Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick

First published in 1968

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is the book that the movie Blade Runner (1982) is based of, and it’s Philip K. Dick’s first book I read, though I’ve watched many movie adaptations of his work, like Minority Report and The Adjustment Bureau.

I watched Blade Runner pretty late, only a few years ago, but didn’t remember much of the story, apart from the whole androids vs humans thing, so I read this book almost afresh. Another factor that pushed it to the top of my TBR is that a new Blade Runner movie is coming out, starring Ryan Gosling – titled Blade Runner 2049, so if you’re like me and would like to know more about the original work, now is a good time to start :).

The main character is Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter who goes after androids who “run away” – as androids have no rights to independence. The world building is very well done. The world as we know it has practically ended because of some mysterious dust, and most of the earth population has migrated to other planets. Thus the setting is a decaying earth, featuring characters who are left behind or have come back or stayed for some reasons. An interesting aspect that I observed is that the whole story is actually just set in one single day (or a single day and a bit). It’s a full on day for Rick Deckard!

It’s a very fun book to read, and perfect for me who often feel stuck on some slow going books – this one just flew by. But for a science fiction – a genre that mainly runs on ideas, I don’t think there’s any deep meaning or message in the book. If there’s any I couldn’t find it. The book was published in 1968, and the story is set in 2021. We are now in 2017, and we now know that we’re so far from making androids remotely close to being human. Not sure if that would ever happen in fact, not even for the next 100 years. So the idea of right to independence and freedom for androids seems moot. The idea that an android may have “soul” is irrelevant in even today’s world – it’s so pie in the sky.

And the book actually felt a bit dated for me. In Dick’s world, technology has advanced so far that people are having difficulties differentiating androids and humans, but there is no mobile phone. People use coin to make calls on land line – the only ‘advance’ thing being it’s a video call. Reading this in 2017, it felt very much that it was written before mobile phone technology was invented – and that it didn’t cross the author’s mind that in the near future, before humanoid androids are invented, everybody has a mobile phone with them 24/7, the size of a small calculator, which has plenty of functions including – guess what – a video call, and access to a vast amount of information. But this could be just me. I have previously mentioned about the phone technology being a thing that makes a book feel dated.

But at the end of the day it was a fun read, and I’ll definitely be up for more Philip K. Dick in the future!

Mee’s rating: 4/5

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)

The Invention of Morel – Adolfo Bioy Casares

the invention of morel

This is one of those rare occasions in which I manage to read something for a bookish blogging community event AND write about it. Said event is Spanish Lit Month 2015, organized by Richard and Stu. The timing is just perfect, as I’d been meaning to read this book. Also long story short, I have 2 copies of it (more pressure!). So when it was mentioned as a group read in their blogs I knew I had to read it then.

The Invention of Morel went to my to-read list right after I finished reading Fictions by Borges (which I loved). And this NYRB Classics version includes prologue by Borges. Apparently Adolfo Bioy and Borges have worked together a few times and Borges has only sung high praises for his friend.

The book is very short in just 103 pages, so even for a slow reader like me it felt like a pretty quick read. It is set on a fictional island, to which a man self-exiled himself. There are a museum and a chapel on top of a hill in the middle of the island – that are empty at first, but not long after he starts seeing people there. Most important among the people is this woman called Faustine, often seen staring into the sea, who the man falls in love with. Who are these people and what are they doing on the island? (I will say no more.)

I have not read a lot of South American literature, but from the few that I read, I seem to find a common theme of obsession with a female figure. In The Invention of Morel, our main character is obsessed with the image of Faustine. (It is said that the book is inspired by Bioy Casares’s own fascination with the movie star Louise Brooks. In fact the woman on the cover looks very similar with Louise Brooks.) It reminded me a bit of Garcia Marquez’s Memories of My Melancholy Whore. In both books the men are obsessed about the image of their women, not the women themselves because they never really get to know them, but the image that they build.

I like that the book comes with a few illustrations, for example:

invention of morel illustration
Map of the island

Mee’s rating: 4/5 – I quite enjoyed reading the book. There are definitely similarities in style with Borges’s work. The unusual storyline means it might make a good movie (a movie has been made in the 70s called Morel’s Invention). Wouldn’t mind watching the movie sometime.

 

Understanding Comics – McCloud / A Princess of Mars – Burroughs

Nearing the end of October, I got a sudden panicky feeling that the year almost ends. Two months! Plans made at the beginning of the year all went out the window, and think of all the books you don’t get around to read this year – some you have planned to since years ago! And so year after year we’d be pondering over the same thing, that there’s not enough time in the world to read all the books you want to read. But I’m going to leave my full year of reflection for the first post next year, as always.

