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Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #1)Hyperion by Dan Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a little hard to get into, as I had no frame of reference for this universe. But once I got through a few stories, things started to make a little more sense, although I’m still not sure I understand all the factions. Each of the six stories tackles different aspects of interstellar life in some 700-800 years from now. Simmons tackles topics like religion in that time, artificial intelligence, time travel, poetry, and small town life versus globalization (galactification?). For the most part, especially once I figured some things out, I liked it, but some things still took me out of suspended belief. Apparently, everyone in the future is obsessed with John Keats, and almost all the quotes are from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, of which there are many. And then, of course, there’s the cliffhanger, complete with the Wizard of Oz reference. I’m still deciding whether to let myself get sucked into the sequel. But it was a good book.

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Earth Afire (The First Formic War, #2)Earth Afire by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book, along with Earth Unaware, is an interesting read, but not so much for the characters, but for the situation. It is interesting reading about plausible technological advancements and their usage, like mining asteriods for metal in deep space. Some of the technology isn’t as believable as other, like the gravity laser that can disrupt the gravity of any object, like a planet. Mini Death Star, right there. But none of the ships can go faster than the speed of light, including the aliens, so that’s a refreshing change from a lot of science fiction. It begins with a family of deep space miners who see the alien vessel coming to earth and want to warn people about it, but because of technology limits as well as bloated bureaucracies, plus the radiation the alien ship emits, no one gets the message until the aliens are nearly there, and no one believes it until the aliens actually do come. Once they do come and start invading, no one can agree with each other and it just becomes a big mess, which the aliens take advantage of, to an extent. It’s like politics today. The characters didn’t really feel strong to me, just representative of different factions on Earth, trying to cooperate for a common goal. My biggest complaint would be about the aliens, the formics, or better known as the buggers by those who have read the Ender books. There wasn’t much description of them, but I was hoping for something more original. Basically, they are ant men, who swarm in hordes but don’t seem to be that smart, despite advanced technology. The comic book versions don’t get props for original design, either. But the book still makes an interesting read, especially since Ender’s Game is coming out as a movie soon.

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Foundation (Foundation, #1)Foundation by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I once read that tbe only genre that can get away with not having rounded characters is science fiction. This book tries that philosophy, but doesn’t get away with it, in my opinion. Hari Seldon could be called the main character, as his presence is felt throughout the book, and he’s the only one who lasts more than a few pages, but even he’s gone early on in the book, as this covers hundreds of years of history with a short story covering every crisis. The premise is that Hari can tell the future analyzing the flows of the greater population, although not individuals, and foresees that the galactic empire is going to fall and descend into barbarianism. If a group of people follow his plans and build a research center at the far end of the galaxy, that fall would take 1000 years instead of 30000. He then records himself for every crisis that will happen, to give future generations the answer they need to survive. Interesting idea, but as each generation goes by, I find myself caring less about the new characters that keep popping up and don’t bother keeping track of them. Plus, there were some strange ideas about the technology. For example, these supposed ‘barbarians’ still have faster than light travel (FTL), but they lose nuclear power. It seems like FTL is more advanced than nuclear power, since, well, we have access to the latter now and not the former. Aside from all of these issues, everytime I read the Galactic Empire, Emperor Palpatine came to mind. The good ideas deal with combining economics, politics, and religion into science fiction, instead of relying so much on gadgets. I know many people like this series, but I could never get into it much.

