Gunner Skale by James Dashner
Gunner is a gamer in a world where people spend a lot of time in a virtual reality. Gunner is different from other gamers in that he can program his own places. He has made hide-outs in many places he has visited and invites others to discuss things. The only problems is that someone knows. Someone knows about Gunner’s hidey-holes and they know how to get in. What happens is terrifying.
What I liked
It’s interesting to think about existing in this digital place. Recently I watched an episode of Black Mirror that was about this very thing, well not about the exact circumstances of the book, but similar. People could essentially vacation in a digital world, in whatever time they chose. When they died, they could choose to upload their consciousness to this digital world and just stay there forever, while their body decomposed, or was cremated, whatever the case may be.
I think if we could send our conscious brain into a digital world many of us wouldn’t want to leave. Why live in the real world when you can live in this virtual place where you can control what you want to control and be who you want to be? The scary part of this idea is that you may not always control the virtual environment, in fact, unless you’re a coder, you’re certainly not controlling your virtual environment.
What I didn’t like
This is a bit too techno-woo for me. The difference between science fiction and fantasy, or one of the differences anyway, is that science fiction could actually happen and fantasy probably can’t happen. I’m not saying that vampires will never be a reality, maybe they could, but most likely they won’t be. Could we have cyborgs and faster than light space travel? Yeah, there’s a chance that we could. Who knows if it will ever happen though. Some science fiction seems highly unlikely though and that’s my idea of techno-woo.
You think you wrote your code to be un-hackable, well, you were wrong.
Would you trade your reality for a virtual reality?
Do you think you could hide your digital hide out?
Altered States by Paddy Chayefsky
Jessop is a scientist. He’s heard about this great thing down in South America. People gather in a group and they take a local drug and have a spiritual experience. Jessop has already been experimenting with sensory deprivation tanks and thinks that he can add this drug to his regimen. He takes the drug back to his lab, with the tanks, and starts to experiment.
Meanwhile, Jessop gets married. His wife isn’t sure of his devotion to her, even though she loves him.
Something strange happens to Jessop when he’s taking the drug in the tank. He hallucinates the heck, out of things, but he kind of turns into an ape, or ape-like creature. He thinks he’s gone back through his genetic ancestry to a time when the missing link between humans and apes lived and walked upon the Earth. One incident has Jessop waking up in the zoo after a night of romping with a bunch of wild dogs, as an ape creature.
Can the research continue after this pivotal moment? Is it getting too dangerous? Is there physical proof of this thing happening? No one else saw Jessop turning into an ape, maybe he was just tripping his balls off.
What I liked
My boyfriend, Grizzly Pirate Wynn, asked me to read this book because he likes it. It’s short and I want to be able to discuss books with my boyfriend, so I read it. I really like that my boyfriend has an interest in books. I actually think he’s spent more money on books than I have since we’ve been together. Crazy.
I like the thought that went into this book. Certainly there was a question involved, or more than one question actually. Can we ever revert to a former genetic place in our history? Is there an outside substance that can cause you to do so, if it’s possible to revert back genetically?
I kind of want to try a sensory deprivation tank. I think it would be nice. I love being in the dark and quiet, especially when I’m trying to sleep. Maybe I would just fall asleep in a sensory deprivation tank.
What I didn’t like
I do not think this is possible. In fact, I’m pretty sure this isn’t possible. I’m just going to say it’s not possible. Whether you believe we descended from monkeys or lizard people, we cannot revert back to some former genetic state. We cannot jump ahead, nor can we go back. I can’t suddenly take something that makes me what a human will be like in a thousand years, which is probably fairly similar to today because we’ve been the same for a while. I can’t revert back to an amoeba or ape or whatever. Genetics don’t go backwards. Elephants can’t turn into Mastodons
The fanciful element of this book is interesting, but entirely not possible, not even fringe science possible, not even healing crystals with your chakras possible, not even snake oil possible.
I also don’t do drugs. So the drug part of this book wasn’t really my thing. I mean, it’s cool if you somehow have a spiritual experience while dropping acid, but that’s a thin line. You can’t be dropping acid every time you need to pray to Jesus over your lost car keys.
Bath salts and a big tub, sounds like a great idea.
Would you do a hallucinogenic drug and get in a sensory deprivation tank?
If you could go forward or backward in the evolution of human kind, which direction would you go and why? Remember, there’s no guarantee that humans will be better in the future.
Nothing O’Clock by Neil Gaiman
The Doctor and Amy Pond have been off on an adventure in the TARDIS and are coming back to England, but something is strange. There are no people. Where did everyone go? Amy hears a strange message. They’ve all died out. This sends Amy and the Doctor on a trip back in time to figure out why.
Back in 1984 a strange person in an animal mask showed up and offered a man way more money than his house was worth. The man and his family move into a hotel. It turns out everyone has been offered lots of money.
