Modernmoonman. Science Fiction book reviews.

Science Fiction Book Reviews and Stuff...

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Reality Dysfunction

The Reality Dysfunction was written by Peter F. Hamilton and published in 1996.  It's the first half of a thousand page novel; I guess the publisher thought it was a good idea to make two 500 page books out of it, yeah, and I never ever thought I would read this, but I am, and it's really great; only there is another book after this one, called The Reality Dysfunction part 2,  and after that there are two more huge books called The Neutronium Alchemest (part 1 and 2) that's good for at least 1000 or so pages, and then there are TWO MORE books called The Naked God (part 1 and 2)  or something or other....man, this book is chock full 'o tech, but characters rule here, so here's a text sample:

"Just like you and all the others, you want to believe that everything's so perfect on this planet.  You convinced yourselves we're a bunch of regular lads who got a bad break in life.  Anything else would have cracked your dream open and made you face reality.  Illusion is easy.  Illusion is the loser's way out.  Your way.  You and all of the others grubbing around in the dirt...."

O.K. this book kicks some serious ass, it's a wicked horror filled page turner, and Peter F. Hamilton is giving space opera a good name.

Song of the day: Brainstorm by Arctic Monkeys


The drummer; bass; rhythm section; whole damn band rocks hard...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Grant Morrison Live

Comic Book God Grant Morrison delivers a talk that's about 45 minutes long, worth sticking through cos he comes up with some interesting things to think about...this is from 2000, so it's a pre 9/11 perspective on the world...but he makes reference to a lot of sci-fi (Abbott's 2 dimensional Flatland, Space and Time as described by H.P. Lovecraft, can we mention Philip K. Dick's collected works, Rudy Rucker's 57th Franz Kafka, and Sex Sphere come to mind)...cool stuff...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

John Carter, Warlord of Mars: 2012 Trailer!:

Dig it:

Lies, Inc.

Lies, Inc. was written by Philip K. Dick in his high output years of 1963-1964, and was originally called The Unteleported Man.
And this corrected version of The Unteleported Man, now re-titled Lies, Inc. is what he was working on when he died in 1982.

Those new to Philip K. Dick should not start here, as it's a difficult descent into LSD induced para worlds of hell......the hell world of the garrison state is a theme that runs through Dick's other works....some really out there psychedelic bad trip really scary stuff here (the eye eater is so creepy) that really wanders all over the map, from nightmare into boredom......this novel is a bad fascist dream....here is a quote:

"Three men, two of them riffraff with lasers, with the decayed eyes of those who had long ago been bought, hamstrung, lost long ago, came first.  And then a clear faced elegant man who would never be bought because he was a great buyer in the market of men; he was a dealer, not produce for sale."

Oh yeah, it's not the monsters that exist in the 10 para-worlds that are evil: all of the evil in the world is done by just us regular old human beings....and don't trust the government, dontchaknow...phew! I was worried there for a minute...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peter Falk RIP

Peter Falk passed away this week...this isn't sci-fi, but here's a great scene from the Wim Wenders' classic film "Himmel Uber Berlin" ("Heaven over Berlin" is how it translates, but for some reason in the U.S.A. it is known as "Wings of Desire"):

So great!

Stars My Destination


Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my Nation
Deep Space is my dwelling place
The stars my destination


Stars My Destination was written by Alfred Bester and Published in 1956.  Many consider it to be the best sci-fi book ever written.  It's in the top ten, surely.

This book is like a Jack Kirby Comic; so much vitality, nobody can keep up with it.  Pages 228-235 are so great.  Here:

"You pigs, you.  You goof like pigs is all.  You got the most in you, and you use the least.  You hear me you?  Got a million in you and spend pennies.  Got a genius in you and think crazies.  Got a heart in you and think empties.  All a you.  Every you..."  "Take a war to make you spend.  Take a jam to make you think.  Take a challenge to make you great.  Rest of the time you sit around lazy, you.  Pigs, you!  All right, God Damn You! I challenge you, me.  Die or live and be great.  Blow yourselves to Christ gone or come and find me, Gully Foyle, and I make you men.  I make you great.  I give you the stars."


"He hung in space for a blinding moment, as helpless, as amazed, and yet as inevitable as the first gilled creature to come out of the sea and hang gulping on a primeval beach in the dawn-history of life on earth."

This book is a classic among classics; for 1956, this book slays....and is better, perhaps, but not necessarily, better,  than his 1st one: The Demolished Man...man, Alfred Bester should be a household name by now, cos he had some style, and more importantly, some substance to his contributions to sci-fi literature...

He also came up with the oath for comic book hero Green Lantern:

In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night,
No Evil Shall Escape My Sight,
Let those Who Worship Evil's Might,
Beware My Power....Green Lantern's Light! 

Alfred Bester.  Fantastic.









Spin

Spin is a novel written by Robert Charles Wilson and published in 2005.  Stephen King calls him "a hell of a storyteller" right on the cover, yo, so if King says it, it's just gotta be true...and it is to a degree.  This book is the "Secret History" (by Donna Tart) of Sci-Fi...but not as good...and not as bad....but still, it won the Hugo for 2005, so it's gotta be good right?  It's pretty good, glad I read it, and the scene at the end with the brother receiving transmissions from the stars.....that's a quality scene; haunting even......but still, I just can't wait to get to my next review...seems that the Hugo, a sci-fi popularity poll, not a critical one.... in 2005 and the Hugo in 1965 whatever...well they are different times now, eh?  If you see this and have to sit on a beach, make it a groovy sci-fi beach read.....

