Tag Archives: science fiction

JRF

JRF’s #1 – The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

I am doing something different for my reading this year.  You can check it out at:

 

10kpagesayear.blogspot.com

 

if you are interested.  Long story short – I won’t hit 52 books this year but I will continue to post what I read here as well as at my other blog.

I grew up fascinated by the 1960 adaptation of H.G. Well’s The Time Machine, with it’s cheesy effects but interesting plot about a victorian era scientist who travels into the future. I was surprised by two things when I read the original book: 1. the movie (note: the 1960 version not the abomination-that-shall-not-be named made in 2002) followed the book rather closely and 2. The book really isn’t very long.

Written in 1895, the plot follows the unnamed Time Traveller, an eccentric London scientist, as he recounts to his skeptical dinner guests how he constructed a machine that is capable of traveling in the fourth dimension – time. Traveling thousands of years into the future, the Time Traveller encounters a humanity that has been divided into two deformed mutations of what it once was. One ilk living in ignorant luxury above ground, being raised as human cattle for the more primitive but powerful subterranean Morlocks. His time machine stolen by the Morlocks, he eventually escapes with not much more than his life, traveling even further (and foolishly in my opinion…what happens when you run out of time?) into the future to observe the sunset of life on earth…which apparently involves weird crab-like creatures and lots of moss.

Wells’ groundbreaking novella provides thought-provoking speculations about the nature and future of mankind, along with a mildly entertaining adventure.

JRF

JRF’s #31 – 1984 by George Orwell

Mark and Drew have already amply reviewed this book, so I won’t rehash the plot.  Suffice it to say that this is one of the most thought provoking books I have read in a long time.

Here are a few of the many thoughts that have lingered since reading 1984 months ago:

History matters:  Much of the world of 1984 and the oppressive regime that is symbolized by “Big Brother” revolves around the governments’ control of history.  One of the key doctrines that is repeated over and over again is “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”  The “Ministry of Truth” for which the main character Winston works for, is constantly revising, erasing, and rewriting history.  This perverting of history keeps the masses in subjection to Big Brother as it robs them of their identity and keeps them in an ongoing present – never affording them the opportunity to reflect and learn on the success and failures of past generations.

It is no coincidence that God continually told and tells his people to REMEMBER.  In virtually ever book of the Bible there is a command to remember.  Here is just a small sample:

“This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” Ex 3:15

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today”. Deut 15:15

Remember the days of old;

consider the years of many generations;

ask your father, and he will show you,

your elders, and they will tell you.” Deut 32:7

“Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done,

His marvels and the judgments from His mouth,”  I Chron 16:12

So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants.  Esther 9:28

I shall remember the deeds of the Lord;

Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

 Psalm 77:11

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  Eph 2:11

“‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.”  Rev 3:3

“Do this in remembrance of Me…”

The salvation of sinners is inextricably rooted in the historical event of the incarnation of God, His perfect righteous life, his substitutionally death, and glorious resurrection.  Our present experience cannot alter those events, and our only hope for the future is in remembering and trusting the reality of that past historical accomplishment.  To be a Christian is to remember.

Truth matters:  Orwell shows (in a way congruent to Os Guiness in A Free People’s Suicide) that the loss of freedom comes ultimately not through military conquests but through epistimological revolutions.   In 1984,not only does the government rewrite history to serve their current needs but even more sinisterly, they rewrite history to train the population (including themselves) to accept that there is no such thing as absolute truth and therefore entire histories, cultural and personal identities, and facts (such as gravity and math) are subject to “Big Brothers’” interpretation.  When truth is placed under the subjection of anyone or anything other than Omniscient God, it ceases to be truth and therefore ceases to offer any hope or freedom.

 

The Human Heart is Inherently Selfish:  Orwell seemed to understand that when pushed far enough our true selfish nature comes out.  Left to ourselves without any supernatural heart transformation, no matter how nobel, in love, heroic, civilized, or strong willed we believe ourselves to be, self preservation and interest reigns supreme.  It was excruciating to see the protagonist systematically stripped of all dignity and illusions of free will, ultimately not by an outside force, but from the enemy within – his sinful, weak heart.

1984 is a powerful parable.

 

 

 

JRF

JRF’s #27 – The Master Mind of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Yes there are more of these books and yes I’m still reading them. And loving them!  After five books in the John Carter of Barsoom series Burroughs’ plot lines had become somewhat formulaic.  This 6th book breaks the formula a bit and introduces not only a different plot arch but an entirely different protagonist – Ulyssees Paxton, an American killed on the battlefield of World War I only to wake up on Mars.

