Hope and Mirrors (Clans of the Alphane Moon Review Part Two)

May 5, 2015 at 11:21 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Unknown“[…] we’ve lost her. Nobody can claim this woman for long. It’s just not in her nature, in her biology.”

“She, as well as he, as well as everyone […] struggled for balance, for insight; it was a natural tendency for living creatures.  Hope always existed […]”

That line hit me like a train.  I loved it.  I loved the twist in Mary’s character. I love the terrible beginning and the hopeful ending in the midst of far worse circumstances.  I just got a tattoo last month “I am half agony, half hope.”  Hope in the midst of agony and agony that leads to hope is my mantra.  I loved this moment of humanity so brilliantly expressed.  The fact that I have a Jane Austen tattoo and binge read Philip K. Dick may not seem like two cohesive characteristics to other readers, but to me few other writers have grasped humanity so cleverly.

I have loved all of PKD’s work, but Clans of the Alphane Moon (four Philip K. Dick books into my discovery) just might be my favorite so far.

I said so to a fellow Dick fan and he said, “Funny, that’s one of his most disliked books.”

“Really? Why?”

“I don’t know.  From what I’ve read a lot of people criticize the plot.”

I looked into this, of course.

“Just as Phil breaks the rules of reality, he also breaks any and all literary rules at the same time. The result is a Dick vision presented in an inconsistent story that is not fully developed.” – Jason Koornick, http://www.philipkdickfans.com/literary-criticism/reviews/review-by-jason-koornick-clans-of-the-alphane-moon-1964/

I’m not a plot person. I don’t care about plots.  I like well written people and unusual circumstances.  I like to learn something new about the world around me and myself.  I could care less whether or not the story moved the way it *should* have.  Maybe this is why I like Dick.  He doesn’t seem to give a rats ass about the rules of writing.  He just tells his stories.

Koornick proves this bookish faw of mine when he writes, “Let us not forget that the most memorable moments of many of PKD’s best (and worst) novels are the “situations” rather than the characters or plot development. It is on this level that Clans of the Alphane Moon succeeds.”

If you’ve read my own published novella (nothing nearly as good or even in the same realm as any PKD story), you’ll see that plots are not my strong suit and that open ended ambiguous endings are my favorite.  I have no problem leaving someone hanging and asking for a wee bit more.  I’d rather be asked for more than be told, “Oh my gosh that story just wouldn’t end!”  Even if that means I jump to a random conclusion without spoon feeding anyone.  *SPOILER ALERT* So Mary and Chuck reconcile for no clear cut reason.  That’s marriage.  You don’t have to have a clear cut reason for making it work.  You just do – even if you’ve been screaming bloody murder for weeks (or years) on end… you have a moment and remember what you’re there for… even if it’s just a vague inkling of a thought you can’t express.

I like the ironies and the exaggerations in this one.  It mirrors my mind.  Constant ironies.  Always a hyperbole (or a thousand).  It may not be everyone’s favorite – it wasn’t even PKD’s favorite – but I like it a lot.

I think the most amusing thing about the novel, isn’t the novel itself but rather PKD’s own reaction to it:

“One night, after taking a great number of amphetamines, I sat up reading three novels of mine which I hadn’t read since the galleys: THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH, CLANS OF THE ALPHANE MOON, and UBIK. Of the three, only UBIK struck me as having any worth. I genuinely enjoyed reading it. But STIGMATA merely puzzled me, especially the last scene & ending. CLANS had one good item: the robot-body programmed to attack Bunny Hentman’s rocket ship (along with everyone else intending to attack it but not doing so) — the robot attacking the ship all alone, and the people in the ship saying, puzzled, “Who’s out there attacking us?” Very funny, I thought… and then the horrible wonder came to me, saying, “But when I wrote it did I intend it to be funny?” I’ll assume I did.” [Selected Letters, Vol. 1, p. 294]

As soon as I finished reading, I handed my copy to the librarians to check in and re-shelve and pulled out Minority Report, which I read all at once.  Although, if I had read the above quote first, I’d have grabbed UBIK.  Solar Lottery, however, is next.