Modernmoonman song of the day: Life on Mars by David Bowie

Friday, June 10, 2011

Modernmoonman song of the day: Whitey on the Moon by Gil Scott Heron, RIP

Dig it:

Out Of Bounds


Out of Bounds was written by Judith Merril and published in 1960.  Ms. Merril was Frederick Pohl's first wife, an "Anthologist" who edited the "Year's Best S-F" series in the 60s, and creator of the world's largest sci-fi library (in Toronto,Canada.)  She is a highly regarded woman writer in the male dominated field of sci-fi.  Out of Bounds contains 6 sci-fi short stories (including the mutant classic "THAT ONLY A MOTHER"), and one creepy gothic horror story (written with Algis Budrys) that takes place in Dutchess County, New York.  She writes about the military with authority, and voices her concerns about human connections and communication with aplomb; it's a pretty impressive collection of readable stuff....  Here's a sample of the text, from her telepathy (mind-reading) tale "Connection Completed":

     "A man lives all his life inside the wall of his own skull, making words into sentences, moving muscles to form gestures, so that he can make his existence and purposes known to others; and in the same way, absorbing his perceptions of the people and things around him, trying to interpret as best he can, so as to understand some part of their meaning for himself.  But he never gets outside the bony barriers of his own head, or past the hardening defenses of others.  For every human being, the word or the gesture has some slightly different meaning.  No two people ever meet completely without some slight or great distortion of intent or understanding, occurring in the jangled complexity of living cells that make up the expressive and interpretive mechanisms of the man."



Here's a video clip about Judith Merril:


And here's another clip from an annoying Canadian T.V. interview, Ms. Merril is quite interesting, though:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Modernmoonman song of the day: Common People by William Shatner

Dig it.

Space Plague

The Space Plague was written by George O. Smith and published in 1956.   It reads like 1956, as in it's dated as hell, but in the best way.... It's a pretty good pulp yarn about a disease from outer space that either kills you or turns you into a superman; it's very Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with some veiled political content probably having something to do with some 1950's conception of an anti-communist underground railroad, but it mostly reads like a hard boiled 50's X-files.  Telepathy (Mind reading) and E.S.P. (Extra Sensory Perception) are also convincingly explored here.  This was a good clean fun read, and with prose like:

"Nurse Farrow made a wry face as though she'd just discovered that the stuff she had in her mouth was a ball of wooly centipedes..."

Man, the wooly is what seperates good writing from great, and I'd have to say that this book really needs a sequel, especially with some serious-ish content sprinkled in there like:

"The entire human race is lambasted by one form of propaganda or another from the time the infant  learns to sit up until the elderly lays down and dies.  We're all guilty of loose thinking...."

Blah, blah, blah, it goes on, and it's all over the place pulp.  1956.  Not quite all there; pretty vital, not essential, but still kinda neat.  And the cover design is a real winner!  Viva sci-fi pulp!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed

Modernmoonman song of the day:  Metal Machine Music, by Lou Reed, released in July 1975, and ahead of his time...:

Timescape

 "I laugh at what you call dissolution-
  for I know the amplitude of time."
                        -Walt Whitman


Timescape was written by Gregory Benford and published in 1980.  It won a Nebula award and John W. Campbell award  in 1981.  I had this one in my to read pile for a while, and it's a hard science tour-de-force that I wish I had read sooner.  50% hard science and 50% character development, and utterly realistic all the way through, mainly about time-traveling-faster-than-light-tachyon-particles as a means to send messages to warn the past to prevent the present catastrophe of world-killing bacterial ocean bloom caused by fertilizer and chemical runoff into the oceans.  (Phew!) Certainly plausible stuff.  Plus there is a lot of stuff about class struggle to make this a relatively contemporary update of Wells' archetypal Time Machine.  Connie Willis' Doomsday Book certainly owes a lot to this book as well...can anyone tell me why is Cambridge the center of time travel in the world of Sci Fi?  Is it cos of Wells?  So Class issues can be discussed here?, so much more easily than in America?, and does the continent matter cos America has no class (but of course we do)?  Of special interest is his conception of time itself as the great unknown topic in physics, in that those tachyons travel faster than the speed of light, so like they can travel to the past and warn them about our ever fucked up present, and we can avoid all of this environmental nonsense, and a doom straight outta Day of the Triffids....

"The past is not ever dead,
 it's not even past"
                -William Faulkner  

Sure, Mr. Benford name drops all the coolies like Philip K. Dick, Herbert Marcuse, and Richard Feynman, but what he really excels at doing is creating that elusive sense of wonder...and making physics dramatic, poetic, and mind blowing... I folded many pages over by the halfway point (to re-read)....and the final pages of this novel are fantastic and moving, and this book has been one of Modernmoonman's faves since I started this blog.... Here's a taste of the text:

     "Look, the point here is that our distinctions between cause and effect are an illusion.  This little experiment we've been discussing is a causal loop --no beginning, no end.  That's what Wheeler and Feynman meant by requiring only that our description be logically consistent.  Logic rules in Physics, not the myth of cause and effect.  Imposing an order to events is our  point of view.  A quaintly human view, I suppose.  The laws of physics don't care.  That's the new concept of time we have now--as a set of completely interrelated events, linked self-consistently.  We  think we're moving along in time, but that's just a bias."

     "But we know things happen now, not in the past or future."

     "When is 'now'?  Saying 'now' is 'this instant' is going around in circles.  Every instant is 'now' when it 'happens.'  The point is, how do you measure the rate of moving from one instant to the next?  And the answer is, you can't  What's the rate of the passage of time?"

     "Well it's--" Peterson stopped, thinking.

     "How can time move?  The rate is one second of movement per second!  There's no conceivable coordinate system in physics from which we can measure time passing.  So there isn't any.  Time is frozen, as far as the universe is concerned."

