I recently started reading a book and felt I needed to share. I'm a huge Sci-Fi buff and I just read The Shape of Things to Come by H.G Wells (Author of War of the Worlds). The book was written in 1933 and is a Sci-Fi history book written from the perspective of a historian from 2105. He covers the history from 1900-2105 (remember, all of it but 1900-1933 is fiction). I found the book to be incredibly interesting, in that it delves into the final unification of mankind. For Wells, the unifying force of humanity was a confederation of technicians, engineers, and scientists merged into an authoritarian dictatorship that methodically eliminates religion, politics, and cultural diversity. Some of the things he writes about are eerily correct (he predicts the internet!)The book is a great read, it is incredibly immersive, and I would suggest it to anyone who enjoys Sci-Fi or alternate history.
My absolute favorite book is Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (soon to be a movie!). It helped shape my view on the world including my conversion to athism. The book takes place a hundred years after an alien invasion which united the world and the hero an young boy named Ender must become a brilliant space commander to prepare humanity for another imminent attack. One of the problems faced by Ender is how to fight an enemy that is spread across the Galaxy where they can afford the loss of a planet but he cannot lose a battle or Earth will be destroyed dooming all of humanity. What I took away from the book is that humanity is isolated to earth and an external event such as a meteor, solar event, or nuclear war could very easily extinguish humanity. After reading this book, I realized that most religions accept an apocalypse as inevitable which I feel is unacceptable and which strongly influenced my view on the world.
I should mention that Orson Scott Card is my favorite author and is a conservative christian. He does not insert heavy handed religious symbolism in his books like some authors. A prime example would be C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia which I enjoyed but could have been much better if some of the chapters weren't blatant propaganda.
So now I've shared a few books that I've enjoyed and have helped shape the way that I see the world. What are your favorite books/books you've read recently and what did you enjoy/learn from them? : )
Nice post, FA - thanks for the link!
Whoah! I didn't realize there was a movie. I'll have to check it out, thanks!
My all time favorite is Hyperion by Dan Simmons. In large part it is Simmons' incredible writing skills that makes the book. If you are in to the Alternate History sub-genre, Harry Turtledove is the master. Harry Harrison is also a great Alternate History writer. As an intro to Turtledove I would recommend, The Agent of Byzantium .
I've heard great things about Hyperion, that's definitely on my list of books to read. Never heard anything about Agent of Byzantium but after reading a plot summary, I'll have to check it out.
Just over a year ago I wrote a science fiction book will attempt to attach the first three chapters to this. The book is called Hope's Landfall.
With reference to C.S.Lewis I would say that it is interesting reading the Chronicles of Narnia reading between the lines you can see his belief changing constantly through the period of his writing. Lewis did also write some science fiction seem to remember reading Out of the silent planet and Prelandria.
One of the books (actually a play) that started me on the road to enlightenment was "Inherit the Wind," by Lawrence and Lee. It's a fictional account of the Scopes Monkey trial in Tennessee in the 1920's. A good follow up to that is H.L. Mencken's "A Religious Orgy in Tennessee." Mencken covered the trial for the Baltimore Sun newspaper, and wrote of his accounts while in Dayton, Tennessee.
Conservative Christian? Nah, Orson Scott Card is Mormon. A very crazy one, too. Readers tend to miss the Mormon symbolism he puts in his writing because not a lot of people are aware of what to look for. I dunno, I used to like his stuff, and Ender's Game and what I've read of the Shadow branch were very well written.
But then there's Speaker for the Dead, and boy did that one get preachy! Xenocide, too, if I remember correctly. Oh, and *especially* Children of the Mind. It was a long time ago and I was in high school, but yeah, I remember being turned off of the religious-ness of it all.
After finding out more on Mormonism and Mormon theology, I can't help but make parallels to the points made in Card's books. In the later books of the series, he goes on about metaphysics and souls actually being a type of particle...? The basic gist of it was that soul-particles could grow super powerful and god-like, and could split off to create their own universes. It's a Mormon teaching that we were all souls before we were born, and these souls are the children of god's mind (hence the title Children of the Mind). Some Mormons also believe in exaltation, where believers can progress to become gods themselves, who would in turn continuously create more souls/spirit children for all eternity.
The stages of piggy life are also symbolic of the Mormon "three estates" and "three degrees of glory", and... and... I really wish I didn't know all this stuff now. It's ruining my childhood memories. :(
*cough* Anyway... For sci-fi books, my all-time favorite is still Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, followed closely by the Dune series. Katana-wielding pizza delivery guys and sandworm-riding eco-jihadists, f*** yeah.
I've said this before elsewhere, but I'm a big-time Robert Heinlein guy. My major bullets as it comes to him are:
There are lots of others, but the above are my faves.
You can read my blog...
I'm in the middle of Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence, a wide ranging and enlightening intellectual history of the Western (or Occidental, as Barzun calls it) world from 1500-ca 2000. (Even though I'm a literature professor, I have been reading a lot of non-fiction lately.) Jeff Sharlet's C Street and The Family are eye-openers, and John M. Barry's biography of Roger Williams is superb. I have a three-month free trial of Showtime, which has on demand a series of documentaries by Oliver Stone covering American history from ca 1930 to the Bush years, and I found it riveting. Stone's iconoclasm can be a bit out there, but much of the series was based on government documents declassified in the past few years. As a tidbit, I checked out Stone's contention that Cuba at the time of the missile crisis already had 100 or so battlefield nukes (JFK had no idea), and that a US destroyer depth charged a Soviet nuclear sub 100 miles outside the blockade line. The sub's power and communications were knocked out and its commander panicked and tried to launch a nuclear torpedo. The political officer calmed him down, perhaps preventing a nuclear holocaust.
Sorry I haven't read any sci-fi in years; can't help out there.
As one sci-fi fan to another, I would recommend reading His Master's Voice by Stanislaw Lem, a Polish author. A very good read and really different from other works of sci-fi that I have read. Little action in the book, it reads more like a dense account of Lem's philosophical musings.
I read Enders game a few years ago and was extremely disappointed.
Enders Game was casually sexist.
"A few girls. They often don't pass the tests to get in. Too many centuries of evolution are working against them."
That's right ladies you've evolved to be too stupid to play video games, use computers, or play space laser tag. Valentine didn't get into Battle School because she was too emotional. The only female in battle school has a mental break down. Fuck you Card.
That aside, I thought the characters were horribly written. They're all cardboard cut outs that don't change or evolve throughout the story. The book reeks of geek wish-fulfillment. Ender seems like a classic Mary Sue to me. He's smart, strong, misunderstood, sensitive, loving, and so remorseful. It's made very clear from early on that Ender is the best and is going to win at everything he does. Snore.
Ender is a blatant Jesus figure. Ender knows from an early age that he is destined to be the savior of humanity. It's an attempt to justify the author's militarism and pro war attitudes with pacifistic Christian teachings. An intentions are everything concept of morality that extends as far as justifying genocide.
One of my cousins read the book and decided he wanted to join the military. Ugh.