For now, two books, one I super loved, one was a meh. I’ll start with the Love.

Understanding Comics

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud was the book I’ve been meaning to read for years. In fact, it was published in 1994, so really quite old already. I started knowing about it after this blog, so that’s only in 2007.

And just a second ago I realized that Bookie Mee is now SIX years old! OMG.

Since I haven’t been blogging much for a while though, I’m just going to let that slip by quietly. It still surprises me how long this blog has gone on. And how I feel still connected to the whole book community in the Internet, even though I have stepped far back. Will I keep this blog as long as I’m still reading? Only time can tell.

Back to Understanding Comics, I wonder why it took me so long to read it. It is the most thorough the most informative book on understanding comics (I haven’t read Eisner’s book on the topic, will do that next), that I’d highly recommend it to both people who love comics and those who misunderstand comics.

Comic has suffered long enough as a “low art” form, and people should start seeing it as what it is, a media, not a genre. You can use any media to convey your ideas, to express your creativity and views of the world. What you say is the content of the medium. So for example if you don’t like super-hero comics, it doesn’t mean you hate comics as the media (or I hope you don’t), you just don’t like the content. You can still like comics with other contents.

The book covers history of comics and comparison between American, European, and Japanese comics (which I’m especially happy for – since I grew up with Japanese and European comics). Also covered is how to read comics or how to understand comics. Many of these come very intuitively for me, but I grew up reading comics. From talking to a few people who have not grown up reading comics, apparently it may not come intuitively – which I found very interesting, and it may be the things that put them off.  (The same with playing games. If you don’t grow up with it, it may not come intuitively for you.) If you’re one of them, this book is such a great way to “teach” you to read comics. Also have I told you that it is all told in comic form? — comics as in combination of text and pictures. It is so much fun!

5 out of 5 stars! I finally read this with the nudge from Comic Books and Graphic Novels course on coursera.org.

princes of mars

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

In the effort to finish the Fantasy and Science Fiction course on, again, my-favorite-online-course-platform-on-the-planet coursera.org, I read Princess of Mars. On a side note, did you know that Edgar Rice Burroughs created Tarzan? That was a nice discovery.

I watched the movie adaptation John Carter when it was out. Kind of enjoyed it, but didn’t think much of it. It was done by Disney so it felt Disney-ish…? (doh) The book though is somewhat an important pillar in the history of FSF, as it is a pioneer in inter-galactic, or in this case inter-planet (Earth and Mars), romance. Could this be a seed of Star Wars? It started the rise of pulp fiction, and one of Guardian’s 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read.

The book was readable, but overall it was just meh for me. With John Carter as hero and his adventures to save the princess of Mars, slaying aliens, it all felt too boy-ish. I don’t remember much about the movie, but it seems to capture the book quite well (was thinking to re-watch it after reading, but naah…).

This time, watch the movie, skip the book.

3 out of 5 stars.

 

Mee’s Summer Reading 2013

Since I am way way way behind in blogging about books read and all bookish things that happened in the past 3 month, I’m just going to write about them in one giant post. And I just realized those 3 months were summer (coincidence?), so I can call them summer reading!

Books Read

Frankenstein — Mary Shelley (England/Europe, 1818,  4/5)

I liked Frankenstein, a lot more than Dracula, which I did not like very much. It seems that most people either like one or the other. I’m definitely on Frankenstein side. Also if you read a little about Mary Shelley’s life, it is as shocking and as interesting as her story.

metamorphosis

Metamorphosis — Franz Kafka (German, 1915, 4.5/5)

Metamorphosis is my first Kafka, finally. Well the first was actually his short story called A Country Doctor, which I read just before Metamorphosis, but it was a 5-page short story. Metamorphosis is rather short too, around 90 pages. I thought it was amazing story about a man waking up as a giant insect. I got the impression that it was going to be depressing, and it was at the end, but overall I thought it was hilarious. I will need to read more Kafka!