This is a great Book, and a great introduction to the "Hard Sci Fi" writing of Gregory Benford.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We Can Build You

We Can Build You was written by Philip K. Dick and published in 1972.  Rolls along nicely for this is the book written directly after Man in the High Castle, I was like, man he's taking it easy here; this is normal robot stuff, but then, wham! the usual robot maker stuff..."why do you do the things you do; why do you want the things you want...who is programmed? who's the robot?" is augmented by a serious case of the patented Philip K. Dick "Things are not as they seem, sour milk masquerades as cream..." jacked up by a heavy dose of schizophrenia...so this nice little book isn't quite so nice now, izzit?  The woman as love interest in here bites, too, if she in fact, uh, exists!  A portrait of living hell; the kind that makes a man feel alive!
Dick has a lot to say here about the program of love here, and man it hurts...this nutcracker is recommended!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beyond the Blue Event Horizon





Beyond the Blue Event Horizon was written by Frederick Pohl and published in 1980.  It's #2 of the "Heechee" saga....and it is the sequel to the Hugo and Nebula award winner Gateway...it's a good read, though nothing quotable....Pohl ups the science a lot here with a lot of talk re: the huge black hole Robinette Broadhead has left his lover marooned at....he really gets into explaining how the mass of the black hole affects time at the event horizon so that the main protagonist can live a lifetime as his lover lives only a few seconds....he plans to swoop in and save her, natch, as Pohl makes with the sexy talk and the talky sex as Robinette Broadhead kills time....Kewl (cool) ...."Heechee Rendezvous" is next....but, well....no rush....sorry Mr. Pohl!

Gateway

Gateway was written by Frederick Pohl and published in 1977, when it won both the Hugo and Nebula award.  In other words, it's a masterpiece, book one of the "Heechee" saga, eh?  Well, it's a pretty damn good read, that's for sure.  But it's like butter, or silk, or gossamer....or some other seemingly insubstantial thing that turns out to be....strong stuff.  Too much psycho-analysis for my taste, but the twist at the end is killer, and the book is hard science (in the best way) yet also about human relationships (in the best way).  Classic space opera, too.   The next book ups the hard science part....but never really tops "Gateway"....still, I can see why this is a classic...though nothing is quotable...oh well...strong stuff from Frederick Pohl in 1977.

Harlan Ellison talks Jack Kirby

Funny, I was reading and old comic book from the early 1970s, called "The Forever People" by Jack Kirby and inside on the letters page was a letter by Harlan Ellison.  I was impressed because he was a famous science fiction writer raving about how great "The Forever People" was...I mean I always thought Jack Kirby is one of the greatest artists of the last century...anyway, here is Harlan Ellison as he talks about Jack Kirby, from the mid 1980's released on VHS (unreleased on dvd) "Masters of Comic Book Art":

Deodato 2001: A Space Odyssey

By Popular Demand, here is the Modernmoon song of the week, by Deodato, a little ditty entitled: 2001 A Space Odyssey:

2001: A Space Odyssey


2001: A Space Odyssey was written by Arthur C. Clarke and published in 1968.  Not much to add to the reams of writing already written about 2001; the book is rightly considered one of the best in the sci-fi (or any) genre.  The whole text is wonderful, but just for kicks, here's my favorite, chapter 45, entitled "Recapitulation":

     "There being no further use for it, the furniture of the suite dissolved back into the mind of its creator.  Only the bed remained--and the walls, shielding this fragile organism from the energies it could not yet control.
     In his sleep, David Bowman stirred restlessly.  He did not wake, nor did he dream, but he was no longer wholly unconcious.  Like a fog creeping through a forest, something invaded his mind.  He sensed it only dimly, for a full impact would have destroyed him as surely as the fires raging beyond these walls.  Beneath that dispassionate scrutiny, he felt neither hope nor fear; all emotion had been leached away.
     He seemed to be floating in free space, while around him stretched, in all directions, an infinite geometrical grid of dark lines or threads, along which moved tiny nodes of light--some slowly, some at dazzling speed.  Once he had peered through a microscope at a cross-section of a human brain, and in its network of nerve fibers had glimpsed the same labyrinthine complexity.  But that had been dead and static, whereas this transcended life itself.  He knew--or believed he knew--that he was watching the operation of some gigantic mind, contemplating the universe of which he was so tiny a part.
     The vision, or illusion, lasted only a moment.  Then the crystalline planes and lattices, and the interlocking perspectives of moving light, flickered out of existence, as David Bowman moved into a realm of consciousness that no man had experienced before.
     At first, it seemed that time was running backward.  Even this marvel he was prepared to accept, before he realized a subtler truth.
     The springs of memory were being tapped; in controlled recollection, he was reliving the past.  There was the hotel suite--there the space pod--there the burning starscapes of the red sun--there the shining core of the galaxy--there the gateway through which he had re-emerged into the universe.  And not only vision, but all the sense impressions, and all the emotions he had felt at the time, were racing past, more and more swiftly.  His life was unreeling like a tape recorder playing back at ever increasing speed.
     Now he was once more aboard the Discovery  and the rings of Saturn filled the sky.  Before that, he was repeating his final dialogue with Hal; he was seeing Frank Poole leave on his last mission; he was hearing the voice of Earth, assuring him that all was well.
     And even as he relived these events, he knew that all indeed was well.  He was retrogressing down the corridors of time, being drained of knowledge and experience as he swept back toward his childhood.  But nothing was being lost; all that he had ever been, at every moment of this life, was being transferred to safer keeping.  Even as one David Bowman ceased to exist, another became immortal.
     Faster, faster he moved back into forgotten years, and into a simpler world.  Faces he had once loved, and had thought lost beyond recall, smiled at him sweetly.  He smiled back with fondness, and without pain.
     Now, at last, the headlong regression was slackening; the wells of memory were nearly dry.  Time flowed more and more sluggishly, approaching a moment of stasis--as a swinging pendulum, at the limit of its arc, seems frozen for one eternal instant, before the next cycle begins.
     The timeless instant passed; the pendulum reversed its swing.  In an empty room, floating amid the fires of a double star twenty thousand light-years from Earth, a baby opened its eyes and began to cry."

      
Oh yeah, the movie version by Stanley Kubrick is pretty good too...Here's a sample of the film (it's the film version of the text I just copied above...great way to see the difference between book vs. film, and why it's always a good idea to read the text as well as view the film.)  Here it is:




And last, but not least, if you ever have a chance to check out the 70s comic book version of 2001 by Jack Kirby, that is time well spent.  Here's a cool video "trailer" of that work, and the soundtrack here is sci-fi at it's funkiest:

Green Lantern Trailer

Dig it:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Rogue Moon


Rogue Moon was written by Algis Budrys and published in 1960.  It was originally entitled "The Death Machine," but was changed without his consent.  In it's exploration of an alien monolith discovered on the lunar surface, this book predates Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey by a decade, and it's a lot racier, too!  It's pure hi-octane pulp action, about the type of man who has "the right stuff," only in this case, "the right stuff" is a death-wish!  And the right man is a suicidal maniac!

