Category Archives: Books

Posts about books or book characters. See also our LitFlix!

Book Review – Childhood’s End by Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood's End CoverRecommended to me a few years ago during, of all things, a job interview, I recently finished reading Childhood’s End (1953) by Sir Arthur C. Clarke. In the same set of recommendations as A Case of Conscience, the book that got my whole Science Fiction and Religion series going. As this might be considered the formal end to that series, maybe it’s fitting.

One of the most interesting things, in my edition at least, is the introduction by the author written in 2000. An interesting year for Clarke, given that his great saga began in 2001… Anyway, he focuses on two interesting things in the introduction. One is that he felt like the movie Independence Day owed a lot to him, and his opening chapter. An alien invasion arrives, and pulls into the sky over all the major cities of the world all at once, trailing their reentry burn. I think that Clarke might have had a better mental image than what he put on the page… because I wasn’t seeing the similarity other than the base concept.

The second was that he was apologetic about the plot content of the story… but didn’t feel that it overpowered the book. That’s probably true, but we can get to that… The story ends up, however, in a very supernatural place, as an explanation of why the invading aliens end up not aggressive, but peaceful. That leads me to the story, so let’s start there!

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The Benefits of Escapism

Sometimes, the world really sucks. It’s beginning to feel like every time we start to heal and move on from one tragedy or disaster, another strikes. Last week I was dealing with flooding in our area, and the persistent threat of tornadoes, but all of that faded into the background with what happened in Orlando.

This is by no means a post rehashing the news, or remarking on the politics now surrounding it. I’m in dire need of a break from it all, just as I’m sure you all are, no matter your personal affiliations. It’s times like these that I really do marvel at the beauty of literature, music, and films to take one’s mind off of things. This is when I’m most in need of all guilty pleasures, no matter how small. Red wine and some cookie dough ice cream while watching Netflix? Yep, I’m there.

One of my personal favorite guilty pleasures is historical romance novels. For a bit of light reading full of lush clothing and descriptive language, it can be interesting enough to keep my attention and absorb me so that I forget the awfulness of the world around me. Plus, it has the benefit of being comfortingly predictable; as a reader, you know exactly where the story is heading. Love will triumph and the hero and heroine will ride off into the sunset together. It’s incredibly reassuring and serves its purpose wonderfully: escapism.

Everyone has their own form of escapism. Literature is a fantastic one, because you can honestly imagine yourself in the shoes of a heroine and lose yourself in a new world that you create in your mind. Geek culture is full of ways to indulge in escapism. Science fiction and fantasy novels can be brilliant, richly detailed escapism. The multitude of geek-central television shows we currently have, whether presently airing or available on Netflix (Firefly, anyone?) are a fantastic source of comfort right now. Plus with all of the great movies coming out this year, there has to be one or another that you can check out in the weeks to come.

The Nine Alignments of Firefly

Editor: There we go. Firefly, Good, and Evil, all in one image.

I’ve talked before about how I use the phrase “popcorn movie” as a positive phrase because there is something so deliciously wonderful about being able to absorb myself in a film for two hours, whether or not the movie is full of substance. Popcorn movies are perfect for times like these, when all we really want is to munch some popcorn in a dark theatre and “ooo” and “ahhh” over some really cool graphics and Good vs. Evil stories. Especially because popcorn movies, like historical romance novels, give us the sense that good/love can and will win.

So I say make sure to indulge in some escapism this weekend, in whatever awesomely geeky way you want. And then Monday, pick yourself back up and face the world and do your best to emulate the heroes in the fandom you indulged in and try to make sure that good will win, even in our presently sucky world. Whether by speaking out against hate, donating time, money, or blood, writing to your lawmakers or voting, or even reaching out to your friends and family and letting them know you love them. Use your geeky escapism to bolster your spirits and refresh yourself so that you can help tackle the problems we all face.

Game of Thrones Season 6 – Will It Book?

We’re halfway through HBO’s Game of Thrones season 6 – the season that’s gotten ahead of the books. It seems like a good time to check in, about whether things happening are from the books, might be in the books, are totally different from what we think is going to happen in the books…

The way that made sense to me to organize a bit geographically. It feels like all the action is going to one day end up all in one place, but we’re not there yet. And people have moved all over the place from when they almost all started in Winterfell way back when.

Brace yourselves. Spoilers below!

GoT_season_6_official_poster

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A Tale of Two Board Books

Our favorite Board Book we’ve found for the Geek Baby – especially that isn’t one that we remember from growing up (nostalgia is a thing!) – is Hello Ninja by N.D. Wilson.

Hello Ninja

It’s a great little read, full of fruit-chopping ninja action. It’s cute, and while on the one hand it seems like a lot of it is play or imagination, on the other hand it never even implies that such a thing would make the boy less of a ninja.

Ninja Dragon Rider

The book only has the one “he” pronoun, and the ninja is covered up pretty much throughout… nothing that makes it at all that it has to be a boy. Our little Geek Baby can ninja too!

So I finally decided that we should buy the second board book by N.D. Wilson, that we kept seeing advertised on the back of the book. We loved this one so much, the other one had to be good too, right?

Right?

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Science Fiction Today – Scientific Knowledge

On Sunday, I got two chances to be thinking about scientific knowledge. About the things we’ve learned, the things that are true, the things that might be. My thoughts on this subject tend to go back to Foundation by Isaac Asimov. The era of change in those novels is all based on a period in the future when we stop advancing, stop exploring, stop innovating. Stop learning for ourselves, and instead rely on the collective knowledge of the past, the great experts of the past. Because everything worth knowing had already been discovered.

The end of science.

And every once in a while I run into situations where I feel like our collective knowledge is already flagging. Like with food. We have been cooking even more dishes that are combinations of the food groups, combining them all, feeding them to the Geek Baby and to ourselves. But often I think people just make or buy foods because we like them and not for other reasons. I’ve heard just about every kind of food defined as “comfort food” by someone…

But on Sunday, it was lawn care that got me thinking. Why do we even have lawns? Sure would be easier without all this grass, and the related mowing. And if the grass was already going to be there, why do I need to mow it? And if the grass is transplanted, why keep it? Why not kill it and replace it with more indigenous growth? And why deal with the weeds instead of just letting them go?

I can imagine reasons. Something with soil erosion. Wanting to have a yard for the Geek Baby one day (although we literally live next to a park). Having it all just in case we want it later… Because we’re not doing anything with it now. And that’s here, in a rainforest. What about somewhere in a drought? California???

Through the vagaries of my past, I didn’t grow up with a lawn or doing lawn care. It’s not like it’s particularly a school topic. It’s just kind of known… or not. Or else, it’s just kind of done… or not. And I was thinking of how it’s a small look at the sorts of knowledge that we can lose to time, to assuming it’s true or everyone knows it.

Then we watched this.

And that’s almost the exact opposite problem. New studies and new findings, constantly, always. Always innovating, always trying to carve out some new, interesting, click-bait worthy results. And not doing the secondary testing – the third and fourth. The repeatability that makes science what it is.

What’s scary with having too much scientific innovation without enough grounding like he’s talking about, is exactly the Al Roker quote. The post-modern moment of just taking a look at a bunch of studies, and finding the one that feels right to you. Holly and I didn’t even know what to say at that point. That’s just so not at all even a little bit what science is.

So what does the future look like? Do we have the old findings that we’re leaning on, and we don’t question them? Lawns, lawns as far as the eye can see… Or will we have a glut of information, contradictory, and providing no helpful guidance in life? Discredited and useless?