The Night Bookmobile — Audrey Niffenegger (US, 2010, 4/5)

An illustrated book by Audrey Niffenegger about a woman who stumbles upon a mobile library, in which there is everything she’s ever read in her life. Wow it’s so dark and depressing at the end, that I’m not sure what the whole point of the book is. The story is just a bit strange. But there’s a lot of work put into the book as she illustrates it herself using various art techniques.

don quixote comic

Don Quixote (graphic novel, vol 1) — Cervantes, illustrated by Rob Davis (Spain, 2011, 4/5)

As I imagine I won’t get into the real Don Quixote anytime soon, I jumped at the chance to read the graphic novel. The illustration is lovely and colorful – I really liked it. The story however seems a bit pointless, about a disillusioned old man and his servant-like mate. I’d probably need to read the real book to get the layers of the story. Don Quixote is still amazingly popular in Spain, as proven by my trips to Spain, so I’m curious.

Watchmen — Alan Moore (fantasy world, 1987, 3/5)

What a DENSE graphic novel! I’m not sure if I’ve read a graphic novel as dense as that. Apart from the comic style pages, there are also pages of writing, in newspaper clip style or letter. It took me forever to read Watchmen, and at the end I speed read it, because I could not stand it not-finished any longer. I know this is a very important graphic novel — it’s in one of Time’s All-Time 100 Novels, but I got impatient. I watched the movie after that and I’d probably recommend most people to just watch the movie. The movie stays very true to the book, and nicely directed (Zack Snyder). Watch the Director’s Cut (around 3.5 hours, while the cinema version is far shorter than that) to get more details from the book, including the meta-comic.

To the Lighthouse — Virginia Woolf (England, 1927, 3/5)

It is my first Woolf, so I’m happy that I finished it, and at least understood most of it. I probably wouldn’t ever be able to get through the book without Prof Weinstein’s lectures on Coursera though, so if you’re struggling, I’d recommend getting his lectures on Coursera’s Fiction of Relationship, and you can sort of read alongside the lectures (there are many of them). My advice is if there’s a paragraph that you don’t understand after reading a couple of times, KEEP GOING! Don’t obsessed and get stuck over one paragraph. In the bigger scheme of things, it really does not matter, and you’ll be glad once you get to the end and able to see the book as a whole.

The Invisible Man — H. G. Wells (England, 1897, 3/5)

Apart from Fiction of Relationship in Coursera, I am also following Fantasy and Science Fiction course, by Prof Rabkin. The reading list is interesting. There are many that I wouldn’t read by myself, so I’m glad to be able to broaden my reading horizon (the same as true for Fiction of Relationship). In one of the weeks the reading list includes all H. G. Wells: 2 novels and 2 short stories. I didn’t know how important Wells was in SF. He is often compared with Jules Verne, as they were from the same era, but as explained in the lectures, Verne is purely entertainment, while Wells questions social and political issues in his writing.

In Invisible Man, Wells created a man that because of a personal scientific experiment has turned invisible. And he can’t go back. Since I read this so close to Frankenstein, I saw some similarity, like how the two main characters are rejected by the society and turn bad as a result. I guess that’s the end of the similarity, because I didn’t enjoy Invisible Man as much. The description of actions tire me, and I kept waiting for deeper discussions of life like in Frankenstein, which does not happen in Invisible Man.

A Grief Observed — C. S. Lewis (1961, 3/5)

I feel the need to say that this book was given by a friend, who asked me to read this favorite book of his, so I felt compelled to read it. I might appreciate the book more if I were at different stage of life, but as it was, it didn’t speak to me in any profound way. I have long left any discussions of God and Christianity IRL, and therefore found the discussion here about God, his intentions and afterlife to be heavy handed.

C.S. Lewis wrote books journalling his thoughts after the death of his wife of 4 years, referred to here as H. I’m just glad that they edited much of it, and left a thin 60-page large-font book, as I wouldn’t have much patience for longer book about wallowing in grief. I feel a bit bad for not thinking higher of the book given the sad subject matter and the circumstances of my reading it, but as I said, in another time I could’ve taken it differently

moreau.jpg

The Island of Doctor Moreau — H. G. Wells (1896, 3.5/5)

In the Island of Dr Moreau, Wells plays with the idea of turning beasts into men. Our narrator is someone who got stranded in an island, where he meets two other men, one of them Moreau. Later finding shows how Dr Moreau has been experimenting with animals and turning them into imperfect human that is more half man half beast. Interesting premise, but after reading 2 books by Wells, I’m pretty clear that I don’t fall in love with his writing. His ideas are great, but his writing just doesn’t evoke much in me.

ps: Don’t even look for the movie. It seems to be really bad from what people say. I just some pictures, and the effects don’t impress me too.

