Reading the 1941 Retro Hugo Best Novel Nominees – Kallocain by Karin Boye

I finished Kallocain early this morning.  Finished is too final a word.  I doubt this book will ever fully leave me.  I should give this book four or five stars, but it’s hard to ‘lie’ to myself (as the narrator so aptly does until nearly the end) that I liked or loved this book.  It’s dystopian ficion – not an overly likeable or loveable subgenre of science fiction. Even so, decades later, we as a society still devour and crave stories that allow us to peer through a mirror darkly at what might grow if we nurture security at the expense of liberty.

Often compared to Huxley’s Brave New World (published eight yours before Kallocain) and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (published eight yours after), and having read both of those famous classics, I put forth that Boye’s Kallocain is more insidious, more disturbing than either.  Leo Kall invents a drug which facilitates the policing of thoughts, the ‘holy grail’ of any totalitarian police state.  The tragedy is Kall’s complete almost innocent faith in his Worldstate while his closest fellow-soldiers (wife, supervisor, test subjects and high ranking officials) exhibit humanity (laudible traits and those less laudible ones that bear fruit in totalitarian regins) and individuality.  Kall wishes to eradicate these treasonous thoughts in others and so aids less scrupulous officials in legislating and condemning them.  Once he achieves a modicum of his own power and acts upon his fears, Kall beings to regret, doubt takes root, innocence toward the benevolence of the Worldstate crumbles and his conscience awakes.

Continue reading

Posted in 4 Star, Books, Dystopian, Fiction, Ratings, Reading, Reviewing, Reviews, Science Fiction | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Best Novel Nominees Reading Update

Yesterday I finished the fourth Best Novel (2016 Hugo Awards) nominee out of five.  Butcher’s Aeronaut’s Windlass surprised me.  I’ve previously read selections from his Dresden Files and from the Codex Alera series, but this novel, the first in his new Cinder Spires steampunk series, really impressed me.  I simultaneously listened to the audiobook and read the ebook (more the latter towards the end because I read much faster than the audiobook progresses, although I don’t do voice characterizations nearly as well as voice actors do).  I gave it a solid four stars out of five, but when compared to the other nominees, I’m afraid it will fall mid-pack behind Lemke’s Ancillary Mercy and Jemisin’s The Fifth Season.  And I’m having trouble classifying this as fantasy or science fiction, although it does fit well within the subgenre of steampunk.  Both scientific and fantastical elements abound.

That leaves me just one more novel to read to complete the Best Novel nominees for 2016 – Stephenson’s Seveneves.  But before I bury myself in hard SF, I turned my eyes to the Retro Hugo Awards (for 1941) and started reading Slan by A.E. van Vogt.

I found a copy of this book via my local library’s access the regional library system in Northeast Kansas.  Nearby Atchison kept an edition published as part of the Garland Library of Science Fiction (1975) described as a “collection of 45 works of science fiction selected by Lester del Rey.”  I started the book early afternoon on Sunday the 3rd and would have finished it by ten o’clock if I hadn’t kept nodding off – not because I wasn’t interested, but just because I was up past more normal bed time.  I picked the novel back up this morning with less than fifty pages to go to the end.

Slan kept my interest despite dated technology and the lack of technological development aside from the usual 1940s fascination with atomic power.  The only interesting tech bit was anti-gravity, which was more of a plot device than an actual technological achievement.  Colonization of Mars assumes water and a breathable atmosphere, both of which seem laughable to us today.  The psi powers of the slan are pivotal to the plot, but not in the way you would imagine.  I found Slan to be an enjoyable, fast read with a bit of adventure (typical for the time period and the rampant serialization in SF magazines).  I gave Slan a solid three stars out of five.

Next up for the Retro Hugo Best Novel nominees will be T.H. White’s The Ill-Made Knight, which I found in audiobook format via Hoopla.  I’ve previously read Doc Smith’s Gray Lensman, so there’s no need to re-read that one.  The other nominees are on request via InterLibrary Loan and I hope will arrive soon to give me time to complete them before voting closes at the end of July.

 

Posted in 4 Star, Books, Fantasy, Fiction, New Releases, Ratings, Reading, Reviewing, Reviews, Science Fiction, Steampunk | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Good Morning Sunflower

I noticed yesterday afternoon as Terry and I were leaving to meet friends for dinner that one of my sunflower plants had bloomed.  We made it home just before sunset when I was able to snap a photo of the bloom (before the birds destroy it getting to the seeds).

