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Archive for the ‘Reading Challenge’ Category

 

Speaker For The Dead is the sequel to Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. It begins about three thousand years after the first book finished when human colonisation of the universe was well under way. It differs from its predecessor in that it deviates from the heavily militarial theme and focuses on the anthropological.

The narrative centres around the planet of Lusitania where humans have discovered an alien race. Instead of fighting the aliens the inter-planetary human society have decided to study the aliens to determine whether they are as sentient as humans (like the buggers were before they were all destroyed) or if they are a lesser being (i.e. an alien beast specie). The influence of the “piggies” on the lives of the Lusitanians reverberates throughout the colonised Hundred Worlds and draws into question who has the right to the stars. Is holding back technology simply to preserve the alien nature of the “piggies” or is it to prevent them from developing to a point whereby they would become a threat to human survival?

This novel is filled with plenty of hooks to keep the reader turning the page until the very last moment. Ender’s own struggle with his guilt over the annihilation of the Buggers fills each chapter with resounding emotion whilst the intricate lives of the Ribeira family drip intrigue into every situation. The character development in this novel supports a strongly fascinating plot that can’t easily be put down.

I think I managed to read this book in about a week. I could barely put it down over the weekend, my eyes are very strained today! Can’t wait to begin on Xenocide but feel like I have to do something other than read for a while! Then again Flowers for Algernon came in the post the other day …

(Reading Challenge: Book 10 of 20)

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Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.

Terry Pratchett raises eloquent questions about our world through his books of the Discworld. I am a recent convert to his style of writing, this being only the second of his books that I have read, and without even trying I find monumental statements from which a million ideas and arguments spring.

In Hogfather the residual commentary on human nature seemed less translucent. In dealing with childish (or children’s) beliefs immediately the adult reader feels removed from Pratchett’s focus. It is only towards the end of the novel when Death begins to reveals his concerns about why belief in the Hogfather is so important that the message of the story becomes clear. Death claims “You have to start out learning to believe the little lies” in order to ‘believe’ in more complex ideals such as “justice”, “mercy”, and “duty”.

Pratchett suggests that human society is based on a set of untruths (in as much as they are not tangible enough to scientifically prove) and we are taught to take such ideas on faith as children are taught to believe in magic and various folkloric creatures.

Could we, as sentient beings, live in full knowledge that the world we have created for ourselves is false: altruism, love, loyalty – none of these things actually exist except inside our own heads where we perceive the world. Or would we descend into absolute chaos? Would we return these ideals knowing that it does not exist inside of anybody else? It is an interesting, if pessimistic, view to take on the world.

The quote I have taken from Hogfather above encapsulates this argument in a single sentence. The “falling angel” being the ideal perception of what it is to be human and the “rising ape” being the reality of what it is anthropologically to be human. Can our inherent genes be tamed by our created minds?

(Reading Challenge: Book 9 of 20)

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Between jetting off to Corfu last month and losing my head in the latest Rockstar video game L A Noire I haven’t dedicated much time to reading.

I only managed to read one book, Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods which was very entertaining. I’ve tried various of his books in the past and always found his style difficult to grip. I find once the book is put down I do not feel compelled to pick it up again. However, whether it was because I was too hot to contemplate starting something else or whether it was the book itself came so highly recommended from my boyfriend I forced myself to keep picking up the book and eventually became engrossed in the story and characters.

At the time my boyfriend was upstaging me with his copy of Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show On Earth and on a fundamental level there were similarities in the arguments behind the text. This led to many a drunken debate over the importance of evidence over belief.

The philosopher Didactylos in Small Gods, a play on the word didactic, argues with his followers that the movement of the Discworld does not need to be believed in as it just is. The gods however need belief as their strength comes from this very act. This, I think, provides a very provocative basis for debate.

Religion vs. Science (or creationism vs. evolution) is a very heated debate at the best of times. Dawkins has published several books proving, educating and defending evolution against religious arguments. You need only read the preface to The God Delusion to comprehend his passion for the subject. Pratchett’s contribution to this debate in the words of Didactylos seems to diminish the importance of defending the theory of evolution itself. (The word theory being used in the scientific sense.)

Whether we believe it or not, evolution will still exist. Religion, on the other hand, feeds directly from the minds of its followers. The fewer the followers the weaker the religion is in the wider world.