Short Stories

Been reading Nathaniel Hawthorne (Before I started I didn’t know he is also well known for his short stories, some are mentioned as early conception of Science Fiction. I only knew he wrote Scarlet Letter prior to this.), Edgar Allan Poe (never quite like Poe. Maybe I’m just not into psychopathic behaviors?), Flannery O’Connor, John Updike,  more H. G. Wells (I kinda liked the two I read: The Country of the Blind and The Star), Gustave Flaubert, William Faulkner, Jorge Luis Borges, Hemingway.

I got little sparks from Borges so I’ll be reading more. Flaubert, possibly. I’m eyeing Madame Bovary.

Currently Reading

Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (remember John Carter? Also, did you know that Burroughs wrote Tarzan? Yeah, I didn’t know too!)

Great Expectations by Dickens via Dailylit, sent daily to my mail, which I try to read first thing in the morning on the way to work for. I’ve been doing this for a few months now, and I’m over a third in. I’m happy that it works. I don’t think I would be able to do it reading it like normal book to be honest. It is very very long, and in spite of the interesting bits, there are more boring bits.

On the Pipe

I probably shouldn’t mention much in fear that I would jinx it, but if all goes according to plan I’ll be reading Herland — Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Old Man and the Sea — Hemingway, and the Martian Chronicles — Ray Bradbury.

I can’t believe how much I’m reading considering how little I did for the last couple of years. I think I probably needed more structure and direction in my reading, and I’ve got them, thanks to the Profs and Coursera.

 

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

People often started their reviews by saying this book so-and-so made them cry. That doesn’t mean anything to me. I don’t cry for a book.

Little did I know that I would begin my review now by saying this book made me cry! And not just a tear or two, but more like weeping for 5 minutes. At least TWO times! The last time I cried because of a book was probably The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I read in 2004.

Charlie was born retarded. He lives his entire life with not much more than broken memories and haziness. But Charlie wants to be smart. He knows he’s lacking something and that he wants that something so he can be like everybody else. One day an opportunity arrives. A research facility needs a human guinea pig. If the experiment is successful, Charlie would become.. normal, though of course, there’s a chance that it might fail. Charlie doesn’t care. He’s going to do anything to be smarter.

I have a little confession to make. For me, it’s very important to be smart. As a kid I was obsessed with IQ tests. I started doing them since I was three. I knew I wasn’t a genius, but my IQ was high enough to be, say, the highest in class, and in general, to get away with a lot of things. Some people might be the funny one, the pretty one, the talkative one, the kind one. But me, I need to be the smart one. Most of the time this thought lays deep at my subconscious mind, but at certain times when I feel my brain fails me big time, I could get pretty depressed, and the worms are out in the open. What if I’m just not that smart? What would I be? WHAT IF? –I would heap on my despair, sink in my misery.

I could relate with Charlie in many ways. I always feel the need to be smart. I understand how the little child in us always needs to get our parents’ approval. Look at me Ma! I am smart! I am somebody!

Boy, did I cry!

The book is told in a series of Charlie’s personal journal, so we could see how he progresses and gets smarter, then later finds out how things were never what he thought they were when he lived in his blurry state.

You know how sometimes even a good book slows its pace at some parts? It never happened with this book. The pace was good from beginning til end. Every page was a joy to read. Not only that, it’s packed with emotional punch. One thing for sure, I would never see a “slow” person the same way ever again.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. To anybody! I love you Daniel Keyes! Thank you for your contribution to this world! (sorry, that just gushed out of me) I can’t believe my first two books of the year were so 5 stars! I have a good feeling for this year.Daniel Keyes


1966, 216 pp

First line
Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and remembir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on.

Awards
1966 Nebula Award for Best Novel

Quotes

“.. Miss Kinnian says dont worry spelling is not suppose to make sence.” ~ p24

“Now I understand one of the important reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you’ve believed in all your life aren’t true, and that nothing is what it appears to be.” ~ p50

Challenges
Book Awards IV (book #2), Read the Book See the Movie (book #1)

Also reviewed by
Loved it! — Farm Lane Books Blog | Savidge Reads | Novel Insight | Reading Matters
Not quite. — Books for Breakfast

charlyCharly (1968)

I had reservation about watching the movie, because the book was just SO good. There’s no way the movie can even compare. But I saw Cliff Robertson won Oscar for Best Actor in 1969 for the film, so I gave it a chance.

Well, I was right. It’s not horrible, but it’s nothing compared to the book. In the movie we lose a lot of Charlie’s inner thoughts, which are the main point of the book. A lot of his external and internal conflicts were cut as well, leaving mainly his love interest.

I would give the movie a pass.

