the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘philosophy

Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card

published in 1986, Revised Edition published 1991

where I got it: purchased used

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Hard to believe I’ve never reviewed Ender’s Game.  How many times have I read that book? Four times? Five? Maybe more??  It’s one of those novels that I’ve returned to over and over during the last 15 years, when I need to read something that I know I’ll enjoy.  If you’ve never read Ender’s Game

  1. You totally should, because it’s an awesome book
  2. Don’t waste your time on the movie that came out a few years ago, because it sucked
  3. Me talking about Speaker for the Dead will probably spoil some Ender’s Game stuff for you. #sorrynotsorry

 

I’m going to review this book backwards.  All the good stuff is right here at the beginning, and maybe I’ll get to the nitty gritty stuff later.

 

The good stuff:  I fucking loved this novel.  The last 50 pages? I cried through every single one of them. I have a thing about trees, and I suck at dealing with death. What I got out of Speaker for the Dead is that trees are way awesomer than I ever thought, and that’s ok to be shitty at mourning and to not have any idea how to process it when someone dies.

 

More good stuff: really cool aliens!  Really cool Artificial intelligence!

 

Only a few xenobiologists on the Lusitania colony are allowed to have contact with the indigenous sentient animals, who have been nicknamed “Piggies”, due to their physical resemblance to Terran pigs.  The xenobiologists are keen to understand everything they scientifically can about the Piggies (their reproductive cycle, their genetic code, you name it!), and it’s a two way street as the Piggies are pretty curious about us too. If the Piggies words and phrases don’t always make sense, maybe their actions and “gifts” will.  We view them as cute little animals, they can’t possibly be intelligent, and they certainly don’t fit our view of civilized mammals.

 

Ender has an assistant, of sorts, Jane.  She talks to him through a bluetooth-esque speaker in his ear, but she’s not a person.  She’s an AI born within humanity’s interstellar communications system. No one but Ender knows she exists, because she knows if humanity knew she existed, she’d be destroyed. Because of what Ender has been through, she trusts him. And she helps him, most of the time. In a way, Jane loves him.  If nothing I’ve said so far has gotten your attention, read this book just for the banter between Ender and Jane.

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first published in England in 1938, Anthem is eligible for the Retro Hugo awards. This book certainly won’t be found in the science fiction section of the bookstore, but it does take place in a dystopian future.

Vintage SF badge

Anthem, by Ayn Rand

published in 1938

where I got it: have owned this copy forever. probably purchased new.

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There is a future where you and I do not exist. A future in which only we and us, the collective, exist.  A future in which man finds joy and satisfaction in working with and for others and for the society. All are equal, all are taken care of and none ever yearn for anything beyond their station. None ever need to think about anything, because the collective does their thinking for them.  In this future, everyone is safe, and freedom doesn’t mean what you think it means. In the times before, horrible things happened, with large groups of people fighting against a small group of people. It was decided afterwards that this collective society was best for all.

Equality 7-2521 is a sinner. Those sins include that of ambition, preference, and being alone, among many, many others.

Anthem is an epistolary story, told from Equality 7-2521’s writings. Not exactly diary entries, these are more confessions, a record of what’s been done and what’s been discovered. Equality hopes to one day show these writings to the city scholars, to earn their mercy and respect.

Instead of joining the others at evening theater shows (all of which promote the goodness of toil, equality, and brotherhood), Equality 7-2521 sneaks out to the edge of the city to a secret underground cavern.   With it’s smooth floors, tracks, burned out lightbulbs and other detritus, I think the underground cavern is a subway station, but Equality 7-2521 has no way of knowing that, having never seen a train track or light bulb before.  Equality 7-2521 steals books and candles, and indulges in a love for the physical sciences, joyously learning about electricity and magnetism, sometimes completely by accident.

While working on the edge of the city, Equality 7-2521 meets Liberty 5-3000, and commits the ultimate sin of thinking of this new friend, of finding joy in those thoughts, of wishing to spend more time in the company of Liberty 5-3000.

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Vintage SF badgeNull AWorld of Null-A by A.E. van Vogt

serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in 1945, first published as a novel in 1948.

where I got it: purchased used, the 1970 printing.

