Archive for September, 2014

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A Princess of Mars

September 16, 2014

A Princess of Mars (Barsoom, #1)If I were younger, I would appreciate this book much better. It has lots of action, scantily clad woman, flying vehicle, sword and laser. What else would you expect? But, I grow up (old), and all these things has lost their magic.

The story is simple. A (brutish) man John Carter, somehow magically transported to Mars. Somehow he has a superpower strength, thanks to the fortunate luck of being born on the surface of higher gravity planet Earth (Mars is about 1/3 of Earth’s gravity). Imagine Clark Kent, but from Earth to Mars. And on planet Mars, he finds a princess in distress, falls in love, and rescue her. Typical knight-in-shining-armor in a fairy tale.

Don’t expect any “science” in this science fiction. It is almost indistinguishable from fantasy books. All the technology is just there without any effort of explanation. What you have is green men on Mars (although not little and with six limbs), with weird plants and animals, without any effort to explain the evolution or ecosystem of Mars.

To defend this book, at least the author tried to make this novel astronomically accurate. There are description on the canals of Mars, the two Moon of Mars which are pretty accurate. The crisis faced by Martian is parallel with the observation from Earth that Mars is barren and the atmosphere is thin.

There is one little hint that the writer is mocking the communal living usually practiced by socialist group. The green men of Mars is depicted as the Spartan-like society, with little familial love. And the conclusion is simple, love conquers all. Simplistic, but maybe that’s all that we need.

The merit of this book is that it is being a classic. At least we know what science fiction looks like in the beginning of 20th century. But only that. Compared to the pinnacle of sci-fi, there are many better books that this one. The book does not offered much compared with any other pulp fiction books.

PS: The mode of travel from Earth to Mars is not explained. But if you are familiar with astral travel, it looks like that. So actually it is not John Carter’s physical body that travels to Mars, but his astral body. In other words, he is just dreaming.

two star

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In Enemy Hands

September 9, 2014

In Enemy Hands (Honor Harrington, #7)This is the weakest link in all this series that I have read, so far. If not by the merit of the ending, or the flow of the story as a whole, I would have give this book a TWO stars.

The title already suggests (so I don’t think that it is a spoiler) that our heroine Lady Harrington will be captured by the enemy. No surprise there. But the important thing is how the story goes.

The beginning is just too slow, too damned slow. nothing really happened. It will be much better if it is cut into half. Honor is back into the regular of Manticoran navy, after the succesfull mission as a commander of a Q-ship (or armed Merchant Ship). Everything is back to normal. And normal is boring.

The love interest story is totally unnecessary. Maybe the author wants to keep that as an investment in a long term, but I think he should cut it to a minimum level. Just give a little hint of it, without telling it in more than one page. It is boring and against the flow of the novel as a whole.

The actual story only begin when Lady Harrington is captured. And the action starts. Luckily the story is good, otherwise it will fail to redeem the rest of the novel. There are plot twists and tragedy. Many things are lost, too many actually, for better or worse. Fortunately, luck is always in her side (otherwise the whole installment will stop, right?)

Final verdict, a THREE, and I am already being nice.

three star

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Frankenstein

September 2, 2014

FrankensteinI just reread of this novel, which I read about twenty years ago. Obviously, there are many new insight gained.

First of all, I think most people will assume this novel as a horror novel, a Gothic monster novel. It made into many horror movies, right? That’s what I thought twenty years ago. But after a careful second reading, I get much more. (I read it in a translation version the first time, and I read the English version for the second time).

The monster in this novel is not just merely a monster which horrifies us. The monster is the monster created by science. The monster is the personification of science goes wrong.

On a deeper reading, Frankenstein story retold the myth of creation. It contained the tension between the creator and the creation. It is a myth told and retold over and over again. You can see it in the Bible’s Genesis, Greek theogony, and many other creation mythologies.

In Genesis, Adam was created by God. Initially he was innocent, until he gain knowledge from the fruit, which open his eyes. The same theme also occurred in Frankenstein. The monster was created by Victor Frankenstein. The monster initially was innocent and virtuous. He became a monster only after being rejected by the society. There is a hint of knowledge by picturing that the monster learned to read, and actually read Paradise Lost, Plutarch’s Lives, Volume 1, and The Sorrows of Young Werther. (Wow, this monster is more well-read then I do.) But a bolder reading will see that it is not telling about the creation of Adam, but the creation of Satan. In this case, Satan rebelled against God, just like the monster rebelled against Frankenstein.

The monster decided to wreck havoc his creator’s live, because Frankenstein refused to create a companion for him. It rings a bell again, a parallel with Book of Genesis. Only the difference is that God obliged to Adam’s request, and created Eve for him. It looks like that Frankenstein is crueler than God, even though the ending is pretty much the same, the creation was banished.

As an end note, I would like to ask a question. Is this novel a science fiction? Some would said yes, because it is dealing with a scientific theme when a creation went awry. But some others would said that it is just a horror novel, but a little pinch of science. In Goodreads, more people categorize it as a horror rather than a science fiction. I myself would say that it a literature. It might be categorized as a science fiction, but the ingredient is just not enough. It deals too much on the personality side, that it might be just become a psychological novel. Science fiction nowadays is a bit detached from the personality of the character, but instead focusing on the science itself. So, I will not group it with science fiction, but as a literary books.

So, THREE stars.

three star