Way Station by Clifford D. Simak

waystationMost of our contemporary science fiction rattles around a technologically advanced gone wrong future, that is obsessed over the imperfect past we never truly cared to live in.* It is a contradiction considering the classics we started off from, like Way Station which envisioned a future of Intergalactic peace and confraternity among Stars.

This novel essentially represented a Space Opera during cold war, spatially confined within the private bulwark of a Man from the Earth civil war veteran, by American Midwest. Our anachronistic Highlander, Enoch Wallace, and his House of Leaves soon falls under the surveillance of covert Men in Black, thanks to the static sloppy life he has been protracting for over a century. This classic mystery build up from an outsider pov eventually shifts, and takes the reader through protagonist’s eternal loneliness and indirect adventures in an Intergalactic Way Station, for which he is the custodian of. In my imagination Way Station looked like a controlled visitation zone, full of artifacts and sacrosanct knowledge. The novel subtly touches the terrains of human emotions and humanity as a whole through the eyes of alien visitors, hind-bound local yokels and a morally conflicted old man.

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I found a pub by the name Way Station on internet, which I pretty much captures the strange image I had in mind, and it has got a Tardis!

Might be a bit far fetching, but, Enoch and Lucy had the facsimile of a censored docile Old Man Logan, more with the upcoming movie than the comic it claims to have been adapted off. And I kept wondering whether Douglas Adam‘s Babel fish came from Simak‘s pasimology for understanding intergalactic shibboleths, till getting hit by the obvious parental reference – the Bible. Prose has been simple yet classy and I actually copied down one correspondence between Enoch and an unknown science journal editor, for embellishing my ongoing job covering letters.

Way Station was a pleasant reading experience, a calm soft classic sci-fi with little dystopian elements. It hasn’t been entirely faultless especially with the rushed resolution and extra nicety around, but none of them mitigated the kernel of the story nor it’s debonairness.

 

*source – John Dally

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Forever War feels a lot like Halo, with Captain Mandella playing a novice Master Chief against the Covenant looking Prophet less Taurians. For a novel written in 1976 on horrors of Vietnam war with an Interstellar undertone, this hard science fiction feels so surprisingly contemporary and expedient. Or accurately prognostic.

Humanity is at war with Taurians, an alien civilization we know very little about except the fact that they initiated the conflict on the very first contact, attacking Earth’s outpost in farther space. Planet’s elites, the ones with IQ above 150, are soon absorbed by UNEF and then send to Charon for revenge and recon. Many couldn’t survive the rigorous training itself, and a lot more were killed during the first post-hypnotically suggested initial combat, thanks to the alien environments and weaponry. Soldiers travel intergalactically through Collapsor jumps (worm holes), with enigmatic relativistic effects, by the order of centuries back on Earth, making them alien to the world whose very future they’ve been fighting for.

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Sci fi is often metaphorical in nature, and in this novel Haldeman depicts the horrors he experienced in Vietnam war, without recreating it essentially. I don’t think any other linear work directly dealing with the subject of war could have accurately conveyed the essence and remained ageless at the same time. Another book I know which did a similar job, though not essentially similar is Slaughterhouse Five, which portrayed war through a nonchalant non linear life, where everything felt preordained with time travel.

Peter F. Hamilton calls this “damn near perfect” for a novel and I couldn’t agree more. Haldeman’s vision for future covered almost everything in Taurian war, where survival was only by mistake.

  •  Unaccounted combat units either slaughtered or lost or crawling through normal space at near light speed to a Earth, which by their arrival would be centuries ahead.
  • Heavily outsourced job scenario, where most of the countries are promoting homosexuality as a strategy for population control.
  • Temporal lingua franca with which a soldier could communicate with someone contemporary of his/her double digit time grandfather or grand-kid for that matter.
  • Wormholes and collapsor jumps making some one feel like Galileo meeting Einstein or Genghis Khan meeting Mass Effect’s Shepherd in terms of military tech (future shock).

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Couldn’t help but notice the areas Interstellar borrowed from this one, including the final letter between Marygay and Mandella. Even though this was a dystopian military sci-fi novel, it had a pleasant aura around it, and subtle humour, with a very satisfactory ending. Like Hamilton says- “damn near perfect.”

Venus on the Half-Shell by Kilger Trout

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Kilger Trout is a familiar name among Vonnegut fans, the fictional sci fi writer whose existence every reader secretly wished and googled for. Though Farmer’s version made Vonnegut cross, who according to internet overstatement legends, had dismissed the novel as a fakers drivel (mostly coz of creator ambiguity, which was later cleared by a by-line), I found it pretty fab.

This book is weird, comical, extremely absurd, reference filled and absolutely staggering. I was enraptured from the very introduction itself, and found it a worthy source(successor) material for that brief Trout plot from God Bless You Mr. Rosewater. Novel follows facetious accounts of Simon Wagstaff in his quest for “definitive answer to the most important question” (which I believe Douglas Adamas later payed homage to), with a peculiar Scheckley like sci fi humour. For a book that is propelled by its absurdness, it was delightfully scientific and philosophical at parts. Well, after fist few chapters fun seemed to dwindle and absurdity went a large, making me a bit Vonnegut-ish, only to have it compensated in long run.

rick-and-morty42Novel opened up with a Gunslinger like hero in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy scenario. Then on, it transcended into a series of Mindswap style adventures of our Space cowboy and his little Guardians of the Galaxy gang with Anubis the dog, Athena the owl, and his super hot alien robot girlfriend – Chworktap[anagram for Patchwork] (yes, arguments are invalid). There were tons of literary references during this loquacious honky-tonk, on which the novel hilariously craps on. Exploding Star creating a new religion, Titanic and Icarus Spaceship company, 2001 A Space Odessy conscious AI, even Westworld, Doctor Who Face of Boe feline society, Shaltoonian’s Assassins Creed, Hwang Ho for Millennium Falcon, Cowboy Bebop, Reichenbach falls and Sherlock Holmes with Ralf von Wau Wau are a few I had fun picking at. Oh and that uncanny resemblance between Sommers’ John Clayter series and Doctor Who porn parody.

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Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, figures

Venus on half shell is the Rick and Morty of sci-fi literature. It is like one of those day dream fantasy we devour as college sophomores and cringe on later in maturity. Anyway I found myself googling Jonathan Sommers III, Farmer’s Kilger Trout to fill the void left by this.

If you are weird and like weird things, this book is for you.