels like an extended prologue or pilot episode; And the abrupt ending does kind of feel unconventional, like you have watched only the first half of movie Inception or MCU coming to a halt just before the first Avengers movie. If one has been waiting for a Then There Were None style big reveal at the end, or some clear explanations about the eeriness behind Shrike, the disappointment is all the more justifiable. But the whole thing worked for me, like the story being a book example for all those coffee mugs quotes and self-discovery movies that venerate journey over destination. I was rather blown away by the sheer scale of things, ensemble of genres, nonlinear narrative structure and the massive word and world building. And to me, the ending was ingratiating; maybe not in a comprehensive sense, but rather like a noob who has discovered his knack in a new game.

Keats never finished his poem, and Simmons leaving the first book in Hyperion quartet unfinished is strangely fitting, considering his fixation on the Poet. If it’s any consolation, I found The Fall of Hyperion quite satisfying and equally awesome, if you are up for the effort.

Essex County by Jeff Lemire

This book broke me. And then it fixed me.

essexcountyWith Jeff Lemire’s name and this bright artwork on cover, I was expecting something heartwarming. It was warm, in fact a bit too warm that my heart got melted away.

Like the title says, it is the story of Essex County, of it’s people and their lives spanning over generations. There are three separate volumes, that subtly segue between various characters and time periods. There is a prevailing sense of loneliness and longing in every character, be it the introvert boy ‘Lester’, one hit wonder ‘Lou’ or the Nurse. Jeff easily characterizes these emotions through art; through fonts, shadows, inanimate objects, snow and even the eyes of characters. The artwork here is more or less sequential, strictly minimal and monochromatic. And it was impressive how the concatenating narrative unraveled complicated relations in sheer simplicity, evoking strong emotions in the process. To each person Essex means something different, and they all have their passions to hold on to when the world around them slips.

212I found a lot of my confused childhood in ‘Lesters’ eyes, the awkwardness and loneliness and escapism in comic book reality. Even in the absence of colours and detailing, little incoherent circles that formed his eyes, and single line that formed his facial expression, conveyed a lot to me than usual words would. Like brightening of the circles and downward curving of lines, when ‘Lester’ was running around in the farm, in his red cape.

CaptureThe second story was too intense for me, it hit me so hard in my feels that I had to close the book more than a few times. Though it is a singular story line, the sequence is jarred, and we are switched through povs and timelines, almost effortlessly. As depressing as it sounds, I somehow identified myself the most with ‘Lou’ in his loneliness, nonchalance and melancholy. Jeff was honest in his literature and artistic depiction of guilt and loss, and their aftermath. There was a lot of similarity between Lester and Lou, mostly on the pleasant side, and for more than once in the surreal business of flashbacks I suspected the latter being the elder version of former. The simultaneous loss of love and friendship drives Lou to strong guilt, the kind that doesn’t allow you to move on or be happy. He tries to make sense of my his lonely life by holding on to the only thing that matters- Hockey, to which he was a one hit wonder of; yet his life somehow finds its way back to the focal point of tragedy.

Picture1.pngThe subtle difference between grief and guilt was addressed in surprising detail here, like how others move on with their life and you are left with a perpetrator guilt that runs simulations of ‘what if’ scenarios in your head over and over. And even after eons, the first thing that gets to your head about a broken friendship would be that focal point. You will be looking for excuses, trying to fix something that is permanently broken and that no one anymore cares about. Guilt keept Lou in a state of perpetual ‘Merlin Sickness’; shrinking him mentally towards the traumatic past, and physically away from it.

xczscfdasfThe last story, involving the Nurse was the one I connected least with even though it was the most communicative among the three. Yet, in a way, it was the story line I needed most. The whole book is predictable, occasionally surreal and even melancholic. But there is an element of magical realism in it, an unreliability in the narration that bends reality between characters, time zones, dreams and memories. There are moments that make you smile, moments that make you ponder even if it’s something as insignificant as the appearance of a crow, and moments that make you sad, but fills you with hope. Jeff does a great job in making characters as real as possible, they age, they feel and they respond like a normal human being than someone sketched out on a paper. And above all, it is beautiful.

22310023._SX540_As I was nearing the end of my reading, the book had left me devastated, badly in need for a hug. And surprisingly, by the time it all ended, the book itself became the very hug that I badly needed.

The Drone King by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (newly discovered unpublished short story)

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“Don’t let anybody tell you this isn’t a woman’s world.”

“How’s that, sir?,” I said.

“Only a female bee can sting,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. “I didn’t know that about bees.”

“You knew that about females, didn’t you?” he said. He closed one eye, and, with his face already lopsided from the bee sting, he looked crazy as a bedbug. “Law of life!” he said sharply. “If you get yellow fever, you’ll have the female mosquito to thank. If a black widow spider does you in, my boy, again—cherchez la femme.”

There are many superior Vonnegut works on my tbr, but surfacing of a newly discovered short story was too exciting to ignore. This short, though engaging, is a bit bleak in comparison with his other stories, more absurd and less humourous too. But it offers a peak into his early mind, and even with all weirdly specific instructions on bees, that’s a cause worth reading for.

In a Gaal – Hari Seldon styled meeting, we are introduced to an Investment Counselor and his employer Sheldon Quick. Having exhausted his business fortunes, Quick is currently working on a ‘drone based’ revival project which, according to him, will revolutionize communication network. Unlike the UAVs that we are familiar with, here the drones are just male bees. 

The story is also an old school crowd funding campaign, where our leads are trying to pitch ‘Bee-gram’ to their angel investors.
As I was having a real dull day, I did some weird analysis on the story myself.

It is hard to ignore the fact that Kurt is rather curt about females in his writing here. The title ‘Drone King‘ is literally the exact opposite of ‘Queen Bee‘, for starters. There are no female characters anywhere in this story, and a strong reason for rejection of anything feminine is asserted at the very start itself.

“Oh,” I said. “Huh. I guess that’s why the female workers knock off the males, eh? The males are nothing but a drain on the community.”

The color left Quick’s fine face. “What’s so wonderful about making honey?” he said.

“Can you make honey?”

“Nope,” I said.

He was excited, upset. “Is that any reason to condemn you to death?” he said.

“Nope—heck no,” I said.

I see a critique on marginalisation of men’s rights, in this bee business; but that would be embarrassingly far fetching from my side. What my puny mind garnered is this, and there is no other way to say it than come out as a fool. Repeated experience of unrequited affection, or rejection over for someone high up the food chain, and this story being Vonnegut’s salty way of dealing with it.

The story lacks humour and satire, atleast in first look, but it is really fun to dive into his early mind. In a way the narrator radiates young Vonnegut himself, who is skeptical, extra careful and reluctant to experiment in his new (writing) career. Quick on the other hand is this crazy version of Vonnegut who isn’t afraid of weird ideas and risks. At one point Quick compares himself with Scarlet Pimpernel(a rather curious analogy considering the name being synonymous with a flower, given the bee business) of French Revolution- the chivalrous medieval vigilante. Pimpernel is actually the literary precursor for masked vigilantism and double life heroism from Zorro to Batman. I couldn’t help but extrapolate this towards Vonnegut‘s famous alter ego and my favorite science fiction writer who doesn’t exist- Kilgore Trout. Throughout his career Vonnegut had always stayed in his safe space, while he had let Trout do the fourth wall breaking and crazy experimentation.

So it goes.

A free copy and an animated excerpt can be found here. I have heard that four more stories are on their way.