Tag Archives: futuristic

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

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Blade Runner 2049 came out on October 6th,  so why not read the book that started it all: Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

In the aftermath of World War Terminus, humanity has mostly fled to Mars. People who go to Mars get an android for free. But some of the androids, who are almost indistinguishable from real humans, kill their masters and attempt to hide on Earth. It’s Rick Deckard’s job to find and “retire” them. Deckard is armed with an empathy test because it is the only way you can tell an android apart from a human.

When I watched the original Blade Runner, I had a vague feeling that Deckard retired androids because it was his job; I loved that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? gives Deckard more motivation for retiring the androids – he needs the money to get a real animal to replace his electric sheep. Most animals are extinct after the war, so the humans covet living creatures. Those who can only afford a replicant animal are looked down on (at least if it is known – the replicants are very realistic). The book also has some really fun twists and turns (the really good ones are about half way through the book) that are absent from the movie.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

The biggest downfall to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is that the book is a bit dated in some ways, particularly in regards to how it treats women. For the most part, the women in the book either stay at home or are secretaries, which is a very 1960’s ideology (this isn’t surprising as the book was published in 1968). But other than that, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a fun romp through a desolate future.

Blade Runner 2049 (new movie poster)

Blade Runner (original movie poster)

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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Totalitarian control. Censorship. Loss of Freedom. All of these things are as much of a concern in 2017 as they were decades ago. Since Trump entered office, Orwell’s 1984 has become a bestseller once again. There are growing concerns about government control, “Big Brother” and spying to name a few. However, while 1984 has been highlighted in North America’s conscious, there is yet another perspective that should be considered: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. While not quite as popular as Orwell, Bradbury makes excellent observations about Western Society’s possible downfall.

The world of Fahrenheit 451 is one of entertainment- parlour families shown on large screens in individual’s houses that one can interact with, radio, and the pastime of driving extremely fast for the fun of it. The average citizen has been amused into submission. They have no interest in books. It happened slowly- universities gradually lost all enrolment and therefore closed; schools became places to learn how things operate- not why. Individuals gradually become submissive and they were happy to abide by the illegality of books as they continued to be increasingly entertained. At least, most citizens were.

Guy Montag is a fireman- not a person who extinguishes fires- a person who creates fires largely for the purpose to destroy books and the places that house them. One day he meets 17 year old Clarrise McClellan who is so peculiar she makes Guy question his worldview- especially his definition of happiness and his career choice. He brings these questions home and to work which makes his peers suspicious.  His superior, Captain Beatty, comes to comfort him in his doubts about being a fireman – to promote happiness, since books cause unease and unrest in people. Surely they are the detriment to people’s happiness and must be destroyed at all costs. But Montag wonders, how can that be true since his wife tried to take her own life with sleeping pills one night? Surely, there must be a reason why some risk their lives to protect books- like one lady he himself helped burn.

As I read through Fahrenheit 451 I couldn’t help but apply the themes to my own life. I have an entertainment machine in the palm of my hand-my smartphone- and I often use it for mindless dribble more than for educating myself. I look at the party culture of my generation and the inability many of my peers have to think about even the short term future and it saddens me. As I gain encouragement from Bradbury and other writers, I have been changing what I do in my spare moments- listening to audio books in the commute to and from work, taking classes, and so forth. Let’s not be made passive by entertainment, but use leisure for building us up.

 

Groot by Jeff Loveness and Brian Kesinger

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Since the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie came out in 2014, comic fans everywhere fell in love with this previously little-known superhero team. Out of the whole group of loveable misfits, my favourite is probably Groot, the sentient alien tree. I think I’m not alone in this because Marvel Comics decided to give Groot his own solo adventure, written by Jeff Loveness and drawn by Brian Kesinger.

 

Even though he’s been to Earth many, many times, in Groot’s opinion he’s never really experienced Earth. So he talks his friend, Rocket Raccoon, into going on a road trip to Earth. The pair take the slow route, starting their adventure by hitchhiking through space (after their vehicle explodes). Along the way they encounter a bounty hunter named Eris who wants the enormous bounty on Groot. When Eris accidentally captures Rocket instead, she decides to use him as bait. But no one accounted for Groot taking his time. He comes to Ricket’s rescue in his typical slow way, having many adventures and meeting many new people on his journey to save his friend.