Rogue Moon has some if the best writing in sci-fi.  Thrilling stuff.  I'd love to see a movie version of this...

Anthem

Anthem was written by Ayn Rand in 1937, published in England in 1938, and published for the first time in America in 1946.  With it's theme of rebellion against a totalitarian government in the future, (where writing your own thoughts, picking your own profession, and choosing your own mate are forbidden) Anthem has a lot in common with Orwell's 1984.  The main character in Anthem, Equality 7-2521,  is a self-taught scientist, and develops/discovers some kind of electrical light bulb technology, escapes the totalitarian "civilization" and makes for the forest with his new mate.  Thus ends the 123 page book, as well as any similarity to Orwell, and the stage is now set for Ayn Rand's next book, the sci-fi classic Atlas Shrugged...(which was just made into a movie.)

Here is, for your edification and listening pleasure, an Ayn Rand interview from 1959:


By 5:55 of the second video, if not sooner, it is quite clear to Modernmoonman that Ayn Rand is completely misinformed, naive, and insane. Quite a personality though.  Think science fiction writers exist in la-la land and have no effect on contemporary American life?  Ask Alan Greenspan...

Modernmoonman Bonus:
The Canadian rock band Rush performing their Ayn Rand inspired song "Anthem"; (it's not great, but amazingly good considering the source inspiration, eh?):


To Your Scattered Bodies Go


To Your Scattered Bodies Go was written by Philip Jose Farmer and published in 1971; it won the Hugo award for best Science Fiction Novel in 1972.  Imagine that everyone who was ever born on earth gets resurrected at the same time as a genetic experiment carried out by aliens who want to see what kind of rat race will develop in the human race...In this "heaven" created by the "old ones," can the human race evolve beyond violence?    You know that joke about the frog that carries the scorpion across the river?  This book is kinda like that, only with Richard Burton as frog, and Hermann Goering as the scorpion.  It's a riot where suicide is the only way to move your chess piece body closer to the ultimate goal of shutting down the arrogant "old ones" who are running this reincarnation circus called "Riverworld."  As this is only the first book in the Riverworld Trilogy, I suppose some more answers are out there, somewhere....

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pattern Recognition


Pattern Recognition was written by William Gibson and published in 2003.  The attack on the World Trade Center  looms over this novel, Gibson's best (!) and most subtle.  In the tremendous  Neuromancer, Gibson detailed a net surfer negotiating layer after layer of internet "Ice" security....Count Zero was more of the same...cyber-jockys jacking into the matrix for one last ride and taste of "true" freedom as tears of release streamed down their faces...Cyberpunk has evolved into....the world of Cayce Pollard..?  A sensitive allergic to the brashness of advertising?  Kind of an allergic reaction to the Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth  world of Space Merchants, like 50 tears later?  Or an allergic reaction to the ostentatious reality of today...yeah, well technology will change, but the fundamental laws of advertising are eternal....

And there are layers on layers on being owned and being used and what it means to work...and who is working for who and for what and what it means...

      "We don't know what you are doing, or why.  Parkaboy thinks you are dreaming.  Dreaming for us.  Sometimes he sounds as though he thinks you're dreaming us.  He has this whole edged-out participation mystique:  how we have to allow ourselves so far into the investigation of whatever this is, whatever you're doing, that we become part of it.  Hack into the system.  Merge with it, deep enough that it, not you, begins to talk to us.  He says it's like Coleridge, and De Quincey.  He says it's shamanic.  That we may all seem to just be sitting there, staring at the screen, but really, some of us anyway, we're adventurers.  We're out there, seeking, taking risks.  In hope, he says, of bringing back wonders.  Trouble is, lately, I've been living that."

Mr. Gibson is great at depicting the artist in the story as well:

     "And from it, and from her other wounds, there now emerged, accompanied by the patient and regular clicking of her mouse, the footage.
     In the darkened room whose windows would have offered a view of the Kremlin, had they been scraped clean of paint, Cayce had known herself to be in the presence of the splendid source, the headwaters of the digital Nile she and her friends had sought.  It is here, in the languid yet precise moves of a woman's pale hand.  In the faint click of image-capture.  In the eyes only truly present when focused on this screen.
     Only the wound, speaking wordlessly in the dark."

New Maps of Hell





New Maps of Hell was written by Kingsley Amis and published in 1960.  The book is based on some lectures he gave at Princeton University on the topic of Science Fiction, and I really loved this book because it introduced me to writers like Clifford Simak and Frederick Pohl, and because it is a primer of sorts of pre-1960 sci-fi.

The whole book is great because he kicks it off with a little talk about addiction, and how those who appreciate sci-fi are far different from the addicts of sci-fi, who are also more prone to love jazz, and of how sci-fi and jazz music are not mass culture with a radical tinge (for 1960) and...and...and...

Kingsley Amis is an upper crust sort of writer, taught Literature at Oxford, and throws around the word "Chap" with a startling regularity.  Funny how such a stiff neck can get into prose like this:
(from "Of Missing Persons", by Unknown (an author yet to make his name), from "Good Housekeeping" magazine circa 1955):

     The first-person hero, Charlie Ewell, on recommendation from a stranger met in a bar, goes to a travel bureau and asks the man to help him to escape.  "From what?" the man asks.  Charlie hesitates; he's "never put it into words before."  Then:

     "From New York, I'd say.  And cities in general.  From worry.  And fear.  And the things I read in my newspapers.  From loneliness...From never doing what I really want to do or having much fun.  From selling my days just to stay alive.  From life itself--the way it is today, at least."  I looked straight at him and said softly, "From the world."

New Maps of Hell is a Classic; it's a shame that it's out-of-print.  Recommended without reservation if you can find a copy.

