Category: FSF – Fiction Science Fiction

Time and Again by Jack Finney

March 26th, 2019 — 10:04pm

Time and Again by Jack Finney

As many readers know, this 1970 novel is about time travel, a subject that comes up from “time to time” in science fiction stories. In this case, the current book by Mr. Finney is a classic book in this genre.

The method of inducing time travel in the story is by “self-hypnosis” done by a unique individual who is familiar with the circumstances in the setting to which he is to travel and would be in a location which existed in the past as well as in the current time. It also is required that the time traveler has the ability to do self-hypnosis. Since I know a little about hypnosis, I found this method did not feel acceptable to me to induce “time travel” and therefore, I found it difficult to suspend my reality testing and imagine the method that was being used to achieve this goal. Whereas, another well-known book titled, 11/23/63 by Stephen King used a time travel method known as “rabbit hole” where the traveler steps through an opening such as one in the story that was in a pantry and then comes out in a particular time period and when he returns, he uses the same method to return to the time from which he departed. This method seemed more feasible to me. Go figure, I can’t really justify this critique.

Aside from the method of travel, the key problem in time travel is whether the time traveler will influence or effect or change events in the future (or in the time in which the traveler originated). This, of course, is a fascinating concept and is, in fact, a key element around which the story is built. Well, I don’t really accept the possibility of time travel at all. This aspect of theoretical time travel reminds me how everything we do influences the future. For example, if I had not accepted a blind date many years ago, my children and grandchildren would not exist as I know them today and my life would be quite different. Therefore, in some way, we all have influenced other people’s lives and maybe the course of history by every element in which we appear and interact with others. I find this interesting food for thought, but otherwise, this book was a fairly good adventure story with a few moments of literary tension.


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The Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

August 29th, 2016 — 11:23pm
           Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.16.41 PMThe Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

This book must be meant for readers deep into science fiction preferably with a good background in astronomy. I am only a causal student of the above so early on I found myself mostly at a loss what the dialog was all about. It was as if I were immersed in a place where another language was spoken and I only had taken an introductory course  in that language many years ago. However, because I chose to live for awhile in this land ( in other words I was going to continue reading the book although the people were speaking a foreign language) eventually I began to catch on what was going on as is often the case with immigrants settling into a new country

What was going on was quite fascinating and mind boggling One day people on earth looked up at the moon and noticed that it had become split into 8 discrete pieces. Scientists on earth soon realized that as a result of this event there would be a gradual but exponential increase in the number and size of meteorites crashing into earth They confidently predicted that in 20 years there would be a “Reign Of Rocks” that would destroy everything on the face of the earth. The only chance for any humans to survive would be those residents of the space station circling the earth.There was a great effort to expand the space center with numerous small “arklets” attached  to a massive structure floating in space where a  relatively small number of humans could live . There was a worldwide “Casting of the Lots” to choose representatives of all the peoples of earth. There is an attempt also to bring genetic samples up in space and futuristic understanding of genetics is an important part of this story.

This book follows the plight of these humans  and their descendants in space as it takes 5000 years for the surface of the earth to be cooled down where it can be  safe explored  There is character development as a good novel should offer but also an opportunity to follow the various characters  and characteristics of their descendants. There are plots and subplots. Science is an important part of this book and the author stretched our imagination in physics , aeronautics, biology and  robotics. In the epilogue we are told that several scientists in different fields have read drafts of the book and made various suggestions.

I would be very surprised if this book becomes a best seller.  I do think it will make a great movie. There are vivid descriptions of futuristic structures as well as varied human appearances with the passage of time and evolution. These would make  great visuals for a film.  I believe  a creative script based on this novel should be able to capture the futuristic  human interaction described in this piece  and could also highlight  some of the interesting plot developments. For most of you,  wait for the movie rather than struggle through the book.

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11/22/63 by Stephen King

July 14th, 2016 — 11:18pm

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 9.09.58 AM11/22/1963

By Stephen King

The main character of this novel is Jake Epping, a school teacher in Maine, who is introduced to a “rabbit hole” in time. That is, if he steps through an opening in a pantry and finds an invisible but palpable small staircase, he will come out on the other side on a particular day in 1958. No matter how long he stays at this new time when he steps back to his original time, it will be that he has only been gone for two minutes. He is introduced to this unusual situation by Al, an acquaintance who is an older man dying of cancer who has made several excursions back to 1958 and lived there for a while. As indicated in the title of this book, “11/22/63” is an important date in this story. As any American knows this was the date that President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. Old dying Al was planning to stop the assassination of JFK and now hopes that Jake will take on this task and he provides him with some preliminary observations on Oswald that Al has made during his several visits back in time.

As you can imagine this can be a complicated process. How would this presidential assassin be stopped? What about the lingering question whether Oswald acted alone? Also, if you are going back in time even for such a worthy cause might you also try to change the course of some other events perhaps prevent an innocent child being murdered or scarred for life? But most important, what are the implications of traveling back in time and altering history?