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You pick up a fantasy or sci fi book, or your ipad or kindle, and you start reading about a different world. The characters start speaking, and you can understand them, because they’re speaking English. But what are the chances of a culture that developed independently of English speaking countries on earth speaking the exact same language? Very, very unlikely, except for some cases which I’ll talk about in a bit. So how can we understand the people of middle earth or Luke Skywalker in a galaxy far far away? The same way we can understand a biography about Napoleon. We assume that it is not necessarily English, but that it is translated so we can understand it. Because no one is going to want to learn a new language, probably made up, just to read a book for pleasure. Heck, no author is going to make up an entire language just to write a book for pleasure (Tolkien excepted). But authors often want to show that their world is different than ours, so they make up words for a fictional language to add flavor to their world. If you happen to speak a different language, you probably realize that there are words that don’t translate very well into English, that have a concept that is hard to express in English. So sometimes these words are defined but left as they are, because the word is better left compact in a different language than expressed as complex concept in English. Example: Ohana, which in Hawaii is the concept of family, including extended family, and the concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another. So in Lilo and Stitch, if every time that word was replaced with the definition, the movie would be a lot more awkward and two times as long. This same idea can be used in made up languages. Usually, it is pointless to actually have people speak in their language, especially if the viewpoint character doesn’t understand it, because then the reader won’t understand, and if the viewpoint character does understand, he might as well translate directly for the reader. So it is best for the author to use different languages sparingly, letting the reader know that not everyone speaks English in their world, but not distract the reader too much. Plus, if they try too hard, there will probably be discrepancies that a reader might catch.
The only time that English should be used as English is when it has some relation to our world, like in science fiction going out to other worlds or fantasy being transported to a magical world.
Another thing that must happen in these stories is explain how different cultures with different languages get along. There have been conflicts over misunderstandings, or people treated badly because they don’t speak the dominant language. It is not realistic for the main character to be a super soldier who knows five languages which just happen to help him make friends with his enemies. I learned Spanish. It was not easy. Very few people, especially if they are learning once they are adults, can take on five languages. Learning a language is not easy, and that effort should be reflected in the story. The story can be much richer if learning a language is not easy and done by everyone. In fantasy or science fiction, there can be more interesting ways of using language. For example, Han Solo can understand Chewie and vice versa, but it appears neither can actually form the sounds for words in the other’s language. So any time there are several cultures, there should be different languages or dialects and some way to communicate, whether by computer or magic, or just hard work learning.

19841984 by George Orwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some people think that George Orwell got everything right, just missed the date by 30 years (that it should be 2014). I’m here to tell you that that is false and ridiculous. How could anyone ever believe that? First of all, this is complete science fiction. I mean, look at the technology in the book. It’s all based on spying on you. There are TVs that look back at you. As if that were possible. (By the way, did you hear about the awesome Xbox One, where the Kinect can monitor your heartbeat, hands, and eyes? They say it needs to connect to the internet every 24 hours, as well, I guess for updates or things like that. Surely not to upload your data. We know we can trust this, because it’s made by Microsoft, a good ol’ American company.) In the book, there’s also microphones everywhere, capturing your conversations. Lining the streets and country with microphones would be impossible, and would catch all the noise that wasn’t wanted, like footsteps and crickets. If only people used devices to talk into, that would make recording conversations much easier. Now, aside from technology, it would be impossible for our government to ever be so corrupt and untransparent. There’s no way we would listen to political messages that told us everything was ok, things were getting better, and try to indoctrinate us to their side. Plus, we have two political parties, they only had one. For us to revert to only one, the one in power would have to abuse that power to supress the other side. That would never happen. Orwell got it wrong in that he completely missed the internet, where we can speak out and do whatever we want anonymously, and no one would ever collect data on what we do with the internet in order to monitor conversations or try to sell us stuff. Nope, I know I’m safe with Facebook. And we all know that if we found out the government was spying on us, we would never tolerate it. For that to happen, some big event, a disaster, would have to strike terror in our hearts, and then maybe the government would step in, supposedly for our safety. But nothing like that has happened, nor will it, since we all love each other and everyone loves the United States. I hope you all realize that this book is obsolete and doesn’t even deserve mention anymore, as Orwell got everything wrong. We all know our biggest threat is a Korean man who has nuclear missiles, and our government is doing everything they can to stop him.
Please leave comments on this post. At the very least, let the NSA agent who’s monitoring you while you read this know you recognize his hard work and dedication.
Not doing so would be rude.

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First Contact Cover

The cover for the short story First Contact.

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