Paxton finds himself in the custody of Ras Thavas, a mad scientist who runs a brain transplant laboratory.  As is apt to happen to anyone who travels to Mars, Paxton falls in love with a beautiful Martian, unfortunately his love’s brain is trapped inside of the evil queen’s body that has stolen her beauty.  It is here that that the tale plunges back into the familiar romance and adventure that is the signature of Burroughs.

There is an interesting subplot that satirizes both militant atheism and blind fundamentalism, adding another level to an already enjoyable read.   If you are a fan of Barsoom you will want to read this.

 

mark

Mark’s #41 – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1931)

Continuing a theme of reading dystopian future novels, I finally got around to reading this classic of the genre.   Once again I realized that many of the books I should have read in high school, but didn’t, are actually quite good books (of course there are glaring and violent exceptions to this, such as The Scarlet Letter).  In reading Brave New World, once again I was floored by the prophetic vision of the future, much of which we live out today.  Like Farenheit 451 and 1984, the consequences of the current political, cultural, and technological paths we are on seem to be leading us to some chillingly scary times.

In Huxley’s portrait of the future, there is a world where people are genetically selected, cultivated, multiplied, nurtured, and manufactured along class lines and predestined futures, abilities, jobs, hopes, and dreams.  Children do not have parents, but are developed by the State and hypnopaedically conditioned to fit the mold of their class structure – Alphas through Deltas.  In the name of stability, the government conditions the people to have no unfulfilled desires.  Rampant promiscuity, government mandated birth-control (sound familiar?), and constant illicit sexual encounters with a multitude of people is the standard way of living.

Though technology has progressed past books and movies, to the ‘feelies’ (like movies but you also experience all the physical ‘feelies’ of the action on the screen), cultural depth and any kind of ‘free thinking’ have been eliminated.  Everything ‘old’ is done away with, both for the sake of consumerism and fear that the old arts would stir unwanted thinking and emotions which would lead to instability.  ”Fordism” (as in Ford, the maker of the Model T) has replaced all other ideologies and religious systems, as sort of a religion of consumerism and assimilation into the whole of civilization.

The great irony in the book occurs through a person known as ‘The Savage’.  In the future, there are ‘reservations’ of people who have not been manufactured by the State, who have not been conditioned for ‘civilized’ living, and who are born through a mother (disgusting!).  Through the events of the book, one savage is brought from a reservation to interact with the civilized people.  However, while on the reservation, the savage was given an old dusty book by which he learned to read and think – The Collected Works of Shakespeare.  When the savage encounters the base and immoral civilized society, he pleads for the people to ‘repent’ and think and feel deeply.  But alas, the forces of their conditioning are too strong, the savage is mocked, and consumed as yet another form of entertainment for the masses.

Here’s a couple quotes from the savage as he tries to appeal to one of the world leaders to think about God, and pain, and depth of the human experience:

“If you allowed yourselves to think of God, you wouldn’t allow yourselves to be degraded by pleasant vices.  You’d have a reason for bearing things patiently, for doing things with courage (242).”

“What you need… is something with tears for a change.  Nothing costs enough here (245).”

mark

Mark’s #36 – Amped by Daniel Wilson (2012)

Set in the near future, Amped portrays a world where neuro-technological advances enable humans to perform super human feats by unlocking and empowering their own brains through computer modular implants.  Those that get this procedure done (for a wide variety of reasons and abilities) are considered “Amps”. Meanwhile, there are those of the “pure human” kind that resent the increased abilities and opportunities afforded to these “Amps”.  Led by an anti-amp crusader senator, legislation, prejudice, and widespread mistreatment of amps begins to ensue.

The premise of the book caught my attention, especially given my focus on dystopian future novels this year and my interest in the effects of technology on culture and society.  I had high hopes for this book, and was glad when I was able to check it out online for free from my local library.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it was the author or the reader (probably both), but the overall feel of the book seemed overly Emo/hipster/99%er to me.  It was interesting enough for me to finish… but just barely.

I would only recommend this book to people who are very much into sci-fi technothrillers, or perhaps Emo teens full of angst against ‘the system’.  Otherwise, if you’re looking for good, well researched, technothrillers, stick with the master of the genre – Michael Crichton.

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