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Posts tagged ‘science fiction’

Book #64: Ubik

You’ve gone and done it, Philip K. Dick.

You’ve gone and made me write a review in which I can’t ramble about how much I dislike science fiction.

You see, I hated Neuromancer. Snow Crash had its moments but left me feeling like I was reading a the script for a cheesy 1980s Schwarzanegger movie.

But Ubik? Not that bad.

I enjoyed Ubik because of two reasons.

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Next Up: Ubik

Science Fiction.

Science fiction and I have a checkered past. I really despised Neuromancer. Snow Crash wasn’t much better. After those two books, I thought I was done with this genre. But I was sorely mistaken.

Enter Ubik by Philip K. Dick.  (Sidenote: I’m even more leery of my search terms after writing about an author with the last name “Dick.”)

I’m prepared to hate science fiction even more. I honestly know zero about this book going in, but here are a few facts about Ubik and its author, Philip K. Dick.

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In Defense Of Science Fiction

I don’t talk about sci-fi on this blog a lot. But, when I do, it’s usually negative.

You know, I just haven’t read a ton of science fiction in my day–or at least what might be considered “true science fiction.” And the sci-fi I have read…well, Neuromancer. And, well, I bashed Snow Crash in my review last week.

When I look back on Neuromancer, I honestly think I didn’t rate it low enough in my meaningless rankings–probably should be somewhere closer to the Mrs. Dalloway range. But there you go.

And Snow Crash had such potential. But it was like a marathon runner who’s leading the race after 5 miles, then tears his ACL.

All that said, I realize I have skewed views on science fiction. And the two books from the Time list (Neuromancer and Snow Crash) aren’t helping my biased viewpoint.

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Book #53: Snow Crash

Snow Crash reminds me a lot of a typical Saturday Night Live episode.

If you know the SNL formula, they start with the strongest skits first. Since the show airs at 11:30 eastern time in the U.S., they schedule the funniest stuff at the beginning, hoping to keep as many viewers for as long as possible.

Around 12:45 a.m., though, and some might argue that it happens much earlier, the stinker skits come out on stage. These aren’t near as funny. They’re sometimes awkward. And, as you sit on the couch while not laughing, you ask yourself, Why did Chris Rock ever leave SNL?

That, in a nutshell, is Snow Crash.

For about 100 pages, I was in love with this book.

Passages like the following jumped off the page:

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When Office Space Meets 1984

If you’ve watched Office Space, or The Office for that matter, and read 1984, then you’ll hopefully follow this post.

This passage from Snow Crash is what happens if Big Brother invaded Initech. What we have here is a memo that the federal government sent to its employees–one of whom is the mother of a main character (Y.T.). I know it’s long, but stick with it.

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Next Up: Snow Crash

Here’s how the Wikipedia entry to Snow Crash opens:

Snow Crash is Neal Stephenson’s third novel, published in 1992. Like many of Stephenson’s other novels it covers history, linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, religion, computer science, politics, cryptography, memetics, and philosophy.”

Um, okay. It sounds like Bill Bryson might have been thinking of Snow Crash when he wrote A Short History Of Nearly Everything.

I’ve been told that I’ll enjoy Snow Crash—which is my second foray into science fiction on the list—much more than Neuromancer. Let’s hope so, because that bar is pretty low.

The good news is that I’m 30ish pages into the book, and I’m loving it so far. The main character’s name is “Hiro Protagonist.” How can you not love that?

Anyway, here’s a little about Snow Crash and its author, Neal Stephenson:

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Guest Post: Maybe Neuromancer Wasn’t So Bad After All?

Today’s post is the first guest post in the history of 101 Books. I probably won’t be putting up that many guest posts, but I thought Ross Lampert gave a nice counter-point to my view on Neuromancer. Ross is a contributor at Cochise Writers and a commenter here on 101 Books. (For a recap of how much I hated this book, here’s my review.) Now, for the other side of the story: 

Neuromancer is disturbing, disorienting, decadent, drug- and crime-laced, über-noir, and dystopian. The novel has an unsympathetic, anti-hero protagonist. It’s easy to see how someone who doesn’t read science fiction regularly—or even someone who does—would have such a hard time with Neuromancer.

But this book is not representative of 1980s science fiction, so a little science fiction history is in order to understand how Gibson’s book ended up on Time’s top-100 list and won so many awards.

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