Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Heart-Pounder, Part 2

    Last week I was extolling the mind-blowing plot line of Claire North's The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.  Can you imagine having to live your life over and over, making different choices, having to hide who you really were, and then finding yourself in a race to save the world from premature destruction?  That's why it's a heart-pounder.

     But it's also philosophical in places.  Here's a quote:
     When I am optimistic, I choose to believe that every life I lead, every choice I make, has consequence.  That I am not one Harry August but many, a mind flicking from parallel life to parallel life, and that when I die, the world carries on without me, altered by my deeds, marked by my presence.
     Then I look at the deeds I have done and, perhaps more importantly considering my condition, the deeds I have not done, and the thought depresses me, and I reject the hypothesis as unsound.
     What is the point of me?
     Either to change a world -- many, many worlds, each touched by the choices I make in my life, for every deed a consequence, and in every love and every sorrow truth -- or nothing at all.
     Delicious stuff.  Highly recommended.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Heart-Pounder

     Have you ever read a book that you had to put down because your heart was pounding too much?  Well, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry Augustis just that sort of book. 

     It follows Harry August, who is a non-linear, meaning he keeps living the same life over and over.  He has the freedom within that life to make different choices, and eventually he finds that those choices include saving the world from premature destruction.  It's a mind-blower.

     Those of you with overreacting hearts, or a strong dislike to scenes of torture, you may wish to think twice before picking up this book.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Some Terrific Short Stories, Part 2

     Last week I was discussing Ted Chiang's terrific collection of short stories, entitled Stories of Your Life and Others.  It's a worthy read.

     I'd like to mention two other stories in this collection which I particularly enjoyed.  One was "Hell is the Absence of God," which takes the idea that God truly decides on whether to send your soul to Heaven or Hell depending on how devoted you are to Him, although Hell isn't such a horrible place.  It's just a place without God.  The story follows Neil, who just lost his wife in a horrible accident caused by a heavenly angel visiting Earth.  During these angelic visits, people can experience miraculous healing, or they can be injured or killed by earthquakes or other side-effects caused by these visits.  Neil is angry at God for killing his wife, who went to Heaven, and is afraid he will never be able to forgive God enough to love Him and be able to rejoin his wife in Heaven.  The story examines the problem of suffering, of the injustice of life, and the depths of love and loss.  Terrific.

     The second story I enjoyed immensely is "Liking What You See:  A Documentary."  It provides the text of an imagined documentary about a university voting on whether to require all students to undergo a minor surgical procedure in the brain, which induces calliagnosia.  This is a condition which renders the person unable to appreciate beauty in another person's face.  Some of the persons "interviewed" say that this condition then enables people to see beyond the surface and learn to appreciate others' gifts such as intelligence, humor, open-heartedness, and so on.  Others were against this measure because they believe it impedes the maturity one must develop in order to see beauty, but look past it.  While calliagnosia is currently in the realm of science fiction, it is an interesting concept.  Funny thing was, when I finished this story, I opened up a fashion magazine and was confronted with all these images of beauty.  It was interesting to note my own reaction.  Also terrific.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Some Terrific Short Stories

     I don't know if you had the chance to see the movie Arrival, but if you haven't, run and do so.  Yes, run.

      But that isn't what this entry is about.

     It's about the short story upon which the movie was based, written by Ted Chiang.  Where can I find this story? you ask.  Let me tell you.  It's in a terrific collection of short stories entitled Stories of Your Life and Others.  Ted Chiang is clearly a gifted writer, who is not afraid to take an idea and examine all its logical ramifications.  It makes for some interesting reading.

     "Stories of Your Life" is the basis for the movie Arrival.  You know how you like the first thing you read or see, and then find yourself comparing the second thing to the first?  Well, I saw the movie first and then read the story and found myself comparing the two.  In this case, I liked the movie better because of its political and social commentary, but the story is great in its own way.  What I really appreciate about Chiang's writing is his emphasis on the human element, not just the plot or scientific details.  That part was carried over into the movie, which gave it its strength in my opinion.

     Do yourself a favor and get this book.  It's a great read.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Happy Independence Day!

May we be free of fear.
May we be free of suffering.
May we be free of want.
May we be free of exclusivity.
May we be free of closed-mindedness.
May we be free of hostility
And embrace peace, tolerance, and justice
For all in this world.

Happy Independence Day.

(illustration courtesy of