Rating: 6/10

Apart from my reading challenges, I read the book (and watch the movie) to participate on Carl’s Sci Fi Experience 2010 (run in the month of January and February). Are you participating? You still have time if you want to! :)

After Flowers for Algernon I definitely have a lot more confidence in trying the Sci-Fi genre. A few years ago I told the person who gave me the book that “I don’t read science fiction.” But when we discussed some books that we’ve read, I mentioned The Time Traveller’s Wife and Kindred. He quickly pointed out that I do read sci-fi. Sci-fi does not mean all outer-space and machines. I agree that we really shouldn’t pigeon-hole books into a certain genre, and avoid them as a result. Imagine what great books that we could be missing out! I do plan to read more of what is called sci-fi books in the future. Nebula and Hugo award winners would be a great start. At the moment I’m thinking Stranger in a Strange Land.

Can you think of any books that you are passionate about that fall into the sci-fi genre?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsReading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is like talking to one of your unnaturally geeky friends. Sometimes they go off at a tangent that you wish they would come back to earth and stop being so confusing. Sometimes they blurt out things so absurd and hilarious that only geniuses like they are could even think about it.

It’s like talking to a person out of this world — wacky, interesting and unpredictable. The book takes you to journey you’d never guess (and probably shouldn’t try to). It’s fun. I’m sure you’d laugh a lot along the way. I did.

“They’ve got as much sex appeal as a road accident.” ~ Ford, p60

Douglas Adams

Note: I just knew that the term Babel Fish came from this book. Cool. (Babel Fish is a small yellow fish that you put in your ears to translate. Of course there’s a “scientific” explanation for it in the book. Today, Babel Fish is a translation engine.)

Note 2: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a trilogy that consists of 5 books. Eoin Colfer (of Artemis Fowl) is writing the 6th book (titled And Another Thing…) which will be out in October 2009.

4.5 stars
1979, 224 pp

First line
Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral Arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Last line
‘We’ll take in a quick bite at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.’

Also reviewed by

She Treads Softly | Bibiolatry | Book Nut (a conversation)

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This book is the second of Ishiguro that I read (first was When We Were Orphans). The style is a bit different. Easier to digest I’d say, a page turner. The author is good at giving hints to something in the past or the future, and makes me wanting more throughout the entire book.

I can’t say more without spilling spoilers. So I’m just gonna blurt it out.

*SPOILER WARNING*

I think by now almost everyone that has heard about this book knows that it is about clones (As far as I recall though, the word “clone” is only mentioned twice in the entire book). I thought most of the aspects were covered pretty well, but I can’t help wondering why the idea of parents were not discussed at all. It should be a pretty sad moment to know that everybody else out there has parents and you don’t. But I guess they’ve always known that they’re “purposefully created”, and when everybody around you has the same fate as you, you would just accept things as they are. Like a frog never really wishes to fly.

I found relationship between Ruth and Tommy is a bit hard to believe. I mean they’re really two different persons, and I can’t imagine them being together in the first place. Though if you think more about it, they’re both a bit annoying. Ruth is awfully pretentious and attention seeker. Tommy childish, weak, indecisive (he waited until Ruth allowed Kath and him to be together to do something about it? Anyway he never did much about anything.)

I’m also wondering what’s the significance of alphabets for their last name. I thought A would be the first clone for that person, B second, and so on. But they never mentioned anything about it and my theory doesn’t make much sense too, because if it’s true then if Kath’s last name is H, that means she’s the 8th clone, which means the real person where they take the gene from has probably been dead a long time ago if they wait for each clone to ‘complete’ to make the same clone. But Kath tried to find her ‘possible’ and she thought she was alive. If they make a few of the same clones at the same time, wouldn’t she wonder where the other clones are, and not just her ‘possible’? So anyway, their ‘last name’ confused me.

Many things are just eerie. The way they say ‘complete’ to mark their discontinuation to live. The way Madame and Miss Emily so matter-of-factly and cold-heartedly explain everything to them and dismiss them just like that. Not to mention the whole donor thingy.

After I finished the book, when I looked back, I thought the characters are almost void of emotions in just a very eerie way. There’s no big emotion to whatever new things that they discovered no matter how shocking it was. And rightly so. After all, they’re clones, which were doubted that they even had souls.

Rating: 4 out of 5 [Very good]
Flowing reading, satisfying climax, a unique topic that is brought very nicely. Few loose ends.

First line

My name is Kathy H.

Last line

I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.

Also reviewed by

robaroundbooks | Stuff as Dreams are Made on

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