Book 234: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

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

Finished reading on October 21st, 2017

Rating: 7/10

I always had the idea that somewhere in this book there would be someone counting sheep in their mind to fall asleep and wondering whether androids would be doing the same with electric sheep…. Well, I was wrong…

This book is not my usual kind of fiction book to read for several reasons – first if I read sci-fi it the book’s plot should better take place on a different planet or a moon, secondly isn’t it just a bit too mainstream?

I’m not going to get into the synopsis of the book, because that can be found anywhere else…

So my thought on this book: I’m glad it’s over. The end.

…..

I do feel like this book took me for a trip outside of my comfort-zone, which isn’t all that bad in itself.

*Androids as personal servants. Ok, why not. Though why not have them do everything else too? Humans are lazy, programmable robots however can be much more efficient, even in giving orders I’d think, so androids escaping humans sounds logical.

What doesn’t sound logical is having androids of two genders (as far as the book is concerned). Why? If you’d make them indistinguishable from humans, then you shouldn’t be surprised if they behave like humans. But that doesn’t sound effective – my question/idea arose from reading the part where Pris is encouraged to move to Isidore’s apartment where he could take care of her. That’s confusing. They’re capable of pretty much everything but a good cover for an android is living with a “chickenhead”? I wonder whether that’s for compatibility or some other reason that androids have genders…so that humans could relate to them better?

Now electric animals instead of real ones because a lot of species have gone extinct, very few survive and having an animal has become a status symbol – that’s an interesting idea. I remember as a kid wanting a remote-controlled dog when I couldn’t get a real dog, so it makes some sense. But it’s curious that androids aren’t considered as electric humans and as someone you should take care of and keep as pets, but rather as servants. So the latter serve a purpose, the former are merely symbolic and fake at that too. But I guess it’s more the culture – you have to have an animal or you’d be seen as odd, kind of like someone who doesn’t watch TV….

There were two things which I found most disturbing, should those ever come to life. First is fake memories. It’s been used elsewhere too ofcourse. But it’s just creepy.

Second is empathy boxes and Mercerism. So you take hold of the handles and feel what someone else is feeling and others can feel how you feel (kind of like the point-of-view gun in Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide, only it works both ways). Maybe I’m just (trying too or really am) not that emphatic so I would hate to feel someone else’s feelings and moods – partly because I feel it’s an invasion of their privacy even if they’re doing it willingly and secondly it’s making you feel different. However now think of what reading fiction does….. Aren’t they just empathy boxes with pages instead of handles? That’s a disturbing thought. Which is also why I find that any book recommendations should be really well-considered and thought-out. (At least when I’ve read a book on someone’s recommendation I still always connect them to that book…) But why should everything be shared?

Then just something I noticed – in case of names of people etc that I haven’t come across too much, or not at all, I find it difficult to assign a different meaning or character to it, so in my mind Mercer is connected to the Mercer in Eggers’ Circle and the Rosens are connected to Dr. Rosen from A Beautiful Mind….

And now for the last thing – mood organs are probably the most interesting bit of technology that is in that book. The ability to just dial a different mood and schedule your moods in advance -that’s quite intriguing. If such a thing existed, would I use it? On the one hand it goes against my idea of what a mood is and that would just be a setting… and I’d prefer to not have my moods changed even just by me… On the other hand I see how it might make some things easier – for example set it on a sociable mood and you’re willing to talk to people or a learning mood for those early morning lectures…

In my mind the most disturbing part in the novel is the bit with the spider. I do have empathy for the spider…Those awful bully androids…

So that’s what I thought about while reading this book. Unfortunately I finished it way past midnight, so my thoughts haven’t been organized too well.

What were your thoughts on this book?

Data remains my favourite android.

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Book 213: The Frozen Sky by Jeff Carlson

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The Frozen Sky by Jeff Carlson

Finished reading on May 27th, 2016

Rating: 5/10

I had never heard of this book or the writer when someone I’d only met once before handed me this book and said I should read it and give it back to him when I’m done.

The cover caught my attention first because it had Europa on it and I had just mentioned Europa in a presentation half an hour earlier. After the initial reaction of ‘oh, that’s cool’ the thought in my head was that it didn’t look like a book I would pick up if there hadn’t been Europa on the cover.

