Apr 10, 2011

Memoirs Found in a Bathtub by Stanislaw Lem

Memoirs Found in a Bathtub

As a kid, I read and reread Lem's science fiction short story collection Tales of Pirx the Pilot. In fact, I'd say that book, along with Heinlein's Green Hills of Earth, really cemented my love for science fiction. To this day, I prefer that style - character and story-driven, with just enough tech babble to make it spacey. That was my only exposure to Lem, although I did know that he was a highly respected author in several genres.

Because of my love for Pirx, I really looked forward to picking up this slim novel. Thank god this isn't the first thing I read by Lem, though, because damn. This kind of dry as dust (ha) anti-bureaucracy allegory has become my least favorite kind of dystopian work. This short little book took me 6 months to read, because I'd pick it up, go ten pages, and then put it down in favor of something more entertaining.

Now, it's not hollow or pointless. There is plenty of there there. If you do enjoy this sort of Kafka nightmare fuel, individuals lost in twisting corridors of paperwork and location, unable to save themselves, unable to even understand why they are there and how to get free, well, there's a reason it's a classic of the genre. Lem is Polish, and paints the whole thing with a very Eastern European, cold war paranoid, Soviet doublespeak. It's effective, if you've got a taste for the style. I simply do not, in particular.

In fact, does anyone want my copy? Comment below.

Apr 6, 2011

sf signal

Just thought some of you might be interested in this. There's some pretty good writing on dystopian fiction going on at SF Signal. If you click there and check out the comments, you can find a link to a few of their other columns on the subject.

Apr 5, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games

The twisted government, the youth-violence-as-entertainment, the love match that takes on all odds - I enjoyed the hell out of Battle Royale. Oh wait, shit, I'm supposed to be talking about Hunger Games.

Seriously. People kept suggesting this book to me, knowing my tastes and reading habits. And it's not like they were wrong - it's a fun read. But Collins was dipping water from a well I've bathed in many times before. Again, maybe I just need to stay away from young adult novels for a while. I would have loved this at 13. I was always running around making weapons out of random stuff anyway, so I probably would have adopted chunks of the plot into my make-believe life. At this age, though, the way the author just passed right over certain plot holes and unlikely moments that should have been dealt with better bugged the crap out of me.

I liked the set up, the idea of the games as retaliation against formerly rebellious colonies. Of course, forcing parents to sacrifice their own children over and over is pretty much a textbook example of how to breed further revolution, but okay. Powerful governments have done stupider things. And that bit all smacked just a little too heavily of Jackson's "Lottery". I liked them prepping for the games, except that it all had much the same flavor as the pre-run parts of King's Running Man. Of course, I enjoyed the survival game itself, except, well, you know. Battle Royale and so on.

If the sequel turns up at my house, I'll probably read it one afternoon. But honestly, I barely expect to remember much about this one in a few weeks. I do hear that a PG-13, teenybopper movie version is being made. Oh, goody.