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Posts Tagged ‘Sci-Fi Novels’

Thursday I completed the novel “Ender’s Game” (1985©), written by Orson Scott Card.  The novel is an expanded version of a short story Card wrote back in 1977 for a SciFi magazine.  The book is fairly well know in SciFi circles and won both the Nebula and Hugo awards for best novel.  Both awards are for best SciF novel with the Nebula being the American award and the Hugo being the international version of same.  In addition to the “normal” SciFi crowd, the book is popular in the military community and is “expected” reading in at least one branch (U.S. Marine Corps).
Basically, the book is a coming of age story for a young (pre-teen) Caesar / Napoleonic / Alexander character who, through an undiscussed eugenics process, has been bred to lead the combined Earth forces in an interplanetary war against a race of giant ants called the “Formics”.  They are more “affectionately” called “bugs” or “buggers”.  The story traces his (Andrew “Ender” Wiggin) life from just before he leaves his family, through his “growing-up” at a military academy to the end of the war.  To say much more is to give away a substantial amount of the ending.
Despite the implausibility of a story about an 11 year old being granted the authority to lead an interplanetary armada and the short span of time between “know-nothing” to force commander, the story is a pretty good one.  The story is very much “Lord of the Flies” -In-Space, but I still found the book and the twist at the end enjoyable.  In fairness to the reader coming at the book for the first time, I must admit, I saw the movie version first and enjoyed it too.  The movie (same name) was released in late 2013, and having seen the previews, it piqued my interest.  In the end, I never saw it at the theater because I thought it was going to be a “young Harry Potter saves the world from aliens” kid’s movie.  Anyway, I remembered the movie preview and when I got a chance to catch it on the tube, I took advantage of the opportunity.  I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed it as much as I did.  This in turn led me to be on the look-out for the book(s) – there is a whole series – which I have finally gotten into.
The movie tracks the book pretty accurately, so the book’s ending wasn’t the surprise it might have been, but I felt (as usual) the book had the time and space to explain what was happening a lot better than the movie did.  This isn’t a criticism of the movie as much as it is an acknowledgement that action movies don’t lend themselves to narration accept at the beginning and ending.  In between, it’s the action which is supposed to tell the story (normally).
I found the military tactics, personal combat, team building, working on one’s craft, and the personal/internal conflict about the morality of inflicting pain and death on an enemy to all be accurate within my (very) limited experience of each.  Fortunately, I was never placed in a position to shoot / kill someone, but I still have distinct memories of basic training and realizing there was a reason the “targets” were silhouettes of the enemy instead of simple concentric rings.  We were being trained to shoot at other humans, not at bull’s-eyes’.
I found the movie interesting and enjoyable, but also troubling.  Because the book explains more, it is more troubling.  So my final recommendation for the movie is recommended, and, for the book, highly recommended.  If it’s good enough for the Marine Corps “Recommended Reading List”, it’s good enough for me!
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On This Day In:
2014 Two Thoughts
2013 RIP – Dear Abby
Half-Life Problems
2012 To The Soul…
2011 Reverted!!

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Over the Labor Day Weekend, I finished reading the 14th novel in the “Dresden Files” series: “Cold Days“, written by Jim Butcher (2012©).  Now, obviously if you’ve read fourteen books in a series, you’re either getting paid to read them or you “really” enjoy them.  In this case, I enjoy them!
This novel is another in the installment of a good man (in this case a wizard with magic powers – Harry Dresden) with a small band of friends (humans, a werewolf, a vampire, and another wizard) using his powers to save the world (or at least most of the Mid-west of the North American continent).  Dresden lives in modern day Chicago.  All of these books follow a simple formula: hero meets a bad guy the hero cannot possibly defeat, hero somehow survives the encounter, hero muddles through some other bad situations while finding out what’s going on, hero defeats bad guy and in the process finds out more about himself and the over-arching storyline of the series.  (Spoiler Alert: the series is supposed to go on for twenty volumes, so there’s six more to go.  The titles come out approximately one per year and are available in hard bound, paper back and e-read at roughly the same time so the format is whatever you prefer.)
My son James is the person who turned me on to this series.  I noticed he was getting “into” a lot of books about witchcraft and magic, so I asked him what was up.  He started telling me about this series of books he was reading and he was enjoying them so much he was branching out into other areas – folklore, myths, horror stories, etc.  He’s now read Stoker (“Dracula”), Shelly (“Frankenstein”), Dante (“Inferno”), and many other classics  (Homer, etc…).  Although, I’ve never really been “into” this kind of literature (the combination of fantasy with mythology), I asked if I could borrow a couple to see what’s what.  This was about 2005, or so.  The first couple were [sic: was] fascinating because I knew nothing about either the folklore or mythology, nor much about wizardry (as opposed to “sleight-of-hand” magic).  While I still don’t know much “in-depth” about folklore or mythology, I now know a great deal more than I used to.
In my case, I don’t believe reading one title series provides a breadth of knowledge about a genre, merely a taste / sampling.  Also, from my limited exposure, myths are frequently modified to fit the story, so reading any single title series does not necessarily accurately relate a specific myth.   (This was particularly true in the “Percy Jackson” Greek mythology / fantasy series.)
You might ask, “Well, if the books all follow a formula, what’s keeping your interest?”  To tell, the truth, they did start to wear on me after about the sixth or seventh volume, but I took a break and returned to the remaining books with renewed energy.  I found two main interests: the characters (main and supporting, good and evil) are growing with each volume and the over arching storyline is starting to come together (or at least to come out to the main character).  And what do we learn / know?  It’s not our abilities which define us, it is our choices as to what we do with those abilities.  And the story arc?  There is always a struggle between “absolute” evil / chaos and “our” rational and slowly progressing world of understanding.  Both of these are, of course, “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars” themes, and both themes are mentioned in the series.  Well, the Star Wars is.  The Harry Potter theme isn’t directly mentioned, but they (the two story themes) are so closely related they might as well be.  Dresden’s first name: “Harry”.  Duh!!
Anyway, this volume is a fast read like all of the others, and I recommend the series to anyone interested in the Sci-Fi / horror / fantasy genre.  I think they are easily digestible in three to four volumes at a time, then take a week break before starting back.  As I am writing this, I am reminded of the “binge” watching I do (on some holidays) of some TV series.  I think there must be a qualitative AND quantitative threshold to binging (that’s “binge – ing”) between viewing and reading.  At least for me there is…  I can do a whole day, 18+ hours of TV watching and I can certainly do the same for reading.  But many of these books are over 450 pages, which, to me, means several days after work, plus a weekend day (usually).  That level of sustained reading isn’t possible when you have a “real” life pulling you in multiple directions.  That’s why I advise tearing through a couple and then taking a break, then back at it.  Having said this, it’s one thing to watch the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in one day or watch all six of the Star Wars movies AND another thing again to watch all 170+ episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The first two are “only” a solid day.  ST:TNG would be good fifteen (15) ten (10) hour days!!   That’s some serious viewing!!
I will close by cautioning that although these books are entertaining and the good guy wins out in the end, they are NOT suitable for children or pre-teens or even “queasy” young adults as they are graphic in the depiction of violence.
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On This Day In:
2012 How Did We Get Here?
2011 Labor Day Weekend Mishmash
More, More, More

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