Thursday, April 29, 2010

Douglas Adams— The Ultimate Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I read this book without any idea what I was getting myself into, and I was really surprised how great this was. The whole thing seemed very british to me. Growing up I remember watching The monty python movies with my family and this book’s humor definitely brought me back to that. The randomness and existentialist over the top humor is great. I loved zaphod beeblebrox his character was hilarious. It was great how stupid he was and gave himself a lobotomy and yet he was the president of the universe. The improbability drive was another favorite aspect of this book. The sort of dark irony of everything and it’s futileness is great and the character that reflects this the best is the super intelligent robot servant who is extremely depressed. It seems that everything in this book is off the wall but has a very reasonable and unfortunate explanation. Another example is the part of the book where it goes off on a tangent to explain how a group of people built a super computer to calculated the meaning of life only to hear that the answer is 42. Something like that is completely random but it’s that sort of answer that could be completely valid to a question so vague and contrived. This book was an amazing read.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Neal Stephenson—Snow Crash

Snow Crash interested me because I heard plenty about it from my friends. “it’s insane, but also really believable” is how it was described. The book takes place in a hypothetical future like the cyberpunk genre kind of implies but this book seemed to have a specific alternate theory for what the economy and government of the future would be like.. Hiro is a hacker and master sword fighter, but compared to the rest of this novel that combination of skill sets doesn’t seem so unfitting. Snow Crash is a pseudo-narcotic in the book that Hiro encounters, and its interesting to think of how drugs of the future will change and affect culture and society. To think how much an impact the introduction of drugs in the 60’s had on culture. I really enjoyed how the book examines the details of snow crash and how it affects the human mind as well as the “meta-verse”
It’s a very interesting concept. Unfortunately I didn’t get to finish Snow Crash but I will definitely come back to it because it has so many interesting a specific theories about the future that seem “insane but also really believable” just the way my friends described.

Neil Gaiman’s American gods

I remember reading some of my brother’s sandman comics and really enjoying them when I was in middle school. Being so young though my short attention span prevented me from perusing the author and reading his other work. I just went on to reading some other comic book or got sucked into some sprawling in-depth story based video game which were kind of the “video game style” of the 90’s play station games. But nonetheless Neil Gaiman’s name had been imprinted in my mind along with his work.
American Gods interested me right off because I knew it dealt with mythology and I always sort of had interest in mythology, and this book fuses the characters with mythology in interesting ways. They actually are the supposed gods from the myths but they’re in very different circumstances. It’s interesting to examine how these gods act in a modern setting, I found it believable. The introduction of shadow in prison was interesting, you learn a lot about his character just by his action in prison and then he learns his wife is dead, so he sort of becomes this clean slate character not really having anything to go back to. Shadow is a great character and same with Mr. Wednesday. I thought it was interesting at the end when shadow accuses Odin of Mr. Wednesdays actions but he explains that although it was him he cant be responsible for Mr. Wednesday’s actions. I’ve read lots a lot of fantasy books like Harry Potter, or Terry Pratchet books, but this book was refreshing because it was definitely a more mature modern fantasy novel.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Hobbit

I was born in New York and lived there until I was twelve. When I was born my mom got sick after birth and had to quit her job. My dad continued to work at the post office on long island but the strain of my older brother and myself and my mom’s unemployment forced us to live with my grandma and grandpa for the first 10 years of my life. We were a very close family in New York with relatives always stopping by for gatherings or just family dinners. I cant remember having any friends when I was younger that weren’t my cousins or siblings before I went to grade school, and even then I mostly stayed at home with my family. Our grandma was an artist and had a huge collection of illustrated books and books on paintings spanning from Norman Rockwell to Picasso. I remember she let us take down books to read or tapes to watch. At first I was to young to read the books so I was obsessed with the animated children’s movies. And of course one of those tapes was the Animated film The Hobbit. The Hobbit for me is one of those stories that is imprinted in my brain, along with other movies like my neighbor Totoro. I know growing up in that house has had a huge impact on my life, since I lived there I remember finding movies or books that my cousins didn’t know about and showing them grandmas library. I remember feeling like I was passing on the knowledge, like I could show them something they wouldn’t find anywhere else. It wasn’t really a big deal but when you’re a kid that age it sort of leaves an imprint on you as a person, And the hobbit was definitely the kind of story that never really leaves you especially when its introduced to you at an early age. At twelve my parents and my brother and I moved down to florida to get a house on our own and florida was cheap enough for us to manage. It was hard going to school and being away from my family and I remember coming back to the books I read back in New York, That’s something the fanatasy genre definitely has the sort of escape from reality. Being the new kid with no friends, middle school was definitely a harsh reality to escape from. Most of my middle school life was saturated with old books comics and then video games and I started to be enveloped in the subculture that most kids of my generation was aware or apart of. Then I went to high school and kept on playing the games and reading but also started to value a social life. I got a job joined the track team, didn’t try as hard in school but kept on drawing and knew I wanted to go to an art school because I wanted to be able to keep that feeling I got from those stories alive and the only way I got that sort of buzz was from drawing and creating.

