Posts Tagged ‘apocalypse’

Book #45: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was really weird.

It’s set in some futuristic, post-apocolyptic society where nuclear war has basically destroyed Earth and most of the genetically, physically, and mentally sound people have emigrated to Mars. Most of the people left on Earth have been somehow damaged by nuclear fallout. Because life has been so totally destroyed, owning and caring for a living animal has become a mark of social standing. People who cannot actually afford real animals spend money on convincing electronic animals, so no one will know that they can’t afford the real thing.

In this world where electronic versions of animals can fool people, there are, naturally, electronic versions of people. The androids are manufactured on Mars and intended to serve the people there. Like most technologies, they keep getting smarter and generally better. The problem is that sometimes these servants “go rogue” and escape to Earth. This is where the bounty hunters come in. It’s their job to try and figure out which people are the androids.

The thing about this book is that it makes you feel like you’re going insane. Like…for real. You’re reading along and you think everything’s fine and you’re into the plot and then suddenly Dick flips your world completely upside down. Then it’s like you’re standing on the ceiling of the book, which is never fun, and you aren’t even sure if you’re actually right side up or not. And you’re just like, “Whoa, I’m not even sure what’s happening right now.” Sometimes it’ll be the little things that freak you out.

For example, there’s a part where John meets one of the androids. She tells him her name and she says it’s Pris. Then in the next sentence, she says her name is Rachel. Then she goes back to being Pris. For some reason, that tiny moment in the book freaked me out a whole lot.

Overall, I liked Androids. At first when I was reading, I wasn’t terribly excited or interested in the book. But once Dick really got rolling and things got weird, I couldn’t stop reading it. While I was reading the book, I told my roommate about how it made me feel crazy. He told me that it’s supposed to do that. Dick was actually probably schizophrenic. At the very least he had mental illnesses that he worked into his books. If he really was schizophrenic, I’m pretty sure that Androids gives a pretty good representation of what that must feel like.

My goodness.

Rating: ****
Up Next: Enduring Love

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Book #31: Cloud Atlas

I just finished Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. It was one of the strangest books I’ve ever read.

I was talking to one of my roommates about it the other day. She wanted me to tell her what it’s about, but she didn’t want me to tell her what happens, because she’s planning on reading it. I had to think for a minute. It’s one of those books that you can’t describe without saying what happens in it.

Finally, I had it.

“It’s like a matryoshka doll,” I told her. “But a really, really meta matryoshka doll.”Matryoshka Dolls

And it is. Cloud Atlas consists of six narratives. And you’re never sure which is the real narrative. Each narrative references the one before it, but in odd ways. For example, the journal entries of the man crossing the Pacific are read and referenced by a young composer in his letters to his friend.

The stories all connect in this way. Each narrative has a strong voice. You genuinely care about each character, and you want each story to be the “real” one. But you never know for sure which story is real. The stories are all nested inside each other, moving from earliest (1800s) to the latest (post-apocalypse) and then out again in reverse order. The largest chunk, the latest, timewise, is the only unbroken narrative.

It contains, then, all of the narratives in their different forms (movies, letters, books). Somehow they all connect to each other, but you can’t quite figure out how.

I guess there are some light spoilers here, because I want to get more specific. Beware if you’re planning on reading this or seeing the movie and don’t want to know things. I’ll leave space before my final thoughts and rating if you’ll kindly scroll down to the big line break.

River Song, Doctor Who, "Spoilers"

What struck me most about Cloud Atlas was the moment I realized that some of the stories might not be real. It was fine when the composer found Ewing’s journal. That sort of thing happens all the time, and the characters have to be connected somehow. It was fine when Louisa Rey read Frobisher’s letters. that sort of thing also happens.

BUT LOUISA REY IS A CHARACTER IN A BOOK! Does that mean that Frobisher’s letters aren’t real? And wouldn’t that mean that Ewing’s diary isn’t real too? They’re just fictions made up inside a different work of fiction that someone else is reading! Ahhh!

AND THEN (at this point I’m just rehashing plot, BUT STILL) CAVENDISH IS IN A MOVIE! I guess it could still be a movie based on his life but HOW DO WE KNOW?! And is Sonmi real, or is she actually just a religious figure? Which of these narratives is the “real” one? Is it Zachry’s, because it’s the only one that’s unbroken? Or is it Ewing’s, because it’s the only one that isn’t influenced by the other narratives? THERE’S NO WAY TO KNOW.

It’s fiction within fiction within fiction. It’s kind of a mindfuck, when you think about it.

And now I’ll leave space for anyone who wants to avoid these spoilers.

  • Anyway, I liked Cloud Atlas. It was different than I expected it to be. Some parts were really intense. Some parts I didn’t like so much. I’m not a fan of people writing in dialect, so I didn’t enjoy Zachry’s section. However, that was balanced out by the fact that I was super interested in the Louisa Rey mystery and Sonmi’s story. All in all, Cloud Atlas is a very strange matryoshka-doll book, and you should probably read it.

    Rating: ****
    Up Next: Fatelessness

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