The Space Merchants







The Space Merchants was written by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth and published in 1952.  It's a satire of corporate America and the phenomenon of Advertising and Consumerism that still exists today.  This book has aged pretty well; it's dated for sure, but kinda like the TV show "Mad Men" only set in the future.  This book really delineates the difference between the rich and poor.   If you are a star class top ad executive then life is pretty good, but if you're just a regular working person, then, well, you are basically a slave in a system that is designed to make you an addict and forever in debt.

In his excellent book New Maps of Hell, Kingsley Amis says that in The Space Merchants,  reality is "a utopia in which the economic system has swallowed the political, with power wielded immediately as well as ultimately by the large companies, the forms of the administration retained for their usefulness as a "clearinghouse for pressures," and society rigidly stratified into producers, executives, and consumers.  The opening is pure Pohl:  the hero, Mitchell Courtenay, copy-smith star class, attends a top-level conference of Fowler Schocken Associates, the advertising agency he works for, one of the most puissant and formidable in all Madison Avenue, billing "a megabuck a year more than anybody else around."  The reader is introduced, casually and by degrees, to representative features of the society imagined: the industrial anthropology expert reports that while schoolchildren east of the Mississippi are having their lunches--soyaburgers and regenerated steak--packed according to the prescription of a rival firm, their candy, ice cream, and Kiddiebutt cigarette ration have been decisively cornered by a Fowler Schocken client, so that the children's future is assured.  Similarly, the Coffiest account is mentioned and the cost of the cure from this habit forming beverage estimated at a nice round five thousand dollars.  Finally we come to the Venus project and a preview of the relevant television commercial:

     "This is the ship that a modern Columbus will drive through the void,"  said the voice.  "Six and a half million tons of trapped lightening and steel--an ark for eighteen hundred men and women, and everything to make a new world for their home.  Who will man it?  What fortunate pioneers will tear an empire from the rich, fresh soil of another world?  Let me introduce you to them--a man and his wife, two of the intrepid..."
     The voice kept on going.  On the screen the picture dissolved to a spacious suburban roomette in the early morning.  On the screen the husband folded the bed into the wall and taking down the partition to the children's nook; the wife dialing breakfast and erecting the table.  Over the breakfast juices and the children's pablum (with a steaming mug of Coffiest for each, of course) they spoke persuasively to each other about how wise and brave they had been to apply for passage to the Venus rocket.  And the closing question of their youngest babbler ("Mommy, when I grow up kin I take my
littul boys and girls to a place as nice as Venus?")  cued the switch to a highly imaginitive series of shots of Venus as it would be when the child grew up--verdant valleys, crystal lakes, brilliant mountain vistas.
     The commentary did not exactly deny, and neither did it dwell on, the decades of hydroponics and life in hermetically sealed cabins that the pioneers would have to endure while working on Venus' un-breathable atmosphere and waterless chemistry."


If you have ever had a desire that you don't trust or have wondered why you have bought (or bought into) shit you don't need that may even be detrimental, then this book is for you.  High marks for capturing the timeless dynamic and infinite layers of punishment and reward, or as D. Boon said, "Psychological methods to sell should be destroyed..."  The Space Merchants is loaded with class warfare, some 50's type commie red scare shenanigans, and now that the U.S. Supreme court has decided that a corporation can donate to a political organization unlimited funds just like an individual, this novel is more profound and timely than ever.  It's a prophetic mirror, one you can see clearly for miles in, and that's a very high compliment.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sci Fi Rock and Roll Jimi Hendrix

Alternating Currents

Alternating Currents was written by Frederick Pohl and published in  1956, when Mr. Pohl was 36...but the stories appeared in the Sci Fi Pulps (Galaxy, Beyond, and Fantastic Universe) from '53 to '55.  Mr. Pohl wrote "Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus" apparently for his wife; ......and even if he didn't it still would be one of the greatest love stories ever....he makes his wife's family appear as if they were from another planet...yet the story is all heart;....a fine start to this book of now classic Sci Fi stories.    "Let the Ants Try" is a time travel tale extraordinaire; "Rafferty's Reasons" details the insanity and murderous rage instilled and caused by the gap between the rich and poor....talk about prophetic!  Last but not least is the tale "Until the Analyst Comes" that is the funniest story about addiction, like, ever...so here's a taste; a taste of the text:

     "He stopped me before I could work up a full explosion.  Wait! Don't think that you're the only person who thinks about what's good for the world.  When I first heard of Cheery-Gum, I worried."  He stubbed the cigarette out distastefully, still talking. "Euphoria is well and good, I said, but what about emergencies?  And I looked around, and there weren't any.  Things were getting done, maybe slowly and erratically, but they were getting done.  And then I said, on a high moral plane, that's well and good, but what about the ultimate destiny of man?  And that worried me, until I began looking at my patients."  He smiled reflectively.  "I had 'em all, Mr. McGory.  You name it, I had it coming in to see me twice a week.  The worst wrecks of psyches you ever heard of, twisted and warped and destroying themselves; and then they stopped.  ....."

     "They stopped eating themselves up with worry and fear and tension, and then they weren't my patients any more.  And what's more, they weren't morons.  Give them a stimulus, they respond.  Interest them, they react6.  I played bridge with a woman who was catatonic last month; we had to put the first stick of gum in her mouth.  She beat the hell out of me, Mr. McGory...."

      "It isn't a habit.  So why break it?"
       So how can you break it?
       You can stop Cheery-Gum any time.  You can stop it this second, or five minutes from now,  or   
       tomorrow.
       So why worry about it?
       It's completely voluntary, entirely under your control; it won't hurt you, it won't make you sick.
       I wish that Theodor Yust would come back.  Or maybe I'll just cut my throat."

Funny how things that aren't habit forming are after all indeed quite habit forming!

Great collection of tales from Mr. Pohl.