 

While Groot is a crazy and fun adventure (as befits a superhero story), it’s also a very touching tale about friendship. Groot always finds the best in everyone, no matter who they are and what they can do. He’s also filled with a rather childlike sense of wonder at seeing the beauty of space and the marvels of our own planet; his outlook will have you looking at the world around you with fresh eyes. Groot made me love this big-hearted tree more than I thought possible, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same if you give this graphic novel a chance

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

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Most of us are familiar with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the story of two young people from opposing families who fall in love. But what happens when you make the star-crossed lovers soldiers on opposing sides of a galactic war; soldiers who are determined to survive despite impossible odds? You get Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

 

Saga is about Alana, a soldier from the planet Landfall, and Marko, a soldier from Landfall’s moon Wreath, who have fallen in love and started a family together. Landfall and Wreath have been warring for countless generations; neither side wants to see their soldiers fraternizing with the enemy (never mind starting families together). Alana and Marko are discovered on the planet Cleave right after Alana has given birth to their child. They’re forced to flee into the wilds of the mostly unexplored world, following a map that they hope will lead them to safety.

 

Saga is a science fiction/fantasy blend full of compelling and relatable characters. Alana is a very capable soldier even while recovering from her pregnancy. Her husband, Marko, is determined to be a pacifist after seeing his first battle. Chasing after them, among others, is Prince Robot IV, who suffers from post-traumatic stress; he’s also told that he cannot see his pregnant wife until after he kills Alana and Marko.

 

The series has won multiple awards, including six Harvey awards in 2013 (Best Writer, Best Artist, Best Color, Best New Series, Best Continuing or Limited Series, and Best Single Issue or Story), the 2013 Hugo for Best Graphic Novel, and three Eisner awards annually in 2013, 2014, and 2015. So if you’re looking for an excellent, genre-defying read, Saga is for you.
Shauna Kosoris is a member of the Thunder Bay Public Library staff.

The Martian by Andy Weir

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There are lots of stories about being trapped and isolated on deserted islands or in the wilderness. These stories are often harrowing adventures of survival looking for food and shelter. But what if we took the story even further and added in the needs to find oxygen and heat as well?  That’s exactly what Andy Weir did in The Martian by setting his tale of survival on Mars.

 

Astronaut Mark Watney was part of the third manned mission to Mars (Ares 3). After a deadly storm hits, Watney’s crew believes he is killed; Watney wakes up to find himself alone on the alien world. Watney has to figure out how to survive with gear and supplies meant to last for only thirty days. He also needs to find a way to communicate with Earth and let them know he’s still alive.

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Luckily Watney was the Ares 3’s engineer and biologist, which is how he was able to think through all the immediate problems on his own (like how to grow food on an alien world which does not have viable soil). Of course, all of his solutions involve a lot of hard science, but don’t let that turn you off from the book if science isn’t your thing: The Martian is written in a very accessible way so that everyone can understand Watney’s thought processes. This is helped by Watney himself, who is hilarious; he manages to stay mostly upbeat no matter what Mars throws at him.

 

If you’re looking for a good survival story or a fantastic hard science fiction, Weir’s The Martian is for you.

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

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Everyone dies. We all know there’s no getting out of this life alive. For most of us, death is a mystery, something that may strike out of nowhere, or maybe happen gradually from disease. But not for Miriam Black, the heroine of Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds. With a simple touch, like a handshake, Miriam will see exactly how you are going to die. And while most people pass away in old age or from freak accidents, there is a small minority who die violent deaths. Louis is one of those people. When Miriam touches the kind truck driver’s hand, she sees him being murdered while calling out her name; this will take place in a month’s time. Miriam knows there’s no fighting fate. But when she discovers that the two people tracking her are working for the man who kills Louis, she knows she’ll have to try.

Blackbirds is a really easy read. Right from the beginning you get sucked into Miriam’s life as a drifter, scavenging from the dead. But the quirky heroine has a certain spunkiness that you just have to admire as she flits from place to place, coping with her power. Between every couple of chapters, you also get Interludes, which compliment the main storyline. The first few are an interview between Miriam and a young man named Paul, which gives insight into Miriam’s life prior to the book. Later Interludes are stories some of the other characters tell Miriam about their own pasts, creating a much richer experience for the reader.

If you like gritty urban fantasy, Blackbirds is definitely for you.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

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This book is, was, and always will be awesome…in my humble opinion. Written in 1940, I, Robot was way ahead of its time. Don’t rely on the movie starring Will Smith (AKA the Fresh Prince), because the plot has virtually nothing in common with the novel.

The novel itself is written almost like a series of short stories, each tale taking place a few years later then the previous. All of the episodes are depicted as a remembrance by a “robopsychologist” being interviewed about the history of robots.

Each story centers on the latest advent in robot technology and the problems that advent inevitably creates for the human makers/users. Though endowed with positronic brains and programmed with the three laws of robotics, problems arise when programs and psychology malfunction.

Asimov was able to imagine problems that deal with religion, morality, judgment, and human (and robot) motivations for behaviour.

It’s an excellent read if you’re interested in sci-fi, psychology or classic reads!