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Philip K. Dick and Me

April 23, 2015 at 7:48 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

UnknownA friend asked on Facebook today: I’ve not read much Science Fiction. What is your favorite and why?

I answered:
I’m currently on a Philip K. Dick kick. His stuff is considered classic in the genre, has been made into several films, and he’s got some pretty awesome social commentary and religious themes going on. His characters usually deal with hallucinations, drug use, and some sort of religious/emotional/existential crisis in the midst of futuristic dystopias and post-apocalyptic worlds. I adore him.

That’s the simple answer, I suppose. Unless I were a 19 year old boy and then I’d merely say something about of the blatant drug use references.

I suppose my answer makes me sound like an ignorant and pretentious prick. It’s ok, I’ve come to terms with my lot in life – I sound like a snob, but I will never be brilliant.

I say I’ve come to terms, but that’s a lie…

I find myself having a love affair with Philip K. Dick. He invites me to futures I forgot to think about, makes me feel nostalgic for certain versions of the past. He has forty something novels and I’m only reading my third one… all I want to do is talk religion with the old coot.

Eleanor Roosevelt said something along the lines of great minds talking about ideas, average minds discussing events, and weak minds focusing on people… but I could talk about Philip K. Dick all day. I’d like to think it’s because I like his ideas.

He has me wanting to dive into religious theory, social philosophy, and everything else – all the IDEAS behind it all. I want to read literary criticism on all his work. I suddenly want to get high. With him. I’ve never gotten high or even wanted to in my whole life. Good thing the dude is dead, I might weasel my way into an opportunity to kill my clean record if he weren’t. As it stands, I’m safe.

He’s genre sci fi, but it’s not about the science fiction, I don’t think.

I will never write anything so well.

I have a young friend who likes Dick. For all the drug use, naturally.

“Is that your real answer or your 19-year-old answer?”
“Both,” he responded, “Why am I being interrogated?”

He wasn’t. He was, I suppose. I just really wanted to know if everyone else had the same draw to him in the same way I did. They have to, or else he wouldn’t be reprinted so often. Why aren’t we reading him in school alongside 1984 and Brave New World?

Philip K. Dick is so much more than drug induced rantings, and drug-love. It’s possible he was certifiably insane – I don’t know yet – but clearly that appeals to me. If Hunter S. Thompson and C.S. Lewis had a love-child, it could have been Dick.

I’m not equipped for proper commentary beyond that. My one lament in life is that I see glimpses of great ideas but cannot grasp or define them. I have been surrounded by so many brilliant minds my whole life and have never had one myself.

I watched The Theory of Everything and nearly cried. Selfishly. It was not because of Hawking’s trials, or the good fight his wife put up, or any of that. I found myself scribbling:

So many bright minds – brilliant ones – and mine will never be so bright or brilliant. I can study and train and absorb everything I can get my hands on and I will still hit a wall. A wall of sheer lacking…

Of brightness.

Of brilliance.

Of creativity and understanding.

Of not enough.

I am no Steinbeck. I am no Einstein.

I am no G.K. Chesterton or Ayn Rand. Or Philip K. Dick.

Not even close.

I went to the library and read through Magill’s various commentaries that were available.“Wherever they are set, most of Dick’s novels are grounded in the clutter and trivia, the mundane cares and joys, of everyday life,” the Survey of AUnknownmerican Literature said.

Because I’ve read The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and The Penultimate Truth and am currently reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I felt I was equipped enough to at least see what other people have to say about him. I found people saying things I had already discovered, Dick is focused on how empathy is what makes us human, he thinks everyone lies and that we are all a little too gullible, in his life he maintained a “persistent skepticism” with an “equally strong yearning to believe.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

ThePenultimateTruth(1stEd)Critics also say that you can’t get his life’s running theme from just one book. You must read at least ten or fifteen. Clearly, I got that memo from the abyss as well, because the second I’d gotten half way through one I was already on a mission to select more. Not for the science fiction, not for the stories, but for Dick’s truth. “Dick is fascinated by forgeries and coincidences.”