So obviously, Jupiter’s icy moon Europa has a part to play in this book – there’re teams of people working on Europa after they’ve discovered life there.

Initially I found the plot quite difficult to follow, because of how it begins out (in order not to give any spoilers I’ll be general) – something happens and then you kind of return to the past and after you get to the point with what the book began with, you continue on with the story.

In the book artificial intelligence has quite a big role to play, it’s 22nd century, nanotechnology can heal people etc.

The main problem in the book is the lifeforms – are they intelligent or not and how to prove it one way or another and how people on Earth might benefit from either option. So it kind of goes into ethics.

It’s very much a plot-driven novel, you find out minimal information about the characters, but it didn’t really bother me, as all I really wanted to find out was whether the life there is intelligent or not.

I do think I would have liked to have more details – just in general, because I found only being able to imagine what was going on with the alien life under the ice, bot not what went on with the people, what their landers looked like etc, and I also didn’t imagine any generic people around, so in that sense the book could have been better (or I could have just imagined the details myself – duh!).

So was it even necessary to have everything happen on Europa? It could have been on any icy moon that could have an ocean under the ice – you don’t learn anything more about Europa, the characters never mention having a good view of Jupiter or the other moons or anything (I do get that they’re all really interested in what’s under their feet, but seriously? ) Nothing really wrong though, the smaller gravity was mentioned, but didn’t seem to play much of a part in anything the humans did.

In a way I feel now that it was good that I knew nothing at all about the book and I just read it in a bit over a week, I feel that now anything I read where the setting is Europa, I have high expectations.

It’s not a funny book, it’s not really too dramatic either, not romantic, although there seems to be a couple forming, and the sci-fi aspects are being set in the future and on Europa, a bit more advanced computers,and alien life. I’d classify it as a bit of light reading (light gravitation wise ūüôā ).

Book 188: The Explorer by James Smythe

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The Explorer by James Smythe

Rating: 5/10

This is the first part of a series of which I read the second book “The Echo” first. I hoped that maybe there’d be some explanation to some things that bugged me in the second book and that’s why I read it.

In this book there’s a spacecraft that is travelling at warp speed (something I don’t remember being actually said out loud in the second book, but that’s one worrying aspect less), apparently just so that it could go as far as it can with about half the fuel and then turn around and go back. However, it’s more just a psychological thriller set in space – the crew and what happens to them, and mainly about what happens to the journalist Cormac Easton.

It is interesting in some ways for sure, the whole premise is quite nice, but I can’t tell more about it to avoid spoilers.

As a slight explanation for the second book in the series it’s fine. I doubt I would have wanted to read the second book if I’d had started from the first one. I think that “The Echo” really is the superior book and hope the following part/s will be as well.

The book surprised me by actually being surprising – you get used to what’s going on, and something happens to turn everything upside down.

It was a very quick read though, and I’m sure some people would enjoy it, I just didn’t really like any of the characters – maybe they’re not likable, or just too strange for me… ¬†ūüôā

Book 185: The Echo by James Smythe

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The Echo by James Smythe

Finished reading on July 18th, 2015

Rating: 8/10

This is the second book of a series of four books and the first of those that I’ve read. I hadn’t even heard of this book before I got this as a present. However the back cover mentions a space program and the disappearance of a spaceship, so I figured it should be right up my alley.

It was in a way. If you’ve read Andy Weir’s “The Martian”, then you might like it. In my view it’s kind of the movie “Moon” put together with The Martian and some extra dark substance.

So the premise – there’s an anomaly – something no-one knows anything about, except that it’s dark. And there’s the second mission going to investigate it several years after the first mission there disappeared.

I think that this book is interesting from the psychological side of things – what and how the members of the crew do and how do they deal with things, but ultimately it’s about sibling rivalry and (read it with the voice of The Sorting Hat) “a thirst to prove yourself”.

To not give anything away that’s how far into the plot I’ll go. Have to say I’m quite curious to know what happened in the first book (although it’s not necessary to read the first one before this one) and what will happen next.

I did find it quite interesting and a very fast read, maybe even a bit too fast – there don’t seem to be too many descriptions of anything really…

Possible spoilers coming up! Highlight at you own peril.

There were a couple of things that bugged me – maybe they were or will be addressed in the previous/next books – it’s the physical nature of the anomaly, the closed time-like curves, communication-speed with Earth and the stars that they’re passing by.

Book 140: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

41804 I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Finished reading on May 11th, 2014

Rating: 9/10

I, Robot tells a story of the rise of robotics from the point of view of Dr. Susan Calvin, a robot psychologist, who is being interviewed after a long and eventful life about her experiences with different kinds of robots throughout the late 20th century and first half of 21st century, as she is telling about the past in about the year 2050.

It is a science-fiction novel, with interesting characters and deep philosophical questions about artificial intelligence.

The book is a compilation of short stories about different robots, all of which have for some reason played a part in Susan’s life.

For example there’s a robot, who is a nursemaid for a small girl. The girl doesn’t want to play with other children, but rather prefers to spend time with one of the most advanced household robots of the time, but troubles arise when the girls mother decides that in order for her to grow up normal, they have to get rid of the robot, which leads to questions such as can a robot or artificial intelligence (AI) be someone’s friend, should or could it be treated as a person or as a household appliance?

As time passes, there are more advanced robots developed – one who can read minds for example,¬† or an AI that can build a spaceship for interstellar travel. They aren’t random characters in the book, but rather every incident and robot raises questions, as they all have to obey the three laws of robotics, which Asimov constructed. That aspect makes the book a thrilling psychological piece, as the reader is following the robot psychologist’s thoughts and actions, and we see what kind of problems might arise.

Certainly an enjoyable book, especially as one of the main human characters is a strong and smart female figure, who is in a lot of cases the one who comes up with a valid reasoning or solution for a situation.

Although the collection was first published in 1950, and the stories themselves separately between 1940 and 1950, it doesn’t read as too implausible, although that level of technological achievement doesn’t seem to have been achieved just yet.

I found it interesting, as some of the “robots” are in fact really powerful computers, but they still obey Asimov’s laws of robotics, most importantly the robots seem able of individual thought. Having just last week seen the movie Transcendence, I find myself thinking whether or not there will ever be such level of technology that could actually follow Asimov’s laws of robotics, and in case of the singularity (not the physical kind, but the technological where AI becomes smarter than a human brain) in the movie – is that an AI and could be considered a robot, or is it still a human and more like a cyborg although stuck in a computer?

To get back to the book – it’s an excellent read, I’d highly recommend reading it.

Apparently the 2004 movie “I, Robot” was inspired by this book, I haven’t seen it myself, but from what I’ve read of it, there are some of the characters who make an appearance in the book, but otherwise isn’t anything like the book.

Book 56: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

PIMG_4570The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Finished reading July 15, 2013

Rating 5/10

Suddenly the Earth starts to rotate a lot slower…. Hmph… Just apparently because it wants to ūüôā

I found the main premise interesting: indeed what would happen if the Earth were to rotate slower? Unfortunately the physical changes were just a backdrop to a family drama / coming-of age story. The book was quite enjoyable if you dismiss all the science that’s missing or just plain wrong or impossible.

For me one of the biggest failures in this book was that there was no cause mentioned for the slowing of the Earth’s rotation and another one was that for some mystical reason gravitational force on Earth increases. Whaat? As for the slowing of the Earth’s rotation, it is happening because of the existence of the Moon and the tidal forces between them, but very slowly. What could make the Earth rotate slower? An impact with a rather large object, but that would probably not carry on for months, unless there are several impacts. However that wouldn’t be possible here, because these objects would be problematically large for this books plot. Though that might explain the increase in gravity, otherwise it’s just fairy-tales and pigs flying etc.

So gravity and the slowing itself were some of the problems for me in this otherwise lovely story.

The main character is a likable eleven-year old girl Julia, who has to deal with a changing world, losing friends etc.

I can’t finish this post without mentioning two other little thought that kept bugging me – one was that it is described that by the end of the book the days are up to 80 hours long. Fine by me…. However that’s just for where Julia lives (I think it was somewhere in California?), near the poles there would be more problems still, and although there are ¬†news mentioned throughout the book, then the biggest problem there is the slowing, radiation and what time to use.

The idea was good, the story itself was nice, the science fell out of the sky like a dead bird…

 

Book 52: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

PIMG_4012Across the Universe by Beth Revis (first book in the trilogy)

Finished reading June 22, 2013

Rating 7/10

Despite the cheesy cover and being classified as “young adult sci-fi novel” I found it quite good.

I liked the main ideas, although the execution could have been better but, oh, well…

So there’s a spaceship on its 300-year long mission on its way a planet in the Alfa Centauri system. There are some people cryogenically frozen on board, who are specialists in a variety of fields and are supposed to help with terraforming etc on the destination planet. Among these people is a girl by the name of Amy, who is “woken up” aka melted fifty years early and has to face the reality of the life on a spaceship where none of the residents have ever seen the Earth, and not even seen real stars (what a bummer… seriously people living on a spacecraft not being shown the stars?)

The people on the ship are led by Eldest, one of the oldest people on the ship, and Eldest is also a sort of mentor, teacher and father-figure to Elder, who after Eldest is gone would become the next leader.

So Amy wakes up on a strange ship, not knowing why or who melted her and has to deal with this strange society and someone seems to be trying to kill the frozen people, among whom are Amy’s parents. So mystery ensues.

It has a lot of interesting twists and turns in it, so I rather liked it, and probably will read the next book as well.

Book 31: Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

PIMG_7298Stranger in A strange Land by Robert Heinlein

Finished reading 27.01.2013

Rating 8/10

This is a book about a man from Mars, not a Martian, but just an unfortunate human who’s brought up by Martians and later taken back to Earth – that’s where the real story begins.

I wonder whether Heinlein dreamed of a culture similar to the one that the main character was trying to start…¬†

“Stranger in A Strange Land ” is interesting mostly because of the cultural differences portrayed in the novel – they rise first because of the need for survival – the Man from Mars, Mike has to learn about human culture in order to thrive and live¬†successfully¬† but at the same time, the people who are dealing with his education are being taught at the same time – they can see how different Mike is. It’s not physical differences (although i’m pretty sure that an MRI would have shown lots of differences between Mike’s brain and some random “grown on Earth” human’s brain), but just¬†otherworldly¬†ways of thinking.

At some point in the novel I suddenly started to realize that they’re dealing with some sort of cultural exchange… it made me think of the real here-and-now human experience… with the globalization a large percentage of humankind has access to knowledge about other cultures, other ways of doing things, some even have the opportunity to move into a different culture.¬†But¬†that’s where there’s a fork in the road – one might either be willing to learn about the other cultures and welcome the differences or try to fight it and influence other people to accept their own way of life.

In “Stranger in a Strange Land” Mike first has to adapt to his new environment and learn the ways of the people in order to survive, his closest supporters don’t have a need to learn much about Mike’s background, only enough to make the teaching efficient – they don’t gain rewards¬†instantaneously¬†just because of it – it’s more beneficial for Mike.

However when the winds change and Mike seems to have learnt¬†everything¬†he needs to know, he goes out to the world, with one of his main “educators”, Jill, and when it would be logical to try to survive using Earthlings’ skills, he actually starts to spread his own way of life. now there are a few, ¬†who see it as a good thing, but then again that’s not how the book ends…

Anyhow, it seems to be a bit of missionary’s tale – go to a savage tribe, learn their way of life, while trying to manage your own, and piece-by-piece start feeding them bits of your own religion… there seem to be only two endings to that story- either the tribe will be converted, or they’ll probably roast the missionary…

A good read.

Book 22: The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle

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The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle

Finished reading on 27.12.2012

Rating 9/10

The Black Cloud was such a great book – it was short (some 200 pages), it was exciting and as always – almost anything to read is great when you’re sitting on a bus filled with people you’d want to hide away from, (possibly under a seat, but it’s unpractical for reading – not enough space and a bit dark).

It’s a sci-fi book about what would
happen if the Solar System happened to come across a dense large cloud. It’s a nice thought experiment really, with some interesting physics behind it – the cloud can either freeze the Earth and rob it of the sunlight, or it can burn it and leave without an atmosphere… and what if it were’nt just a molecular cloud, but instead something unexpected like another form of life, although a huge one of those?

I really enjoyed the book and to any science fiction fan, I’d highly recommend reading it.