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.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

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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.

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.”

The Chrysalids : Your follow up to Sense 8

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If you loved Wachowski brother’s ‘Sense 8’ , this could be your follow up book. This dystopian seemingly woebegone story is more coming of age than sci fi, and kinda undulate your thoughts on morality. Chrysalids is a spell variation of word ‘chrysalis’, which is related to larva moving out of cocoon as butterfly, so I guess the title goes with moving into a new phase meaning.
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So, premise of story involves a post Tribulation secluded society where people banish and kill mutants, branding them aberrations, as creation of devil, deviation from Gods image. Tribulation is never clearly explained nor the events, and by mutants, author means people with visible defects like extra toe, leg, hand and all. Well, our main story revolve around a bunch of kids who are connected by thoughts, much like ‘sensate’ and hiding their powers to make a safe living among the norms, an exaggerated version of Proletheans from Orphan Black.

“The idea of complete man is the supreme vanity: the finished image is a sacrilegious myth”, brace yourself for apologias of this kind and one sided telepathic exchange in excited fortissimo. Its like one of those X Men stories, lets say X2 the one with Rogue, my review sucks. But do give this book a read.apocalypsewars-bf558

This strip generator post sums up the book pretty much, click at your risk, it gives away the whole book *spoilers*

Another book of same theme would be More Than Human – Theodore Sturgeon. I will try to review it when I get the chance. Pour in your thoughts If you have already. My habit is to keep books of same kind farther part in reading timeline, so 🙂

 

The Stars My Destination

A Gulli ble guy’s somewhat foil ed attempts at revenge 🙂
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Remember that movie Jumper, the one with a teleporting young Skywalker, the one which never got any further installments. Well now imagine a future where anyone can do that with proper training, th
ough there are clauses. This future universe includes lotsa speculative fiction along with telepaths and a beautiful blind girl who can see Infrared of spectrum.

Having said that, this novel tells the story of an Arthur Dent type character going all Monte Cristo amidst an ongoing war after he was cast away in space. It was so much fun, esp since I have been expecting some PKD level stuff over that philosophical title. It was hilarious at many parts and none felt intentional. ” I am Gully Foyle, there isnt anything I wouldnt dare.” The frustration of a man to have revenge on beings that cannot feel anything, “and he went through the door like a diesel tractor.”

And never failed to amaze me with novelty, I am pretty convinced that Warrior Within borrowed heavily from this book endings. And that monologue was enough to cover up for all the weirdness, Foyle opened my geodesic mind with his Pig speech.

“The whole point of extravagance is to act like a fool and feel like a fool, but enjoy it.” This book was my weekend extravaganza. And I think you might wanna go with a hard copy on this one. here is some motivation.

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