Category Archives: Fiction

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

This sci-fi novel was apparently the basis for Blade Runner, but I haven’t seen it and therefore can’t make any comparisons on that front. However, this novel kept my interest, and that’s saying a lot for a sci-fi novel.

It gives an apocalyptic view of earth after World War Terminus. The world is dimmed by a constant drizzle of radioactive fall-out, and most people have emigrated to Mars or other planetary colonies. Left on earth are people called specials who were adversely affected by the radiation and other people who for various other different reasons choose not to emigrate. Animals have a great importance. They are a symbol of prestige and wealth. Owning a real animal as opposed to an electrical animal is a major status symbol. This is where we first meet bounty hunter, Rick Deckard.

Rick Deckard and his wife own an electric sheep. It’s like a dirty little secret that they keep to themselves. Rick dreams of nothing more than owning a real animal rather than an electrical one. His bounty hunting of androids is his only way of getting closer to that goal. The androids that Rick hunts are escapees from the Mars colony where they are used as servants. They are more human than machine, and Rick begins to feel a sort of empathy for his prey.

This story was incredibly deep for such a relatively short novel. Rather than trying to talk about all the details of the novel I can only say, go read it for yourself. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I was wary at first because of my life-long aversion to reading sci-fi, but after the first few pages, I was hooked into the story. I could feel Rick’s ambivalence towards the androids and was more than a little horrified at the wasteland that Philip K. Dick made of earth after the war. Sci-fi or prediction? Since the book was written in 1968 during the birth of the Cold War, it’s easy to think of this as a prediction type novel. However it’s so much more than that. Dick asks several philosophical questions which we humans have always and will continue to seek the answers for.

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Mitch Cullin’s Tideland

This has to be one of the most disturbing books I have ever read. It tells the story about a little girl, Jeliza-Rose, whose parents are heroin addicts. Her mother dies and her father takes her to Texas to his mother’s home. The house has no running water, no electricity, and it is well away from any sort of civilization. After arriving in Texas, Jeliza-Rose’s father promptly dies leaving her to fend for herself. The cast of characters include her many Barbie doll heads, an odd older woman and her brother.

Cullin tells his tale without pulling any punches. He shows you exactly what this little girl has lived with all her life. Her mother was abusive towards her, and her father, while loving, was a little more than clueless. This book is haunting and frightening. It made me, as a mother, want to scoop up this child and protect her from the people who should have loved her most.

A friend recommended this book to me, and while I agree that it is masterfully written from the point of view of a very young girl, it was extremely disturbing. I’ll probably read it again in the future just to catch the nuances that I probably missed by being so horrified by the situation Jeliza-Rose was put in. I’ve also been told by the same friend that Terry Gilliam, a masterful film maker in his own right, has translated this novel to film. I’m not entirely sure that I can handle seeing the images this novel creates on screen. I had a hard enough time with the images in my mind.

*edited for spelling errors*

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Richard Wright’s Native Son

Have you ever really liked a character in a book but hated their actions and choices? Rooted for them to succeed, but really hoped they didn’t do what you knew they were going to do?

That is exactly how I felt about Bigger Thomas, the protagonist of this novel. I really liked him, wanted him to make a life for himself, but knew that it was ultimately impossible. After all, he was a poor black man in the first half of the 20th century. He accidentally kills a rich white girl, but feels empowered by it. He almost makes himself believe that he killed her on purpose. Then he tries to get away with it by writing a ransom note and signing it “Red” with a communist sickle and hammer. We all know what happens next… he gets caught. He gets tried with very little of what we like to call “due process”. And he gets sentenced to death. Bigger’s life is inevitable. What makes this novel a true gem is the fact that Wright wrote the character of Bigger so that we can’t help but feel for him. We have compassion if not empathy. We can almost understand when he kills his girlfriend Bessie to keep her from talking. I say almost, because Wright doesn’t pull any punches with his descriptions of the violence. It is graphic, and it is horrible. Yet we see it coming. It has to happen.

I read this book for the first time when I was in high school. I picked it up off the shelf just because it was there. I have had to revisit it because of the course I am taking in college, and I find that I have a greater understanding of the book now than I did the first time I read it over 13 years ago. While this book is a course reading, I’ve placed it under pleasure reading as well, because it was a pleasure to read this intricate and thought provoking novel.

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Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain

I saw the movie when it came out on DVD. Loved it. So when I saw that the story anthology I had to buy for a class I’m taking included the original short story by Annie Proulx I was excited to read it. I was not let down in the least. The story is beautifully crafted. The movie ripped images directly from Proulx’s pages and put them on the screen. She included incredible imagery and masterful character development. I felt my heart break for Jack and Ennis even more profoundly than I did when I watched the movie version. If you have access to this story, I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already.

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James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

This has got to be one of the most difficult books I have ever read. I’m having a hard time following the stream of consciousness style of writing Joyce uses to create the inner workings of Stephen Dedalus’s mind. It starts out with Stephen as a young boy, and his thoughts are random and choppy. There is very little description as to setting or other characters because the novel itself is all about Stephen’s coming of age.

Yet again, this is a book I’m reading for my upper level college course “The Novel”. I’m really not enjoying this class. I had gone into it hoping that I would become more familiar with and fall in love with new writers and books. What I’ve learned so far is that I really should just stick with the types of stories and writers that I know I love to read. Yes, these novels are great pieces of art, but that doesn’t mean I should lie and say, “oh god, what a wonderful book.” Yep… that would be a lie… because this one, in my own personal opinion.. is crap.

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George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss *updated*

I read the first half of this last week. This week, I have to try to finish it so I can write a literary analysis of it. I’m finding it tedious to read. A lot of the descriptions seem unnecessary and just downright over the top. So far, I’m enjoying the story, but getting to it through the superfluous other stuff is annoying. Yet again, this is for a class, so this isn’t something I would pick up just out of the blue and say, “hey, I WANT to read this book.” Probably won’t ever want to read it again, either.

UPDATE: Ok it’s a woman’s perogative to change her mind, and boy have I. Not only did this book get better with time, I actually think I might go back and read it again. At the end of the book, I kept thinking back to the many instances of foreshadowing that led me to the ending, so now I want to go back and read it again if only just to catch them all. I’d also like to get a deeper understanding of Eliot’s use of irony throughout the book… no, not the sarcastic irony we a know and hold dear, the dramatic irony. It’s very deeply woven into the book, and I really think I missed out on a lot of it in my mad rush to finish the book in time to write a paper. So, in all, that superfluous, tediously detailed stuff is probably very important to the novel… duh, right?

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Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility *updated*

Since I’m working on my Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts, a lot of what I’m currently reading has to do with courses I’m taking.

Currently I’m reading Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.  I must say, this book puts me to sleep.  I can’t read very much of it at a time.  I’ve never been a fan of Jane Austen, but I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice when I had to read it a couple of semesters ago.  Sense and Sensibility, however, just doesn’t seem as good.

I don’t particularly care about a single one of the characters.  Yes, Elinor has found out that her love is engaged to another woman… don’t care.  There’s no passion.  Yes, Marianne’s Willoughby is being a jerk… don’t care.  I can only hope that the book gets a little better so I can finish it for the course.

Update!
I managed to finish the book, and it did get a little better. However, it never got as good as Pride and Prejudice was. The ending was a little too neatly tied up. After all the tedious backstory we had of characters, their lives quickly took a turn and the novel ended in a neat little bow. It’s almost like Jane Austen got sick of writing the book and just said, “Ok, this happens to this one, and that happens to that one. *whew* done!” I know that’s what I said when I finished it.

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