20160626_201334

May your Monday be full of summer sunshine and happiness!

Posted in Art, Digital, Family, Photography, Seasons, Summer | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Movie Review: Risen (2016) 3.5 Stars

Risen

Released: 02/19/2016

Watched BluRay: 06/23/2016

Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Story by Paul Aiello

My Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

Brief Plot Synopsis (via IMdb): In 33 AD, a Roman Tribune in Judea is tasked to find the missing body of an executed Jew rumored to have risen from the dead.

My Thoughts

I normally detest police procedurals (there are way too many of those in a myriad of permutations in prime-time television), but this one intrigued me.  Excellent sets, costumes, locations and above average acting gave me hope that this faith-based film would overcome it’s predecessors shortcomings.  And for the most part, I was not disappointed.  I had minor historical quibbles which I confirmed at IMdb’s Goofs page ( I caught them all without checking the internet).

Continue reading

Posted in 4 Star, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Family, Movies and Television Shows, Ratings, Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Best Novel Hugo Nominees: Two Down, Two To Go

This week, I finished two (2) of the five (5) nominees for this year’s Best Novel Hugo Award.  I started a third one immediately, which leaves me just one left after that.

I enjoyed reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik until I surpassed the halfway point.  From then on, it became a chore and a struggle to continue listening to what seemed like the never-ending tale of corruption in the forest and the protagonist’s slow discovery of her power and identity.

Only a couple of the characters appealed to me and most of them just frustrated me with their actions.  This can probably be attributed to its intended audience (young adult).

If it had not been nominated, I might have just given up shortly after reaching the point in the story where the focus moves from the hinterlands to the capital, and all the political intrigue that comes with that relocation.

I would give this book 3 or 3.5 stars and it will land in the middle or lower standings in my voting for Best Novel.

On the other hand, I couldn’t put down The Fifth Season by N.K. Jimisin.  Well written, some of it using second person point-of-view.  Compelling characters and a plot that moves fast on multiple timelines and fronts.  Interesting new magic (or science, not sure which yet) and a lot of social commentary (but that’s to be expected from this author).

As an author, I’m very impressed with how Jemisin has honed her craft since I first read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.  In fact, I’m probably going to read her duology as soon as I finish reading the other Best Novel Hugo award nominees.

I gave The Fifth Season 4 to 4.5 stars and it may get top honors when I make my final vote for Best Novel later this month.

As soon as I finished Fifth Season, I started listening to The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher.  That audiobook is close to 24 hours long and I’ve managed to squeeze in over three hours of reading in the last couple of days.  If the heat wave breaks soon, I’ll be able to get a few more hours of listening in when I go back to walking the dogs.

I’m not going to start reading Seveneves yet.  I’m going to give myself a break and work through some of the short fiction selections in the other categories.  Some of those stories can be finished over a lunch hour.

Posted in 3 Star, 4 Star, Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Ratings, Reading, Reviewing, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wildflower Garden Update

20160609_055708Last fall, we had some landscaping done on the east and north sides of the house. The south side just had some fill dirt graded against the foundation and a cherry try planted between the apple tree and the fence. We also removed the bothersome mulberry terry from the corner of the fenced backyard.

I attempted to grow sunflowers last summer with limited success.  This year, I decided I wanted a wildflower garden to give bees and hopefully hummingbirds something to enjoy.  I bought a bag of wildflower seed, raked the fill dirt to loosen it and even it out and liberally sprinkled the seed along the entire south wall of the house.  A few weeks later, I’m starting to see blooms, thanks in no small part to nearly ten inches of rain we received in May.

Continue reading

Posted in Digital, Musings, Photography, Seasons, Spring, Summer | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Majority of Americans Can’t See the Milky Way Anymore

http://gizmodo.com/the-majority-of-americans-cant-see-the-milky-way-anymor-1781756700?utm_campaign=socialflow_gizmodo_twitter&utm_source=gizmodo_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/06/pawnee-sky/486557/

Light pollution update.  Not looking good for looking up for 80% of us in the United States.

Posted in Astronomy, Deep Sky, Milky Way, Mutterings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment