…SF addict …

Sunday, June 28, 2009

There'll be tears....

Next up another Philip K Dick novel, this time one of his more famous efforts.
'Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said' is from 1974 and is about a well known and highly respected TV star and singer whose records are suddenly erased, making him a man with no identity,living in a police state where everyone is closely monitored.
The writing in this book, as a contrast to other PKD books I've read, is very clear, direct, accessible, and deals with the protagonist's mission to get his identity back and his life back on track. He has gone from being a household name, on everyone's TV screens daily, to being a nobody, a face in the crowd and then a suspect. The novel deals with paranoia, confusion, and the dangers of drug abuse. But also it is somewhat prophetic.
Though it was written in 1974 there is mention of Gridders, people addicted to communicating and engaging in sexual deviancy via a phone line, who spend so much time in that activity that they become mentally ill or worse. Surely that is a foretaste of the internet! The people are an early form of net junkie! (Cyber sex?) So does that mean its an early taste of cyber-punk?

As usual with Dick there are moments where he deals with sex and drugs, particularly the latter half which made me feel he was obsessed with those themes!
But on the whole this was a fabulous book, I really enjoyed it, easily the best PKD read so far, and i would strongly recommend it!

Monday, June 22, 2009

From the Golden Age of SF.....

...comes a classic space travel story from Canadian A.E van Vogt.
The Voyage of the Space Beagle is a fix up, that is a novel put together from stories previously published in magazine format,in this case Astounding Stories. Asimov follwed a similar path with his Foundation novels. This book concerns a group of explorers travelling through space,encountering strange lifeforms, very much in the mould of Star Trek which would come much later.

Also part of the book is said to have been the inspiration for the movie Alien. In fact there was a lawsuit involved,van Vogt settling out of court apparently.
By the way, I have read Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle many years ago-this is not a sequel ;)

Well now that I've read it all that I'll add is I loved this book! There were parts of the book that were a bit wooden in the descriptions but well, this IS golden age stuff (the stories were first published in a magazine in the 1940s,and 'assembled' in book form in 1950)
Superb read!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Healing pots with Philip K Dick!

Next up another library find, Galactic Pot Healer by Philip K Dick, which has to be one of the strangest titles for a SF book ever!
But then again the man wrote a book called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep which thankfully got filmed as Bladerunner!
Dick is a cult figure in the US and I've yet to find a book of his I can really gel with. He deals more in the softer sciences and often uses strange devices in his stories to drive the story along. This one is a story about a pot healer in the futuure, that is a mender of broken ceramics who is called upon to work on a projext on Plowman's Planet,inhabited by strange creatures,one of whom are called the Glimmung.
Hmmm I was left with a sense of 'what the hell is going in in Dick's mind when he wrote this!'
There's an engaging adventure in there but its hidden amongst his pseudo-scientific ramblings. And at end I was left thinking, what was the point of this book?
I'm not done with PKD yet though, I will come back to him....

Friday, June 12, 2009

Discovering a classic!

While at the library the other day I came across The forever War by Joe Haldeman, a book I'd heard of before, often spoken highly of but which I'd never managed to find. I had to give it a read!(It won major awards upon publication)
Its kind of military SF. Many people make allusions to the Vienam War but for me it seems closer to Starship Troopers (I've not read that book by Heinlein but I have seen the film). It was written in 1974 and originally serialized in Analog magazine with the central part changed-this version I am reading restores the story to the authors original. Only read a few chapters so far but its shaping up nicely!

This book is a war story that covers both space and time.
William Mandella is a soldier drafted in to fight an ongoing war with an alien race known as the Taurans. They're called Taurans because, well, "Aldebaraniams is a ,little hard to handle!" That is from the book and is just one example of the subtle humour that runs throught this book.

Dont read this book expecting big space battles, this is no space opera; its far more significant than that! There are battle scenes against the Taurans but its far more than a simple war story; its about the human condition as much as anything else, about relationships and evolution (the character was born in the 1970s and the book ends in the 32nd century!!)
I may be making it sound boring but thats because I'm not too good at reviewing a book without giving away spoilers! There's some fun and interesting tech in this book. Like organ regeneration, the depiction of which was particularly good because it is a total surprise to the main character Mandella!

Joe Haldeman is a Vietnam vet and it shows, but he is also a physicist and astronomer which makes for good science throughout the book without being heavy or inaccessible to the lay person.

The story is at times brutal, at times funny, and the rest of the time a wonderful study on the nature of humanity and the perils and pointlessness of war and I enjoyed it far more than I expected to, and I loved the ending!

There are two sequels to this book but I dont need to read them. All the story you need is in this one book!