Friday, 29 December 2017

Mini Reviews #3 // Science Fiction edition

I am back with another collection of mini reviews! I'm getting ahead on next semester and reading the books for my Science Fiction module. It is the module that I'm most excited by, and the reading has not let me down so far. With all of these books I'm only going to give them a quick summary, because to say too much would give a lot of what is so great about them away.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells - ★★★★★
For a short story, The Time Machine was so memorable for me. It's about a man who calls himself a time traveller, who tells a group of friends about his what he saw in the very distant future for humanity. Early Science Fiction like this fascinates me, because the ideas people like Wells was writing about reads as though it was written much later than 1895. Wells' science is believable, and the future he depicts is something that I could have never imagined. There are parts of his commentary on the growth of the world that I agree with and parts that I do not, but all of it is a fascinating interpretation of what a man must have seen of his own Victorian society. Despite the book's slow start, it is thought provoking and adventurous, and I would recommend it even if you aren't a fan of the genre.
Warnings: mention of suicide, racial slur

Dawn by Octavia Butler - ★★★☆
I'm slightly horrified that I kind of liked Dawn and its pessimistic view on the future of humanity. I can't deny that it made me highly uncomfortable but it really is a fascinating read. The book is about Lilith, who awakens on a space ship hundreds of years after a great war made Earth uninhabitable. The Oankali, an alien race, has preserved her and other humans until they can be returned to the newly restored Earth. But the Oankali are unclear on their motives, and they do not leave Lilith unchanged.
Fiction regarding biological experimentation and alteration has always freaked me out, because the issue of morality and consent is always so prevalent. But Dawn takes those issues to another level, not really providing answers and only raising more questions. I have seen some reviews that believe what the Oankali do is saving the human race from its destructive nature, which the Oankali claim is an inherent genetic trait in humanity. I see fewer which compare what the Oankali do to colonial rule. I lean more towards the latter perspective. The Oankali keep the humans in the dark, and presume they know what is best for them whilst treating them like cattle. It is difficult to know fully what Butler's intentions were, but these contrasting interpretations are often visible side-by-side within the novel, and is part of what makes it so fascinating and multi-layered.
Diversity note: black protagonist
Warnings: racism, homophobic slur, attempted rape, consent issues (medical and sexual), colonial issues

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick - ★★☆☆☆
I'm not certain on what to think about this book. I had high expectations because I had heard of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? before, and although it wasn't bad, I'm not certain it fully delivered. When I read that the synopisis was about a man who retires androids for a living I gave myself very particular expectations that the book just didn't meet. Although the start was slow, once the androids were introduced and Rick began to interract with them the plot really began to move and I became more engaged. I liked that it wasn't entirely action and that a lot of the focus was on the protagonist's internal thoughts and questioning of his society. But I don't think I fully understood what Dick was trying to say. There were many strands of thought I loved like: What makes humans human? What is empathy? What is religion? But none of these felt fully developed. I didn't want answers to these questions, but they felt like they held a lot of untapped potential. Maybe I didn't 'get' it? Or perhaps the book was too short. Either way, the book felt like it had missing pieces. But on the whole I don't regret reading it.
Warnings: death of animals, humans, and androids, ableist language

What are your favourite works of classic sci-fi?


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  2. I haven't read much classic sci-fi but I have read and loved Catspaw and Dreamsnake. Butler's work is on my "can't believe I haven't read it list" but I never get to it. *sigh*

    1. I haven't read much classic sci-fi either - at least not outside of this module. I haven't heard of either of those books but I'll check them out! I have so many books like that, so I feel you!

  3. I need to read The Time Machine. I love how he goes so far in the future and the sheer imagination of it. And I was a little underwhelmed by Do Androids Dream as well, I think after watching Blade Runner I was expecting a more modern take and the book didn't feel that way, oddly? Not bad, just didn't wow me.

    Love the mini- reviews!

    1. The Time Machine is such an imaginative story, especially for its time. I haven't seen Blade Runner but the introduction of my copy of Do Androids Dream told me they were very different so I anticipated that. But I agree that for a sci-fi it didn't feel very modern. I think it could have explored a lot more with the characters and the androids, so it failed to wow me too. Thanks!