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Way Station


Way Station  was written by Clifford D. Simak and was published in 1964.  It is one of the greatest science fiction books ever written.  Does the progression of the cover art from chthonic wormy tastelessness to pastoral tastefulness mean that the text is getting some respect?  Has anybody out there even heard of this book?... I had never heard of this book until I read "New Maps of Hell" by Kingsley Amis, a writer and critic who is to pre-1960 Sci Fi what Lester Bangs is to pre-1980 Rock and Roll...that is, the authoritative addict of the genre; the real authority, and well spoken, uh, articulate as$#ole advocate of the genre, for better or worse....  That said, Way Station is a masterpiece of science fiction because it is all HEART...sure, the invincible alien way station exists, and immortality exists for the station agent...and only because the universe is eternal do the temporal human things have meaning...to the all too human 150 year old well tempered station agent...and of course there is a conflict between the needs of earth vs. the needs of the universe, and what hard choices Enoch the station agent has to make and why....for the good of the universe...no quotes of text cos I was breathless the whole time and forgot to turn the corners of the pages for future use!  Huh!

So this isn't "hard" Sci Fi; it's "heart-Sci Fi" and a beautifully written book about Enoch the first interstellar politician from the planet earth.  Recommended to everyone without reservations...cos quality like this easily spans generations man, and make sure you have 2 or three copies around the house to pass down to the future generations so you can have your offspring say, "What the heck are you giving me this disgusting old and brown pulp paper product for, man?".........

So Bright the Vision

So Bright the Vision was written by Clifford D. Simak and published  in 1968 composed of 4 stories written between 1956 -1960.  This book was mentioned in "New Maps of Hell" by Kingsley Amis, and the 4 tales are all good, in spite of the fact that they could be written by your favorite grandfather, you know, the one who told you stories when you were little..."So Bright the Vision" has a lot in common with Kenneth Bulmer's "On the Symb-Socket Circuit" with the symbionic "Alice" blanket alien host, and is about the next step in human evolution, and a new species predicted ages ago:
     "He turned back to the beginning of the fragment and he read: Author Unknown.  Circa 1956.
    Six hundred years ago!  Six hundred years-and how could any man in 1956 have known?
     The answer was he couldn't.
     There was no way he could have known.  He'd simply dreamed it up.  And hit the truth dead center!  Some early writer of science fiction had had an inspired vision!"

Modernmoonman wants to know "who dreamed us up six hundred years ago, and who are we dreaming up six hundred years from now..."

So Bright the Vision is a "good read"; It was the first Simak I encountered; luckily Kingsley Amis turned me on to "Way Station," an utterly "Great Read"  and a Masterpiece of American Literature...

Farenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 was written by Ray Bradbury and published in it's final form in 1953.  It originally appeared as a story entitled "The Fireman" in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1950.  Ah, Ray Bradbury.  This book is considered a pillar of the Sci Fi genre, and once you get past the idea that firemen can go from putting out fires to starting them; I suppose it is....this writing about memory and forgetting and the political transformation from normalcy to "something else" by the totalitarian manipulation of memory by "Laughter and Forgetting" predates Milan Kundera's similar political text ("Laughter and Forgetting") by some 30 years.   Fahrenheit 451 is sometimes held in the same company as Orwell's 1984, but I don't think it has aged as well, though it is still a fantastic book of ideas.  Ray Bradbury is wide awake and he wants the reader to be aware of the pitfalls of too much Government control.  Government wants the populace not too aware of the world; living on t.v. soap operas and sports programs.   Ray Bradbury sure casts a spell, and some of this text is indeed  immortal; here's a taste:

     "Number one:  Do you know why books such as this are so important?  Because they have quality.  And what does the word quality mean?  To me it means texture.  This book has pores.  It has features.  This book can go under the microscope.  You's find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion.  The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more 'literary' you are.  That's my definition anyway.  Telling detailFresh detail.  The good writers touch life often.  The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her.  The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.
     "So now do you see why books are hated and feared?  They show the pores in the face of life.  The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.  We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam.  Even fireworks, for all their prettiness, come from the chemistry of the earth.  Yet somehow we think we can grow, feeding on flowers and fireworks, without completing the cycle back to reality."

Though not as great as 1984, Fahrenheit 451 is of it's ilk, and top notch in it's own way, to boot.   It was  apparently taught in U.S. High Schools, though sadly not in mine.  Required reading, as the nocturnal river ride at the end is redemptive American elision at it's finest. 

Man Parachutes from 100,000 feet: A Real Modernmoonman hero: Joe Kittinger

Against the Fall of Night


Against the Fall of Night was written by Arthur C. Clarke and published in 1953.  It's very early work by the master, and he reworked this novel 10 years later and retitled it The City and the Stars, (which modernmoonman will review at a later date.)  Against the Fall of Night is science fiction that is similar to When the Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells, in that the protagonist "wakes up" and tries to enlighten society, but it has a much more positive outcome.  The trippy, cosmic stuff that made Childhood's End so great is present and strong here, and the futuristic society is really well described....Clarke really is good at creating a "sense of wonder" in the reader as he describes the cosmic engineering that takes place over eons....and he's good at contrasting the engineering with the spiritual stuff that co-exists with the science...all in all a pretty interesting and worthwhile read; kinda hard to go wrong with pre-Rama II Clarke.  It will be interesting to see what he wasn't satisfied with when he re-wrote it in City and the Stars

Cryptonomicon


Cryptonomicon is written by Neal Stephenson and was published in 1999.  It's 1,152 pages long and is as big as a really f$@king big brick.  Luckily I burned through this massive tome in about a week and a half, cos my forearms are already as popeye-ish as I'd like them to be... man reading this book is like lifting weights...anyway, I disliked his "Snow Crash" very much, but this book is a tremendously fun read.  I'd even go so far as to call it an American Masterpiece, up there with all of the greats; Faulkner, Asimov, etc...except this book is 10 times funnier than they are, and crammed with a great idea on every 4th page...Bam!  Bam!  Bam! Fast and furious it just keeps coming.  I love this book....what's it about?  Everything.  Mainly about the origin of computers during WWII and the lovable, wacky mathematicians that started this whole A.I. business, and a character named "Shaftoe" who is the greatest fictional character ever created; well, maybe one of 'em at least...  You would think that this book is too long, but you know what?:  It, like Life, is too damn short....Stephanson should send his editor out on a decade long fishing trip, cos modernmoonman is along for the ride...  The Singularity starts here...recommended to smart people who like to have their ideas fast and hard:  bang! bang! bang!......'nuff said!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Modernmoonman song du jour: Moonage Daydream

Moonage Daydream:  (David Bowie version)



Moonage Daydream: (Zen Guerrilla version)

Play loud!

