Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review - Fahrenheit 451

“It’s not books you need, it’s some the things that were once in books… The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and the televisors but is not… Take it where you can find it… Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget.” Faber, in Fahrenheit 451 Recently, I had the great pleasure to read Ray Bradbury’s brilliant novella Fahrenheit 451. This is a book that deals, interestingly enough, with the subject of book burning, with implications that reach far beyond destruction of literature. In this classic dystopian tale of censorship and suppression, Bradbury follows the life and goings-on of the central protagonist, a fireman named Guy Montag. Overall, Guy enjoys his job. Burning books is quite an honor, and indeed, it’s his duty to burn the homes of those who unrepentantly hoard books, those who choose to swallow the seeds of insurrection, planting dissent and cultivating the forbidden knowledge in the deep corners of their minds. Montag unflinchingly goes about his duty, never wasting time to question, disregarding doubt and ignoring any ill-borne ideas.
All this changes when Guy meets Clarisse. She’s his new next door neighbor, she’s seventeen, and she’s crazy. Indeed, she’s quite strange, choosing to care about thing’s nobody seems to notice. Guy finds her upbeat, anomolic personality enlightening. She caused him to begin wondering. Pondering. Considering.
This marked a turning point in his life, and he begins to call into question the very nature of his existence.
Personally, I absolutely loved Bradbury’s writing style. It was ornate and heavily stylized. Powerful. Reading Bradbury’s work was like gazing into The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Bosch, but instead of feeling so insanely overwhelmed by the sheer level of detail, I felt as if I could understand everything at once, I could inhale the information and felt impelled, as if the book insisted that I keep moving.
Initially, the messages about censorship did feel a little heavy handed sometimes, but they did seem to relax as the book advanced; the book never loses its message, however.
Overall, it was quite an enjoyable read, one I can especially recommend to lovers of dystopias, lovers of books, people who love prose bordering on poetry, and essentially anybody taking in any sort of media at all. The idea of stopping ideas, stopping the free flow of information and ripping the human element out of art is a rather universally frightening idea, and it's one that Bradbury explores with bold confidence.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ender's Game Review

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, is a sci-fi novel set about a century into the future. The main protagonist, Ender Wiggin, is what’s known as a Third; an extra, unwanted child, illegal at the time due to population limitation laws.

Ender is young, brilliant, and needed. Humanity is at war with another species, the Formics (typically referred to as ‘Buggers’), and they’re desperate. They need strategists, and little Ender is full of promise. He’s also six years old.
The novel details his journey through Battle School as he trains to become the soldier Earth needs. He must not only overcome hurdles in his education, but also step over social barriers as well: being an extremely gifted child isn’t without its rewards, and it certainly isn’t without hazards.
Overall, I found this novel to be quite engaging; Card managed to create a likeable protagonist with whom I empathize easily. In short, whatever Ender felt, I felt too. The characters were all well developed, having depth and personality, often leaving you wondering what they’ll do next. They really progress, growing and changing as the book advances. I really like the fact that while there are clearly defined ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters, Card isn’t afraid to have characters that seem to fall somewhere in between.
The story was quite interesting as well, and with Card there’s never a dull moment. He struck a fine balance between capturing the life and emotions of the protagonist with the actions of the other characters. Also put to fine use are the relationships between characters, such as that between Ender and his two siblings, Peter and Valentine.
I found it quite interesting the way Card used video games as a plot device, and having read the book and already being an avid gamer, I wonder how many developers were inspired by it. While I’d honestly hate to give out too much information as to just how they were used, there was one fantasy game in particular, a world where Ender was free to roam about a world that was constantly changing, decaying and growing. How Card came up with it, I may never know. At the time the book was written, I honestly can’t think of a game that fits its description regarding complexity. I know it doesn’t, and indeed can’t for the sake of spoilers have much to do with this review, but it certainly leaves me wondering about whether or not Card should actually try developing the game he described.
In all honesty, though, sometimes it felt like there were blanks to fill in, areas in the book that just didn’t seem to be described in any level of detail, simply unexplained rooms or undescribed people. In spite of this, however, the book still shines.

Well, sure you wonder I was, don’t you my dear readers? Rest assured I am safe and in relatively good health, however, my internet’s been down for quite a while, thus getting online using my cell phone as a modem has been… A challenge. I’ve been averaging about 4kb/s. Needless to say, some things have been difficult, and accessing Blogger’s publishing tools? Forget it. Accessing the mobile version of Facebook takes several minutes too long.
Anyhow, the next chapter of Paxcatia is coming, and very soon at that, so stay tuned!