Posts Tagged ‘dystopia’
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
The main premise of this book is a world with a class system in which what colors you can perceive is what sets you apart. The protagonist is a “red”, who has been sent to the outer rims of civilization because he has shown signs of rebellion – attempting to improve queuing. It’s an interesting premise – and the book is full of absurdist humor. The story and the characters weren’t as interesting.
The Children of Men by P.D. James
If there is no future for the human race, what is the point of fighting for anything – of rebelling? P.D. James describes a world of infertility in which the last remaining youth is revered and everybody is meekly waiting for the world to come to an end. It’s an interesting concept for a post-apocalyptic book, but I felt the book was long-winded and then ended prematurely.
Three Famous Short Stories by William Faulkner
When I was visiting New Orleans we heard various stories about William Faulkner and his time drinking in the city. I had never read any Faulkner, so I figured now would be a good moment to try some. I eventually found a tiny book store – housed in one of the places Faulkner had lived. It was run by an old American lady and her dog, and I suspect they had been there for the last 20 or 30 years. Every visitor was consistently sniffed by the dog and greeted by the old lady. I asked her for recommendations on a first Faulkner and this is what she gave me.
These stories were a mixed bag. Spotted Horses did nothing for me. Old man was better – not because of the story but because of the characters. The Bear was my favorite, in particular his recreating the air and atmosphere of hunting in the south.
I wonder how long it will take before somebody decides to simplify online dating by integrating 23andme and Facebook into OkCupid. It would make things so much easier, and so, so much creepier.
None of the recent revelations are a big surprise: we’ve been well on our way to a dystopian panopticon for a while. It’s disappointing to hear that there was no significant change in policy after Obama took over office. It’s a bit corny at this point, but “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not watching you” is as apt as it has ever been.
Some interesting links:
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Pretty much what I expected from it. Travelogue of a drugged-up roadtrip, against a backdrop of the latter years of the American sixties. The book starts out very strong, but bored me more and more towards the end.
I’d still like to see Vegas sometime.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
More dystopia. I enjoyed the movie, and the book is good too. It took me a while to get past the annoying abundance of nadsat in the first dozen pages.
It’s been a while. Unfortunately my time for reading these days seems to be limited to the 30 minutes I spend on the tube each day.
Love in the time of cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
García Márquez describes the tragedy of life-long unrequited love.
A well written book, as you would expect from the writer of 100 years of solitude. It has all the nice little details that make the story come alive. I found it hard to like the two main characters; they’re both selfish to the extreme, obsessive and Florentino combines that with an almost catholic form of self-mortification. Yep, seems fairly realistic.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Together with 1984 this is perhaps one of the two 20th century novels about dystopian societies. Huxley paints a picture of a world in which there is bland, drug-aided happiness, eradicated of any expression that might upset the delicate balance that is keeping the populace calm and drowsy. The book heavily features eugenicist ideas and narcotics, which is understandable considering the time in which it was written. These days, what Savage calls the Brave New World seems a lot more outlandish than the world ruled by Big Brother in 1984.
I’m not sure which of the two I would prefer: passionate but suppressed or dozed and happy.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Stephenson plays with some interesting concepts in this book. What is the next step after the internet? Does language determine the way we think or is it the other way around? How much alike are literature and code?
It is refreshing to read a book written by somebody who actually knows what hacking is and how computers work.
The underlying plot of the book is interesting, but the story is a fair bit harder to follow and less enjoyable than in some of Stephenson’s other work.
What We Are Fighting For: A Radical Collective Manifesto by various authors
This is called a Radical Collective Manifesto, but it is more like a loose collection of manifestos . The authors have all written articles related to their respective specializations, but there is not really a consistent style or view. In many chapters the language is quite woolly; some of the authors would do well to (re-)read Orwell’s “Politics and the English language”.
Almost all authors take the oversimplistic “us versus them” approach to politics. If only things were as simple as that. Left versus Right. The proletariat versus the conspiring evil power-hungry capitalist elite that have the media in their pockets. Not that I am deluded enough to consider the press accurate, but the media are sensationalist, superficial and simplistic rather than structurally trying to misinform (with some minor exceptions, perhaps).
There are some chapters that have interesting analysis or propose interesting new ideas that are worth thinking about. But no more than that; while there is a lot of rage against the excesses and problems of capitalism, liberalism and social democracy, there is hardly any attention for the issues with the suggested alternatives. Perhaps it’s a bit too dreamy and not concrete enough for my taste.
Recommended: “Why Do We Obey?”, “Post-Capitalist Desire”, “Participatory Economics from Capitalism”.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Another dystopian novel – most of what I read these days appears to be about bleak and grim societies. A good book, though it feels a bit dated – more so than e.g. 1984. I don’t think I quite agree with Rachel Bloom, but maybe The Halloween Tree will convince me.
Notes from a small island by Bill Bryson
Bryson is good at telling boring stories with a lot of humor, which makes them easy to consume despite the dull subject matter. The travel side of this book was a bit disappointing. In most of the places Bryson visits he informs the reader about the rain, complains about the awfulness of new glass buildings being mixed in with the old architecture, observes some random facts about the history, stumbles along some of the pubs and then goes back to his hotel for an early night.
What prevented this book from being a complete disappointment was that it has a lot of funny observations about the Brits and British culture.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
As good as I remembered it was. Yes, it is a bit simplistic but that’s what makes it powerful. It is a fairy tale after all.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Another great dystopian novel, about the subjugation of women in a totalitarian Christian country. Very well executed, among the best novels I’ve read this year.