Union Sundown/ Dylan as Prophet

"They used to grow food in Kansas, now they wanna grow it on the Moon and eat it raw...
 I can see the day comin' when even your whole garden, is gonna be against the law... "
   - Bob Dylan


Lots of problems with the unions in Wisconsin these days..., of course, Scifi predicted this years ago 'cos the road to the singularity is paved with a lotta lost jobs being taken over by robots....and it's only gonna get worse; so we live in interesting times...Bob Dylan predicted this 20 years ago, with his masterpiece called "Union Sundown" off of the album "Infidels", you know the one with him in shades, and with Mark Knopfler and Mick Taylor, 2 of the greatest guitarists ever; and the rhythm section, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare is tip-top notch, too...Great Album (Get it!) This is a GREAT song: (and so banned!)  I wish I could show the Dylan version (it's great but unavailable), but here's a pretty spectacular cover version:



Here are the lyrics:

Well my shoes they come from Singapore
My Flashlight's from Taiwan
My table comes from Malasia
Build for us from the Amazon

You know this shirt I wear comes from the Phillipines
And the car I drive is a Chevrolet
It was put together down in Argentina
By a guy making 30 cents a day

(Chorus:
Well there's sundown on the Union
And what's made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
'Till greed got in the way!)

Well this silk dress is from Hong Kong,
And the Pearls are from Japan
The dog coller is from India,
And the Flower pot is from Pakistan

All the furniture it says
"Made in Brazil"
Where a woman she slaved for sure...
Bringing home 30 cents a day (to her family of 12)
You know that's a lot of money to her...

(Chorus)

Well you know lots of people complainin' that there is no work...
I say, "What do ya say that for?
When nothin' you've got is U.S. made...
They don't make nothin' here no more..."

Y'know Capitalism is above the law...
It says, "It don't count unless it sells..."
When it costs too much to build it at home,
You just build it cheaper someplace else...

(Chorus)


Well that job that you used to have:
They gave it to somebody down in El Salvador,
Well the Unions are big business friend;
And they're going out like a dinosaur...

They used to grow food in Kansas,
Now they wanna grow it on the moon, and eat it raw;
I can see the day comin' when even your whole garden
Is gonna be against the law....

(Chorus)

Democracy don't rule the world
You better get that through your head...
This world is ruled by violence,
But I guess that's better left unsaid...

From Broadway to the Milky Way,
That's a lot of territory indeed...
And a man's gotta do, what he has to do,
When he's got a hungry mouth to feed....


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Case and the Dreamer

Case and the Dreamer was written by Theodore Sturgeon and was originally published in 1972.  It's kind of a SciFi love story with a pinch of Jesus themes (resurrection, love) and a touch of Castaway, as in the Tom Hanks movie where he learns to catch fish, climb hills, and create schemes to escape, but on a hostile planet 1000 years in the vague and sad future where humanity has evolved into something "else":

     So Case looked on Earth as a contemporary, ten centuries past his death, and wagged his head slowly.  "It shouldn't have come to this."
      "It had to.  It was that or die," said the blue man; and Case thought a bit and saw that it was so.

     "You see, Case, primitive as you may seem to some of us, you have a quality which we lack and admire--a willingness to go out, to do, to explore and discover and find, actually and physically, and not in theory or in extrapolation or imagination... "

At 60 pages, Case and the Dreamer is a real gem of a story about what love does:  "Frees the slaves.  Damns the consequences," and what is truly important, "finding meaning, making memories." 

Oh, and what is the 2nd most precious and rare thing on Earth 1000 years from now?  Privacy!
  

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mission to the Stars (the Mixed Men)

Mission to the Stars (the Mixed Men) was written by A.E. Van Vogt and published in 1952; the stories were originally published in 1943 in various SciFi magazines.  This book is typical Van Vogt; fast paced action and adventure, with some racial integration messages.  The science is very dated, but this is very readable stuff.  This book certainly was the template for "Star Trek," boldly going where no man has gone before, but with a woman Captain manning the bridge.  Pretty fun read.  Here is a sample of the political content in the writing:

     "The coming of Earth power into the Greater Magellanic Cloud will be of benefit to all individuals and groups of all planets.  Earth has much to offer.  Earth guarantees to the individual basic rights under law, guarantees to the group basic freedoms and economic prosperity, and requires all government to be elective by secret ballot.
     Earth does not permit a separate sovereign state anywhere in the universe.
     Such a separate military power could strike at the heart of the human-controlled galaxy, and drop bombs on densely populated planets.  That has happened.  You may guess what we did to the governments who sponsored such a project.  You cannot escape us.  If by chance we should fail now with our one ship to locate you, then within a few years ten thousand ships will be here searching.  This is one thing we never delay on.  From our point of view, it is safer to destroy an entire civilization then let it exist as a cancer in the greater culture from which it sprang."

Seems that some things never change, and that this policy is pretty identical to current U.S. attitudes towards foreign policy....This tale is very Star Trek, but in a good way; in a fresh way; totally fresh as it preceded the show by decades............(I always did have a problem with the "Prime Directive"..., but that's another story...)

Slan and World of Null-A and War Against the Rull are better, but still, A.E. Van Vogt is a great pulp writer, and always delivers a tale worth reading.  Unbelievably he's hard to find at the local chain bookstore.....






