Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Pile Status

(This is taking the place of a Small Success post for the week.)

I've already shown that I have too many books.  The pile pictured there has actually grown a little bit, as I've realized that my initial trip around the room only included the shelves where I knew there were many unread books.  I forgot that my poetry shelf included Beowulf or that Watership Downs was residing on my bookcase of kid's books, for example.

Anyway, I've read 4 books from the pile since I posted that picture.  They are Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Memory of Earth by Orson Scott Card, The Girl Who Heard Dragons by Anne McCaffrey, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I greatly enjoyed all of them.   

In the past I've been asked, as a science fiction fan, whether I've read Brave New World, and I've had to ashamedly answer in the negative.  Finally, I've read it.  It's chilling in the way that the best futuristic works are - like Bradbury and Orwell, Huxley shows an extreme future in order to illustrate something about the present.  In this case, the importance of complex, critical thought and the power of societal pressure. 

The Memory of Earth is the beginning of Card's Homecoming series, the story of humankind's descendants on another planet.  The idea is that 30 million years prior to the story, the last remnants of Earth's residents settled new worlds.  To prevent the type of destructive wars that were apparently the end of civilization on Earth, a protective computer system called the Oversoul was set up over the planet Harmony.  The Oversoul prevents them from creating any type of technology that speeds travel (like wheeled carts) or that would be considered a large-scale weapon.  But the Oversoul is starting to fail... The book raises some interesting questions about belief and the practice of religion, since the Oversoul is the god of the people of Harmony.

The Girl Who Heard Dragons is actually a short story collection.  The first story, with the same name as the collection, takes place in the Dragonriders of Pern 'verse.  Most of the others take place in a space-faring universe that's probably related to McCaffrey's other books, but I've only read the Pern novels.  My favorite story was "The Greatest Love", a story written in 1956 about a fictional first attempt at human IVF.  Aside from getting to drive T crazy with my questions about the medical terminology (she's a pre-med student), I enjoyed the twists and turns and stumbling blocks encountered by the characters as they pushed forward with the procedure.  Since I started this book the day after I finished The Memory of Earth, I also enjoyed the juxtaposition of styles between Card, a Mormon, and McCaffrey, who seems quite to distrust the religious establishments of the world. 

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde shouldn't need an introduction, really.  I'm disappointed in myself for never reading it before now, since I've known the basic premise since early childhood.  The story, however, did not disappoint.  It chilled and horrified while at the same time examining the way one man dealt with his darker side.  Given the recent release of the Avengers (I haven't seen any of the individual Hulk films), I also saw the parallels between Drs. Jekyll and Banner and each man's success (or lack thereof) in controlling the beast within him.

In addition to those, I reread Neil Gaiman's American Gods back in May and I just finished rereading The Hobbit in preparation for the first film this December.  I'm also halfway through a book called The Four Percent Universe, which was a graduation gift.  It's a nonfiction book about cosmology, which is the study of the large scale universe: its structure, its origins, and what it's made of.

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