The Caves of Steel by Issac Asimov

caves-of-steelI always pictured Asimov’s Robot series with C-3PO robots and confronting humans from future.

Jumping Jehoshaphat!! How colossally wrong was I?

The Caves of Steel, in first look, even with all its futuristic contrivances, could be tagged as the grandfather of all those buddy detective action movies from Lethal Weapon to 21 JumpStreet. In second look, it felt more like Dick’s muse for Blade Runner, expect, here the detective is paired with a humanoid android capable of dreaming about all kinds of sheep. On a third and more civilized look, it is a metaphysical work unintentionally dealing with xenophobia, refugee crisis and neo-imperialism, while being a suspenseful detective science fiction at the same time.

I couldn’t help but compare the less understood universe of this novel with the one in ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ by PKD. A depressed yet brilliant(confused yet brilliant) police officer Deckard(Eliah) with a further depressed(confused and complex) wife, living in a future post-apocalyptic(agoraphobic) earth, is mixed up deep in an investigation involving Androids(Robots). They both live in Earth by choice as I remember and The Caves of Steel even suggests a ‘Voight-Kampff’ questionnaire of its own by the end.

bladerunnerAnti Robot sentiment, resentment and the growing sense of human superiority could be better understood If one attempt to read it along with neo-fascism and recent refugee crisis. The ‘medievalist’ conservatism under the allegory of Spacers and Earthmen, was Asimov predicting the rising demagogues and nationalists of his future and our present, not withstanding the strange premise and timing of prophecy. The dream for coexistence in C/Fe culture, the witty chemistry between Baley and R.Daneel, Biblical backstory of Elijah and Jezebel (quite complementing to the story if you ask me), solid investigation filled with red herrings entwined in classic sci fi, made my stealth library read worthwhile. I am even inclined to accuse Mission Impossible on stealing from this.

And climbing further up the weird ladder, ‘Jehoshaphat’ is my new favourite daily life expletive from now on.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

“You know when you find a book which is really really special and as you continue read it, it makes it even more obvious about its breathtaking, heartbreaking, profound magnificence and in that moment your mind divides and start feeling so many emotions- one part of your brain is advising you to slow it down because it’s a one in lifetime masterpiece so relish it slowly, let every word rings to every fabric of your soul, while the another part of your brain is so hyperventilating in an excitement to know what’s coming next, it forces you to skim read it and then there’s a whole separate part of your brain that had already started grieving and despairing for when it’ll end. In whirlpool of all these contrasting emotions as you’re going page after page, you realize you’re feeling a twinge of an unknown emotion; an emotion you have not felt in a long time while reading a book, you realize you are happy”.

Though I might not entirely resonate the same sentiments as of the person who recommended me this novel, which is given in her own words above, I wouldn’t​ hesitate to tag it as an exceptional read. In fact, this was a really beautiful book where, every word somehow mattered, like a slice of life anime, with beautiful post rock soundtrack, and no filler episodes.

Beartown is a secluded beautiful small town, where everyone lives and breaths Ice Hockey; it even carries a cold mystery around, the kind one might draw parallels with Twin Peaks, Wayward Pines, Riverdale or even Gravity Falls. The novel tells the story of the town, its people, their passion towards hockey and how an incident involving kids rocks brings the best and worst out of all. Author introduces the characters, develop them well enough, yet keep unfolding them as we proceed further in the read, like peeling onions. It feels very much like knowing people in real life, and the way characters were carved out, even to the most insignificant ones, made them lovable and unforgettable. He does this clever little trick with some sentences, repeating it further in the story, reminding the reader of previous instances, while intricately connecting them with the present.

Loved the subtlety by which this book addressed issues of love, dreams, loss, guilt, grief, violence and abuse, without directly referring to them. There were multiple scenes, simple usual everyday scenes, that made me go excited with adrenaline. And then there were scenes, simple usual everyday scenes, where I had to shut my copy down to take some fresh air, not just by the farrago of emotions, but the beauty in which they were depicted. Yeah, I had to punch a wall to feel manly again.

I went Kite Runner(finishing the book in shortest possible time to escape the feels) on this one, in two days this time, since my bare mind could barely contain Beartown. Its been 3 weeks and two books since, and I admit being haunted by its memories now and then. But the strangely beautiful part is, the memories, they all make me smile.

Theories of International Politics and Zombies by Daniel.W.Drezner

41Iz6VvALgL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I have learned a great deal about Zombies; wish I could say the same about International Politics.

Intention behind reading this book, and the book as well, was to make International Political theories interesting for a casual reader, under the pretext of hypothetical apocalypse involving flesh-eating ghouls. Author demonstrates rigorous scholarship in defining zombies, using movies and social science literature as data source on events akin to an attack of the undead: pandemics, disasters, bioterrorism, and so forth. Book then proceeds with variegated predictions of different international relation theories at the wake of outbreak, with references and footnotes from Romero’s Night of the Living Dead to World War Z, which had me fuming with pride over my reading choice.

Author tries his level best in using contemporary movies like Shawn of the Dead and Resident Evil as reference material. But he easily falls short on the same and ends up finding solace in George Romero flicks, which readers of my age might not easily relate with. As for political theories, zombie contagion is considered with cross-border relations, military tactics, evacuation logistics, refugee policies, homeland security measures and all other jargons that you can include in etceteras. Though the book discusses psychological response quite well, things turned a bit apprehensive with responses from anarchist, realist, liberalist, neo-conservatalist, constructivist povs in domestic and international scene.