Thursday, February 17, 2011

Zenith


Zenith is a new SciFi film that's in theaters right now, and considering it seems to have been made on a budget of $2.00, it's not bad.  It's not that good either, though parts of it are very cool, probably because they are reminiscent of parts of other movies like Trainspotting, Clockwork Orange, and 1984.  It's a really mixed bag.  I'm glad I saw it, and wish more low budget SciFi stuff like this was made.  A lot of it was filmed in Brooklyn.   Here's the trailer:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Singularity


Time Magazine published an article this week called 2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal by Lev Grossman that is a must read.  It's about Raymond Kurzweil and an event that has been predicted by many, many sci-fi writers (William Gibson, Richard Morgan, and Vernor Vinge to name a few) called Singularity.
Here is the link: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2048138,00.html

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Death of the Human Torch


                                          Marvel Comics killed off the Human Torch this month...

 

Human Torch R.I.P. 2011...When I was into the torch he looked like this...:

...in 1975.  Fighting a character Annihilus in the Negative Zone...a 70's reprint of Jack Kirby art at it's 60's  high point... Good times.  I haven't really read the Fantastic Four comic since 1980, when I was 12, but I was glad to know that this fictional character was out there somewhere...and when the movie "The Ice Storm" was released, and they had that scene where the kid reads comics, specifically Fantastic Four comics, about the Negative Zone...yeah, I was RIGHT THERE...

so, Damn, ...the Torch died protecting earth from the hoardes of Annihilus in the Negative Zone...just like 1975, ...R.I.P.. Johnny Storm !....

Of course, the first printing of the comic sold out in minutes and can now be found on ebay for $20.00 a pop...
Smell the flames, feel the fire; another childhood hero made outta myth bites the dust; my childhood lies smoking and smoldering on a corner of the negative zone and for what....my childhood deserves better.
Flame On! Oh, and Marvel, you suck!

I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon

     "This is a very neurotic person, the ship realized.  I am having an awful lot of trouble finding happy memories.  There is too much fear in him and too much guilt.  He has buried it all, and yet it is still there, worrying like a dog worries a rag.  Where can I go in his memories to find him solace?  I must come up with ten years of memories, or his mind will be lost."

I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon is a collection of short stories written by Philip K. Dick, the most effective being one that was originally entitled Frozen Journey and published in Playboy Magazine in 1980.  It is a tough and emotional roller coaster ride that, well, is about life itself; and time, and the perception of time, and of how the human brain is constructed to love and concentrate on the things that are good for it by it's nature, but then sometimes things happen, and even though you may mean well, well; things disintegrate, relationships change, people move in and out of your life; it's precarious enough...now add a long space trip and some faulty suspended animation and a well meaning computer to the equation....mmmmmmm.......It's a Modernmoonman favorite....a timeless classic....... there's a great review by "A Customer"  on Amazon that, for the sheer excellence and Duende of it, ah, I just gotta steal it (!):

"Philip K. Dick was one of science fiction's short story "master craftsmen", though he was better known for his novels. His short stories are reminiscent of Frederic Brown's, but usually Dick's were better paced and fuller. Published almost exclusively in SF magazines, most of his best stories were printed in Del Ray's "The Best of Philip K. Dick" collection. A good handful of these are some of the authentic gems of short SF. Towering above all the others (including the others collected in this volume), however, is "Frozen Journey", published in this volume with the less effective title "I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon". This was one of the first Dick stories to see "mainstream" print, as it first appeared in "Playboy", usually the domain of writers like Roth and Mailer. This short story brings together so many Dick themes in one place, it's like a pure distillation of his explorations; the unclear nature of reality, the difficulty of gender relations, the mistrust of technology, and the tendency to mental instability. But there is also something new here, a powerfully moving evocation of the effect of one man's guilt and sorrow on his consciousness and his resulting isolation from other people. In this story, Dick is able to wed his well-noted ontological ambiguity seamlessly with his compassion for humanity's predicament, something only partially achieved by his best novels (though some come close, notably "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"). All of the elements of the story serve to demonstrate the central tragedy, bring us in to the heart of the protagonist, make us see through his troubled eyes (even at the reality he has become blind to), and move us to reflect on the profound metaphor Dick has created: life as a frozen journey through space, alone with the shadows in our minds and hearts, broken by the sorrows of lost love, corrupted conscience, impending decay and death. Not since the "half-life" concept in "Ubik" has Dick created such a potent and bleak image. To my mind this story represents a special kind of apex for Dick, his deepest expression of tragedy. It deserves to stand among the best such in English in short story form."

Philip K. Dick Interview/ The Matrix

Modernmoonman Interview du Jour:


Minority Report


The Minority Report is a short story written by Philip K. Dick and published in Fantastic Universe Magazine in 1956:


The story is about 30 pages long; it's a classic tale about a man named John Anderson, who is the head of a police agency in the future called "Precrime."  It's an agency designed to prevent murders before they happen with the "help" of three mutant "precogs;" strange humans with special mental powers that enable them to see the future.  The "precogs" are kept in a tank of chemical solution against their will, they are tools and are used by the government to control the population.  Published just 6 short years after Orwell's 1984, this story is sleek and streamlined, with Dick's prose at it's leanest...seriously, omit a paragraph, and the whole thing falls apart, he's so economical here, that he accomplishes a hell of a lot in 30 pages.
 
It's a story where the government establishes a corrupt system that can instantly declare a citizen a threat to national security, and a potential murderer, and hence, the accused individual forfeits his rights to freedom and all of it's privileges.  They can be imprisoned and held indefinitely.  Violators are placed in a detention camp.  It's about how society is affected when a too powerful military wants control.

Pause.

Stephen Spielberg made this short story into a major Hollywood film in 2002.   I saw it in the theater then, and thought it was really good...I just watched it again, and was blown away by it; This Film Has Grown In Stature!   Republicans may complain about too much government, but never want to cut the military's budget; the change in surveillance laws during "The Bush Years" has been mirrored by this film; it's about control, control, control, and the rich have got their channels in the very bedrooms of the poor, now don't they.  (Thanks, Leonard.)  Spielberg added some pretty cool shit to the original story, the eye scans, the character development of Anderson as a man who lost a child and his family, and the ADS, the advertisements that hound him wherever he goes are freaking great!   :  The film is actually better than the Philip K. Dick original, and Tom Cruise, he's pretty great in this film:



This is solid gold, If you haven't seen it, please do, and even if you have, it's worth a re-look!