Friday, March 31, 2006

Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick

This volume gathers twenty-one Dick stories, including "Faith of Our Fathers", "Paycheck", "The Minority Report", and "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale".

This is a good, representative Dick collection that spans some of his early works to his later classics. All of the famous Dick tropes are in this collection: paranoia, shifting realities, pulp culture, dystopia, authoritarian states, and machines.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin

Tehanu is the fourth novel in the Earthsea Cycle and is more of a simple and understated story than the previous Earthsea novels.

The story revolves mostly around Tenar, now a widow facing obscurity and loneliness, who rescues a badly burned girl from her abusive parents. Ged, now broken and without magic, seeks refuge with Tenar and attempts to learn how to live with the great loss he suffered at the end of the trilogy.

Overall, while I appreciate Le Guin's attempts at infusing new threads of feminism into the Earthsea series, I found the novel a bit boring and bland.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman

The World is Flat has been over-hyped a bit, but I think overall the text is well-researched and provides a good overview of globalism and the implications of a global, flat world.

Friedman does maintain a clear technological determinist bias throughout the text, but I think he's pretty upfront about that and does a good job at presenting contrasting viewpoints to his arguments.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Imperial Ambition by Noam Chomsky

Imperial Ambition includes a collection of Chomsky interviews with radio journalist David Barsamian.

In these exchanges, Chomsky offers his views and analysis on the invasion and occupation of Iraq, US propaganda, and the US doctrine of preemptive strikes against so-called rogue states.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My Friend Leonard by James Frey

You can likely read My Friend Leonard as a true-life story, a wildly embellished memoir, or as a work of pure fiction, shamelessly masquerading as a memoir.

Ostensibly a continuation of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, My Friend Leonard focuses on Frey's attempt to start over after rehab, and his relationship with Leonard, a classic Italian impresario who Frey befriended in rehab. The problem with the text is not in the writing or the story -- the text is engaging and evokes emotion, although it lacks the edge of A Million Little Pieces. No, the issue with the book, at least for me, was that I found it impossible to separate the narrative and story from the recent revelation that Frey embellished many details in his writing.

One of the inside pages in My Friend Leonard states in very small type that "some details and sequences of events have been changed". That added to what we know Frey altered made me wonder while reading the text what really happened and what was made up. Was there really a Leonard, and if so, how much did he resemble the charismatic figure in My Friend Leonard? Some might argue that the distinction is irrelevant. Fiction is filled with made up characters that none-the-less come alive and evoke sympathy, pathos, and feeling. If one can make that leap for fiction, why not for a memoir that may be doing the same thing, but to a lesser extent? I guess for me it comes down to the fact that with fiction I know the characters are made up from the start. With a memoir, I expect more, from the text, and especially from the author.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov (1920 - 1992), was the author of the speculative fiction classic Foundation Series, and hundreds of other books, spanning nearly every subject, from fiction to science to history to humor.