International politics and zombiesZombie culture has got this infesting nature much like zombies themselves, from Fallout to Call of Duty to Pride and Prejudice, which make it an ideal parable premise to go cold turkey on complex theories. But even with such an ambitious theme, this is just another non-fiction book, trying its level best to look cool.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

siddhartha-under-bodhi-tree
Obligatory Buddha and Bodhi tree picture, book has got very little to do with the enlightened one though.

This is like going to theaters for Star Wars, and getting stuck with the origin story of Jar Jar. Or I might have completely missed the point of this widely favoured work.

To me, Siddhartha(highly misleading title) was the embodiment of platitudes I’ve been overexposed to – the occident fixation on nirvana, self discovery, obsession with Om, asceticism and enlightenment.

I found, Siddhartha(not Buddha) as one classic lethargic intelligent, privileged to have born in an upper class rich family. In his selfish narcissistic pursuit for enlightenment, he conveniently chooses to ignore every obligation he has with life and loved ones; from which he eventually graduates to exploiting the extra niceties of hard working folks around, by portraying himself as the wise brahmin whom every one shall respect and care for. Author then calls for sympathy towards protagonist’s so called material sufferings, by products of his own previous negligence or karma if you ask me, on grounds of monistic philosophy of Atman and Brahman, and cycle of Samsara; I simply couldn’t align myself with that. In fact he was the proverbial silver spoon kid all along, self venerated and diplomatically renouncing though.

Maybe, if I wasn’t raised among these pursuit of happiness, self realization, meaning of life stories or If the newfound wisdom of Sakyamunis and Buddha were exotic to the society I belong to, Hesse’s masterpiece might have managed to evoke amazement or at least amusement for that matter.

Extra star for keeping it short.

Rescue Party by Arthur C Clarke

1946_may_ASF_text

This is the upside down version of almost all alien exploration stories out there; for one, we are the exotic mysterious civilization, the aliens of this story are interested in.

Wikipedia lists this not-so-short short, as the first published work by Arthur C Clarke, Astounding Science Fiction May 1947, a fitting trailer for the vision and imagination that was to follow. In Rescue Party’s fictional universe, there seems to be a confederation of star civilizations and god like beings who orchestrate and control the happenings of explored universe. On the onset of a Supernova explosion, Sun in this case, these Lantern Guardians like beings, Alverons as they are known, sends a convoy to rescue or preserve newly discovered Earth’s civilization. Anything more than this would be an overshare at this point. Absolutely loved the pace of the story, the universe and races built in the limitation of words, psychology and mystery of exploration, along with the open ending bonus tease. If there was an option to add review title in goodreads, I would definitely have gone with ‘Rendezvous with Earth’ as a homage for Clarke’s (well, mostly Clarke’s) Rama series.

According to internet legends, Clarke abstained himself from re reading his early published works, for the fear of realizing how little he had improved over years. I must say, something near perfect doesn’t leave you much room for improvement.

On the duty of Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?

thoreau-disobeyEven at the known risk of getting branded as a boring old uncle, I must admit into finding this essay fascinatingly metal. It was from some gandhian readings that I got introduced into this venerated magnum opus whose relevance transcends over centuries(also freely available on internet). Mahatma Gandhi has undoubtedly elevated Thoreau’s duty of Civil Disobedience from the level of individual consciousness to the ethics of a collective, during his Non-Violence movement.

A weak historic background might look something like this- Then president of United States was a demagogue(not demogorgon), and Thoreau belonged to the meager minority, who were morally troubled by the Government policies on slavery and Mexican war. So when asked, he refuses to pay State tax, as, according to him, giving allegiance to an invading war waging State is against his consciousness. Anyway, Tax was as certain as death even then, as it is now, and fractious Thoreau was put behind bars for withholding the same. Well, he continued being metal by welcoming the jail – ‘Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison’, and writing a whole essay in that direction. Thoreau was really thorough with his ideas, pun intended.

In this essay, he severely criticizes political passivism, and those who escape under the argument of not knowing what to do. Then followed portions I wasn’t able to completely comprehend except for the seemingly subtle yet lurid difference between what is right by law and what is just. Though the most obvious and convenient illustration to understand Civil Disobedient argument would be the recent Trump government, I urge readers to hyphenate the philosophy with one’s personal, more accessible demurs.

I am heavily under resourced to review this, but what amuses me is the relevance of this essay in today as well as the course of history it has been preserved along. It is highly difficult to register your opinion these days without being branded into the prejudiced categories everyone seems so eager to fit in.

strangerthings_walkinhere
an entirely random irrelevant image of demo-gorgon to masquerade from uncoolness

Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers by Lawrence Watt-Evans

1931778This story and Coherence movie could greatly complement each other,though the latter one offers more thrill and grittiness to the concept.

In this first person narrative, a young man from the countryside shares with readers, his strange experiences at Harry’s all-nighter, where he worked his teenage days off. Harry’s All night Hamburgers could be considered as a Way Station, unlike Simak’s Intergalactic one, this version works on Interdimensional platform. Narrator encounters strange beings, multiple versions of same person and is occasionally seduced by the possibility of being an Interdimensional travel bug.

Most striking fact about this story is, that even in its pompous setting of parallel universes and wanderlust, it is essentially a pleasant travel motivation short. And the feelings I am left with, after the read, goes something like this.

I should make it to Banaras at least this year :).

full text available here for free read