Me too.

I doubt my own identity as well. Both spiritually and here in the world. I have defined myself over and over again so scrupulously that at the end of the day I often wonder if I have lied to myself.

Is this who I am or who I’ve chosen?
Is there a difference between the two?

We are gullible, we are easily deceived.

Yes we are.
As am I.
People have told me over and over again what a contradiction I am. A hopeless romantic wrapped in the armor of a cynical skeptic. I trust too quickly, and dismiss at the drop of a hat.P1030684

My favorite thing about reading Philip K. Dick is how he has laid out all the turmoils of my soul into genre fiction. When I ask others what their favorite part is, it is because I want to know if we have similar turmoils. If it is merely the human condition…? If we are kindred spirits? Or if I am alone.

Ultimately, I always just want to know if I am alone.

I am 31 years old. I should be over this by now.  But those damn empathy boxes really got to me.

For a cool article, go here: http://boppin.com/1995/04/philip-k-dick.html

quote-i-m-a-strange-person-sometimes-i-hardly-know-what-i-m-going-to-do-or-say-next-sometimes-i-seem-a-philip-k-dick-224123

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Emissary

January 2, 2015 at 3:41 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

emissary banner Title: Emissary

Author: Chris Rogers

Genre: Science Fiction Literature

Length: 434 pages

Sometimes being a reviewer is hard. That sounds silly, because I love it! But when you recognize a GOOD book and you can’t seem to get into it, it’s a little painful on the emotions.  (Just like I’ve recognized books as crap and managed to love every minute of them… that part is just painful on the ego.)  It’s even harder when you begin building recurring author/reviewer relationships, see these people face to face and have to tell them: It’s brilliant, but I couldn’t get into it.  I don’t get to hide behind the anonymity of a computer screen, I book these lovely people for signings and see them around.  I enjoy that I can’t hide, it perhaps makes me kinder.  But it does not make me any less honest.  In fact, it maybe keeps me more honest, because I know we’ll chat later and I know that my facial expressions never lie.  I’m the kind of person that can’t manage to tell a cancer patient that they’re looking good when they’re not.  I end up saying, “You look better than you have!” At which point, true story, they laugh and say, “Atleast you’re honest.”  My facial expressions could be the death of me.

Let me premise by saying: I am not copping out with a back handed compliment.  Emissary truly is brilliant! From a literary perspective, it’s Rogers’ best work. It has the most depth, the most importance.  I just couldn’t get into it. JadziaMaybe it’s exhaustion, the holidays, or the fact that I’m just not in the mood for so many characters, but I wanted to devour Chris Rogers’ latest title as I have done all her others – but I didn’t.  I plodded.  I got distracted.  Between readings I forgot whether Longshadow or President Hale was the leading character, and what their role in the story was.  Ruell and I weren’t communicating well and I kept wanting him to be more tangible like Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  Every time Rogers mentioned a town or country or other world, I started thinking about geography and history books, space, and the milky way… I was reading science fiction and my mind kept grasping for non-fiction reading material.

Art by Chris Rogers

Art by Chris Rogers

I went total ADD on this book for nearly every page.  Every time Duarte made an appearance I found myself humming “Don’t cry for me Argentina” until I distracted myself out of the story yet again.  Like Ruell, I was feeling all sparky and in need of a host to anchor myself. I say it’s brilliant because I think there are a lot of discussion opportunities within its pages, both for reading groups and classrooms.  It felt like reading Kurt Vonneget for school with a little Nelson DeMille splashed on top.

I think it would make an excellent film if someone could write a worthy screenplay, but the story should be guarded protectively lest someone come and make a shotty job of it. (Think of how many ways Ender’s Game could have been ruined if someone other than Gavin Hood had tackled it.) Please give Emissary a go… then come back and discuss!  Also stay tuned for an interview with the author.

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