When I think about book like the hobbit it makes me consider the sort of stories that new generation of kids are growing up with. Even though they do have access to older books like the hobbit doesn’t mean they’re exposed to or value them. I know computer animated films are taking the place of these kinds of stories but it seems like modern day kids movies are always just reworked version of older stories. I wonder if there will ever be a something as inventive as the hobbit or the lord of the rings which an entire sub-culture has been created from.

Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire

I remember watching the movie interview with a vampire when I was younger, and the fascination with vampires and teenage heart-throbs in recent movies have brought that film back to mind. Reading the book I found the movie was not too far from the original book. This story was the first vampire story to explore what it would be like to be a vampire and the sort of emotional and social complications being a vampire would imply.
The characters were interesting; Lestat was the cold-blooded killer with no regret but seemed to want companionship. Claudia would forever be stuck in a child’s body, and wanted to learn more about her vampire affliction, the kind of wonder and a child would have for the world. Louis was interesting because of his human qualities that passed on through his vampirism. Louis as a mortal didn’t want to live anymore; he squandered his wealth and his health, willing to die for nothing. Once he was turned to a vampire he somehow gained compassion for life and suffered regret, something the other vampires didn’t. Armand was the oldest vampire, leader of a group of vampires in Paris, but he found weakness in his vampires when he met Louis who he thought was beautiful for he would have human qualities for eternity. It was like Louis would forever be the suffering soul and Armand was the vampire who appreciated that the way someone might be obsessed with the life and work of van goh, a suffering artist. I thought it was interesting to see these sort of personality traits the vampires had because of their vampirism. Eternal life was a theme the book explored too, and what it would be like to be someone who was faced with never dying a natural death. I think Louis was a good main character for the book because you could feel apathetic towards him, he wasn’t entirely a monster.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Its obviously ironic to see Pride and Prejudice mixed with zombies and it’s that sort of obvious ironic humor that usually fuels the internet subcultures and tries to hook audiences like the movie snakes on a plane did. so I wasn’t too surprised when I heard about this zombification of pride and prejudice on It’s also ironic in another way. The original book tells a story of love in a setting which reflects early English society and culture, and the injection of zombies sort of inadvertently forces the reader to consider the contrasts of our current society and its cultural interests to that of old England’s, like fighting zombies to concerns about being a suitable wife to a rich suitor, at least it did for me. It’s interesting to see that the book sort of offers an escape from itself from time to time with zombie fights, bringing waves of nostalgia from childhood fascinations with zombies, but I don’t think those waves helped me appreciate Pride and Prejudice as much as they just set me off course. Before this class I never read the original Pride and Prejudice and I only knew about the plot line from friends who saw the recent movie Of Pride and Prejudice, but I’m glad now to have read the book because it’s still a literary classic, even with a few zombies.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Growing up I knew Frankenstein to be a block headed green guy with bolts in his neck. I could only really recognize him for his common cultural icon, usually wearing a dopey expression on his face because Frankenstein was always around for Halloween as a costume or a weird bubbly plastic decoration or a toy for young kids. Soon enough I realized that this was the modernized version of Frankenstein. I read some creepy and eerie comics and watched, the brilliant, bride of Frankenstein but I still didn’t think there was much to the story behind the actual monster until I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in my high school English class. I remember enjoying the book, surprised to see that the monster had complex emotional qualities. Mary Shelley’s monster was a character you could identify with. It has an existential sort of quality because of the monster’s “accidental” creation and neglected existence. It was interesting to see how doctor Frankenstein reacted to his own creation and how he would have to deal with his guilt and owe up to what he’s done. He had to take responsibility for his actions or else pay the consequences which the monster forced on him.

Reading the book for the second time I payed attention to the sort of themes. Dr. Frankenstein wanted to find a way around death or to Conquer nature. Man versus nature is a recurring struggle in many works of literature or stories and is especially a western ideology that is very applicable to current events. Dr. Frankenstein could be compared to man trying to control natural forces and now the "monster" we've created is threatening us with things like global warming.