Saturday, June 20, 2009

Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

There are androids on Earth that help people with their needs, they talk like humans, they look like humans and they act like humans. They are manufactured on the planet Mars and they have Artificial Intelligence. Androids however are not human and therefore do not have the same rights as humans. Every now and then androids escape from Mars and head to Earth illegally and it is the job of bounty hunters to "retire" them. How do these bounty hunters tell androids and humans apart? Androids don't have empathy.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a book by Philip K. Dick who's book was made into a movie called Blade Runner. His story follows a bounty hunter called Rick Deckard and his journey in retiring the newest android models the nexus-6. Dick does not just write a simple science fiction book but delves much deeper philosophically and psychologically. Deckard goes through a lot of information while hunting down the 6 renegade androids. He is paranoid of everyone, because androids and humans look a like he has to administer empathy tests on practically everyone he meets even himself. He starts feeling empathy towards non-living objects and has to deal with all this and make a living.

To my surprise I actually really liked the book. I loved the psychological and philosophical aspects of the book. It wasn't all about action sequences and they actually took a back seat. The ending perhaps was a little anti-climatic because I had all these different endings in my head, but expectation almost always leads to disappointment.

If you have seen the movie Blade Runner and didn't like it, I suggest you read the book because I was in the same boat as you.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Review: Elric of Melniboné

Elric is the ruler of the kingdom Melniboné. He has red-eyes, pale skin and milky white hair. Because of a complicated birth, he was born weak of body and sustains himself with arcane drugs which he must take periodically to survive. Melniboné is a kingdom thick on tradition, which includes being ruthless and feasting on the flesh of others. However Elric like his father before him does not conform to tradition. Because of this there are those that think that Elric is not fit to rule, that his actions will anger the gods and put Melniboné in danger, both in trade and war. So when Elric meets treachery that he cannot deny he shows everyone that he is a capable ruler of Melniboné. He orders his enemies to eat the flesh of their own servants, so they may serve them forever!

Cover taken from the RuneQuest Game.

This is the first Michael Moorcock book I have read and I am disappointed that I didn't read some of his works earlier. Moorcock tells us the story of Elric who is an anti-hero. Elric has to make hard decisions that go against his beliefs, that perhaps go against what the world calls moral to make sure that his loved ones and Melniboné are unharmed, even if he has to bargain with the devil...and he does.

The thing I didn't like about this book was the names that he came up with. Elric is fine but almost every other name was a bit hard to pronounce and I am sure a conversation with someone about this book could be met with confusion.
The book is also quite light, but I know that it is the first of many so I look forward to reading the consequent novels. If you like anti-hero's, like characters that have to make hard decisions, like a bit of dark sorcery, then Elric of Melniboné is the book for you!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Updated: Single Elim Book Tourney

The Book Tournament has started! The first round will last for 3 days (excluding weekends). If you want to watch it unfold, go over and take a look. If you want to participate in the voting, then go over, sign up and vote away!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Single Elimination Book Tourney

Over at they are running the Book Tournament, where members of the forums get to vote for the book they think are better of the two. The Tournament starts off with 64 contestants and 16 of them are seeded (just like a Tennis Tournament). Each 3 days the voting will close for that particular round and the new one starts up shortly. At the moment they are still taking in suggestions for book contestants but the Top 16 have been announced.

If this is something you want to participate in (I'm very excited about it) or even just to follow, go over and check it out.

1. A Game of Thrones (George R.R. Martin) 
2. A Sword of Shadows (J.V. Jones) 
3. Lies of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch) 
4. The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss) 
5. The Farseer (Robin Hobb)
6. Amber Chronicles (Roger Zelazny) 
7. Dresden Files (Jim Butcher) 
8. Mythago Wood (Robert Holdstock) 
9. Acacia (David Anthony Durham) 
10. Heroes Die (Matthew Woodring Stover ) 
11. Abhorsen Trilogy (Garth Nix) 
12. The Malazan Book of the Fallen (Steven Erikson)
13. American Gods (Neil Gaiman) 
14. Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke) 
15. The Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan) 
16. Lord of the Rings (J.R.R Tolkien)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Review: Storm Front

Picture a couple making love. Wait love?...I meant sex...wait I meant completing a business transaction, and where I said a couple...I meant a whore and her client. Next, picture her straddling him. Freeze that picture, then imagine the two with a gaping hole in their chests, ribs sticking outwards with two missing organs where moments before their hearts were beating furiously. Two questions beckon, first, how is it possible for ribs to stick outwards without damaging any other part of the body except at the location of the heart. Secondly how can this "couple" still be in that position? The police certainly don't know and call upon the only wizard in town. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. 

I had heard of The Dresden Files before from TV but have never seen the series, so I had no presumptions when reading this book. Storm Front did not start slowly and we are into the thick of it very soon. Harry is called in by the police to see if he can detect 'magic' on a very weird scene. Why would I quotation mark 'magic'? Well it is a world where people don't believe in magic and if your full time job is a well...a wizard, it also makes it hard to pay the bills on time. This is a very minor problem that Jim Butcher (author) throws at Harry, along they way he encounters a demon, a vampiress that runs a brothel, the local mafia and a couple of girls who want to know Harry better!

It is only until recently that I have discovered that I really enjoy reading Mystery/Fantasy novels. They are exciting and mysterious but have all the elements of fantasy that I like.

While the Dresden Files doesn't have as many fantasy elements as I would like, it makes it up with humour, the mystery and good writing skills from Butcher. Do I want to watch the TV series? I'm not sure, but I definitely want to read the next book in the series: Fool Moon.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Review: War of the Worlds & The Time Machine

War of the Worlds and the Time Machine are two contrasting books. 

War of the Worlds is set in around 1890's and tells the story of alien invaders from Mars. The story is told through a journal written by an unknown author, how he survives attacks, how he manages to stay alive and how the aliens died through his eyes. What is amazing about this story is that he isn't a hero, he is only a survivor yet the story is action packed and captivating.

The Time Machine is a story about a scientists' journey into the future, how he accidentally goes too far and ends up in the year 802701. While many would think that so far into the future technology would have had vast improvements and life would be much better but what if it wasn't like that?

I read these two books back to back because it felt good to do so. I had never previously read any of HG Wells' books except to watch the movie 'The Time Machine' which I thought had a very good first half and a terrible second half.

After reading War of the Worlds I thought about how a contemporary movie of it just wouldn't work and now refuse to see Spielberg's version of the movie.

After reading The Time Machine I thought why wasn't the movie like the book? It was short and fantastic. Instead they absolutely butchered the book and the original meaning of the book.

What does this all tell you? That War of the Worlds and The Time Machine are both fantastic books. They are so imaginative and were so far ahead of their time. I knew that HG Wells was an old school author but it shocked me when these two stories were written over a 100 years ago. Truly HG Wells is one of the fathers of Science Fiction (along with Jules Verne).

Anybody who wants a glimpse of how science fiction was born should pick up either of these books. They are not hard reads nor are they long reads and should be books that are readily accessible to all.