But should I champion my viewpoint in the hopes of persuading other people away from their religion? After all they have no qualms about banging on my door and reading scriptures from their pamphlets trying to persuade me towards their beliefs.

(Reading Challenge: Book 8 of 20)

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The title appealed to me as it had been used in Futurama for a title of one of the episodes: “Bender’s Game”. It had also been used in Dummies Guide to Writing Fiction as various examples in how books should be written. When it appeared on a list of must-read sci-fi I decided to add it to my pile.

It began with a writer’s introduction as it has been revised since it was first published in the 80’s. I always find writer’s introductions interesting particularly if they refer to the process of writing or publishing. Orson Scott Card, however, focused on how his book was received by his readers. It becomes clear that different types of people read different meanings into his book.

His response to this is

The “true” story is not the one that exists in my mind; it is certainly not the written words on the bound paper that you hold in your hands. The story in my mind is nothing but a hope; the text of the story is the tool I created in order to try to make that hope a reality. The story itself, the true story, is the one that the audience members create in their minds, guided and shaped by my text, but then transformed, elucidated, expanded, edited, and clarified by their own experience, their own desires, their own hopes and fears.

Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game, 1991

This is a very interesting idea on the interaction between writer and reader. Without a reader is there still a story? Card provides the framework for our ideas which we fill in, weaving layers of meaning upon characters and their experience of the fictional world that plays out their plotline.

Ender is a gifted, intelligent child. Far surpassing his peers he is rejected, ridiculed and bullied by the very people he wishes to connect with. He is set apart from the others both by his own abilities and the interference of adults. At home his brother rejects him for retaining his monitor and threatening to be accepted by the I.F. for military training. At school Ender is rejected for being a ‘Third’. In Battle school where he should finally be amongst people he perceives as equals he is singled out by Graff and made to look as though he shows more promise than the other students. Isolation is a key part to Ender’s psyche and it is a tool the teachers exploit in order to extract from Ender the qualities they believe will make him a leader.

In the end, is Ender a respectable militant leader or a monster? I’ve explored monstrosity and power in more detail in a separate article. Please note they will contain spoilers on the plot of the story. I strongly recommend you read the book for yourself first and create your own meaning as to what Ender’s Game is about.

(Reading Challenge: Book 7 of 20)

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5 out of 20 so far and 8 months left to go. That’s still over 2 books a month! I’ll never have enough time to keep up to date on my gaming or writing at this rate!

Just completed Dragon Age: Origins and debating whether to purchase the sequel. I haven’t bothered with the downloadable content because in my eyes, if the game is as it should be on the disc. Anything extra is just another way to extract money from gamers. The things are expensive enough as it is! I did download the demo of the new game but the difficulty and inventory is locked … I can’t play the game on normal but I could marvel at the amount of blood for a while. Until game over anyway.

So, keep trying to plough my way through the demo or start reading my next book?

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My ‘easy’ read that I treated myself to was Stephen King’s Carrie. It was the first horror film I had ever watched and had me gripped on the genre ever since. I struggle to recall the film now, only the shower scene and the pig’s blood and an image of John Travolta in a white suit/tux.

The book wasn’t at all how I imagined. It showed numerous viewpoints of the scene and it was difficult to tell who the main character was. King also gave it a scientific feel with the excerpts from journals and interviews on the subject in hindsight.

Overall the story did not seem as frightening as it did when I was eleven but it was nice to see what novel inspired the film that brought me into the genre of horror at such a young age.

256 pages in total made this a very short read! Next / currently I’m reading 1984 which has come highly recommended from my boyfriend. I feel compelled to like it, so far it has me a bit confused but intriguing nonetheless!

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300+ pages seems a reasonable amount to read in a week or so, comfortably. However I really struggled with this one! I stuck at it as I had been wanting to read The Quantum Thief ever since I read an article about it. It came with a lot of excitement from various people in the publishing / sci-fi world and was heavily vouched for.

After about two pages I thought to myself, what the hell is going on. A hundred pages later, who the hell are these people and what have they got to do with the thief? Between 250 – 300 I finally made sense of the bigger picture and was intrigued.

I don’t know where I pulled the determination from to finish reading this book but it was well worth it. My mind feels educated with the big words and scientific concepts that made the beginning of the novel so inaccessible to me.

Although it is rewarding to read a difficult book (and frustrating) I am going to treat myself to a nice shortish mass market book to give my brain a rest!

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