Who better to take on these questions than Stephen King, one of the most successful, prolific contemporary authors of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, fantasy and science fiction? This novel published in 2011 was approximately King’s 52nd novel which doesn’t include his very numerous other writing endeavors such as novellas, short stories, movies, television programs and many other projects dating back to 1974 when his first novel Carrie was published. King has established himself as one of the creative writing geniuses of modern times. Not only is he original and very imaginative but he builds these ideas within insightful character development. King also does extensive research on all aspects of his subject matter. In this case, as discussed by the author in the epilogue to the book, which included interviews with him, he has read extensively about the history of JFK and his untimely death. This included numerous books written about all the circumstances, details and cast of characters of the events that occurred on 11/22/63. He also spent time visiting and studying Dallas and The Book Depository where Oswald was perched to shoot Kennedy as well as other places mentioned in the book.

Perhaps the most stimulating aspect of this book to me is the intriguing so called “butterfly question”. If one could travel back in time and change anything, how would that alter future events which would impact on other subsequent events? Would the slightest flutter or minute change in the course of history cause other changes which might cascade to unexpected major events? Would seemingly insignificant changes lead to more meaningful changes? Even if one could alter the course of history, can we be sure it would ultimately be for the better?

As Jake, the main character of this book, immerses himself into the past, readers cannot help but be on the edge of their reading seats whether we are flipping pages or pushing buttons. We find ourselves wondering what would we do and how would we do it if we found ourselves being able to go through that rabbit hole in time? There were surprises, moments of elation and disappointments. I could not wait to find how the story would end and I was sorry when it was over.

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The Circle by Dave Eggers

November 1st, 2013 — 12:29am

images-13The Circle by Dave Eggers Some of you may have read George Orwell’s 1949 book titled 1984 in which he envisioned a time in the future when “ Big Brother” will always be watching you. That book predicted a society in which everyone was under scrutiny by the omnipresent government. Now almost 65 years after the publication of that book Dave Eggers comes out with The Circle in which he envisions a society where everyone is under scrutiny by everyone else.

The story opens as Mae, a young woman a few years out of college is about to take a job with the most avant-garde company (think a combination of Apple, Google, Microsoft). As expected she encounters a beautiful campus with every amenity to make the life of it’s employees comfortable and worry free. She soon learns that to do the job that is expected, one must be responsive to your customers and co-workers. There may seem to be nothing unusual about this well-known business principle. But the day of easy communication via computer, phone and now a special wristband is easy to do but involves very large numbers of interested coworkers and the now involved general public which in turn requires massive meticulous tracking procedures. So at a worker’s desk at this wonderful company there are at least 2 large computer screen keeping track of 1000s of customer responses and a growing numbers of “friends” and co-workers with whom you meet and interact The number of screens at your desk will soon grow as will the time a conscientious worker spends responding to messages. There is of course some built in competition for those who want to be recognized for doing a good job. But no worry, workers can stay overnight in special beautiful hotel like dormitories and there are all sorts of educational and social programs on campus.

There are special programs built in to keep track where everybody is at any moment (our new cell phones do that today). This is just the tip of the iceberg. The story of The Circle is not just about the ever increasing amount of information and data that can be accumulated, tracked and used for seemingly good purposes. The book is also about a handful of people in addition to Mae and Annie (her friend who brought her to the company and has been one of her biggest advocates) and how this new information culture is impacting on them and the people around them. For example, Mae’s parents initially are so happy to benefit by being given free quality health insurance because Mae is their daughter. They soon will regret they and their daughter ever had anything to do with this massive corporation. The company comes up with an invention in which a person wears a camera around his or her neck and just about everything they do and experience is traceable on this world wide communication system. A politician volunteers to wear this camera and becomes “ transparent” so no one can ever accuse her of being two faced, secretive or untruthful because everything she does is known. Soon most politicians end up doing the same thing.

Most intriguing are the three founders or “ leaders” of the company (remind you of the term used for the honchos in China?). There is Ty, the young techno genius who may not have thought through all the implications of his initial innovations, which led to the founding of the company. There is Bailey, another one of the big three leaders, who believes that knowing and seeing all will lead to a better world for all. Then there is Stetson , the cold calculating man who realizes that the more you control, the more money the company can make. By encompassing these 3 characteristics as three different people who together embody the company, we are better able to understand the essence of The Circle (name of the company) which is about to come around 360 degrees and essentially take over the lives of everyone.

Do not fret, you can safely read this book on your electronic reader. You will have control on your Facebook who you want to friend and you can decide if you want to Tweet. It also isn’t necessary for you to carry an open camera for everyone on earth to have access to you. But what if everyone else did this and suggested that you had something to hide? Perhaps the circle is closing faster than we realize.

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