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“The map is not the territory, the word is not the thing itself”

Gilbert Gosseyn has arrived in the great city of The Games to prove his Null-A training.  His wife Patricia Hardie recently passed away, but he knows this is what she would have wanted, for him to succeed at the The Games and win passage to Venus.  He’ll win for both of them.

During a meeting with other visitors, Gilbert is accused of not being who he says he is. But he passes a lie detector test with flying colors.  The year is 2560, lie detector computers are ubiquitous, and why in the hell would anyone lie about having been married to President Hardie’s daughter Patricia (who is very much alive, and very much unmarried)?

In the World of Null-A, the world of non-Aristotelian logic, there is never any reason to lie about one’s identity, never any reason to panic.  Among other things, Null-A mental training allows one to instantly adapt to changes in their environment, and Gilbert has been training his whole life for this.  But he was never prepared to not have any idea who he is.

He can trust only his memory, but what if your memory is wrong? Does our memory make us who we are? Does our brain and our memories tell us exactly how something happened, or only how we perceived that it happened? How do we get rid of the filter of our own perception?

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starship haikuStarship and Haiku, but Somtow Sucharitkul

published in 1981

where I got it: purchased used

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It’s been a week for weird fiction, that’s for sure. Starship And Haiku came home with me from the used bookstore because it looked oh so strange. And as far as strangeness, it didn’t disappoint. A post apocalyptic story, Starship and Haiku has something to say about clashing cultures, honor, communication, and survival. It succeeds grandly in the sense that it’s ambitious, unique, and strange. But does it succeed in being a good book?

When Josh was ten years old, the skies over his home in Hawaii exploded. People rushed to the shelters as fast as they could, and that was the night his brother Didi was born. Now an adult, and responsible for his brother’s welfare, Josh works at a hospice for plague victims. Called “stranges”, some plague victims suffer radiation poisoning, others have odder diseases that come with telekinesis or precognition. Even Didi is technically a strange – he’s never spoken a work, and has been diagnosed as being mentally retarded. Didi may not have the power of speech, but he’s the furthest thing from being retarded. In fact, if he could just learn to harness his inner voice and his telepathy, he could “talk” to Josh all he wanted.

One evening, Didi sees a dying beached whale, and he has a telepathic conversation with the whale. The whales are in love with death, and see death as the ultimate beautiful act. Didi doesn’t view death like that, but he respects the whale’s alien thoughts, and Didi starts understanding how to speak in the ideogram language of the whales.

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Just so ya know, I have a real weakness for this educational stuff.

 You too can sound just as smart and intellectual as your liberal arts friends who minored in history and philosophy! An hour of reading Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s Action Philosophers comics is worth at least a semester of college level philosophy! Ok, maybe not, but Action Philosophers is pretty damn entertaining, especially for those of us (like me) who have the attention span of a fruit fly.

Philosophy – the study of general and fundamental problems, such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, the mind, and language (and yes, I ripped that right off of wikipedia. Gimme a break, I went to engineering school!)

From Plato to Sigmund Freud to Ayn Rand, writer Van Lente and artist Dunlavey offer a snapshot of what these folks were up to, and why they get their own shelf at Barnes and Noble. You’re not going to learn everything there is to know about Carl Jung or Friedrich Nietzsche in a dozen pages, but you’ll get just enough to sound impressive at cocktail parties. And maybe you’ll even be inspired to get one of those books at Barnes and Noble.

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A few days ago, I set out to read some true girly books, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love and Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic. Read all about the beginning of girly stuff weekend here.

My weekend of girly reads has come to a close, and I can’t say I mind. I’m just not a girly girl. I’m more likely to cry at the end of a Cory Doctorow book than at the end of a romantic comedy. I’m much looking forward to the swearing, violence and epic revenge promised by some goodies from the library.

It’s posts like this that tell me over and over and over again that I really need to do a discussion post about intended audience. Because the books for my weekend of girly reads? Yeah, I don’t think I’m the intended audience. Which makes my reaction very, very, very, unfairly biased and one sided. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Read the rest of this entry »


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.