Amy and the Doctor figure out what they’re up against. They must not answer the question, “What time is it?”
What I liked
This was delightfully weird and fun. I love Doctor Who and Neil Gaiman, so this book combined two really great things.
Time travel stories are fascinating. Knowing that your life could be completely different if some obscure past event was changed is both fascinating and terrifying, one wrong thing and you wouldn’t exist.
The idea that someone could just buy up the Earth is also fascinating. Could it ever be possible?
What I didn’t like
This is a bit scary. Just think about humanity essentially going extinct because someone bought their land and moved them where the land could not support many people.
What time is it?
What do you think about someone buying up b the Earth?
Would you travel in time if you could?
When the Wind Blows by James Patterson
Frannie is a vet and she lives out in the woods. One day she’s treating a deer and her fawn, the next day, or the same day, she sees something she never thought she would see. She can’t really believe it. She also has a new tenant. He calls himself Kit. She tells him what she thought she saw and he takes her seriously, but he has his reasons.
What Frannie thought she saw was a winged girl, a real, live girl with wings. The two are able to coax the girl to them. She says her name is Max and soon there is a whole story about where she comes from, but she’s reluctant to tell it. She isn’t the only one. She came from a school. She left. There are other winged children and some of them are put to sleep. The two want to protect Max, but soon people start coming after them. There are guns and fires. Can Kit and Frannie save the other children? Can Max help save the other children? Who is doing this and why?
What I liked
I actually found this book quite intriguing. It’s woo, but woo explained by science, or theoretically explained by science. People cannot have wings, nor can they lay eggs. This book was scandal nested in scandal. Frannie and Kit are both likable enough. The winged children are likable. I’m actually impressed with how this book turned out.
Who knows what secret labs do to humans behind closed doors, in secret labs, in the woods, down dark and long roads? There is absolutely no telling. We have no idea the potential human atrocities that occur in the name of science, or greed, or simply hate.
What I didn’t like
Like I said, people can’t have wings. It’s just incredibly far-fetched. Ok, I can see humans possibly having some sort of grafted wings. Possibly a like a very high-end prosthetic, attached to shoulder blades and upper arm nerves. What I cannot see is people having so much bird DNA that wings are inherent and they lay eggs. I don’t think there’s a point when humans will stop being mammals. I kind of think once you’re a mammal, you’re always a mammal. I mean, there are platypuses and they’re kind of weird. Unless you’re a lizard person, you’re a mammal. For me, there is this tinge of “this is too far out there to ever conceivably happen” and that kind of gives me some pause as far as this book is concerned.
You never know what you’re going to find in the woods.
If you had wings, where would you fly?
Do you believe people will have wings if they become angels?
The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Before there were very many museums, individuals would collect strange specimens from real life–two-headed goats, strange human skeletons, strange artifacts, and so forth; these individuals would then display these items and charge an admission. These facilities were often called cabinets of curiosities. The rise of the public museum, which was often free, led to the decline of the cabinets, and ultimately, their demise.
Nora is an archaeologist who works at a museum in New York City. One day, a strange man shows up. He tells Nora that she has to come along and he needs her help. The man’s name is Pendergast; he claims to be a FBI agent. He takes her to a construction site. What she sees there is something she would not have expected in a million years. Down below, there are old coal tunnels. Inside these coal tunnels are bodies, old bodies. They’re mostly bodies of young adults and teenagers. Each of the bodies has been mutilated in a specific way, part of their spinal column has been removed. She gathers what information she can and leaves.
What follows is a strange story that Nora just couldn’t have expected. It involves a man who had a cabinet of curiosity and a doctor who rented rooms from him. There are tales about a man who wanted to prolong his life. Maybe he figured out how to do it. Maybe he’s still alive. When a rash of similar killings starts up in the city, Pendergast and Nora have to do something about it. They have to figure out if it’s a copycat or if the real mad scientist himself is still alive, over a hundred years later.
What I liked
This book was highly interesting. I liked the mystery. I liked all the science in it. I liked the history in it. I liked the “woo” in it. Woo has its time and its place, but there was just the right amount of woo in this book.
All the explanations about the cabinets of curiosities was educating. I knew of their existence, but I didn’t know the exact nomenclature used. Yes, I also knew that there was quite a bit of those exhibits that were faked. The cabinets sort of held the same status as the freak shows that used to tour around.
Archaeology is an interest of mine; I seriously thought about becoming an archaeologist at one point. It’s a mystery. You find something in the ground and you have to figure out what it was for, why it existed, and who used it. Don’t you just want to know?
The idea of prolonging life is a question we probably should have solved by now. Who knows–maybe someone has. We have managed to live longer, but we haven’t managed to get a great quality of life by doing so. We could all argue that to live a long time, let’s say a hundred and seventy years, that we would want to be young enough, or rather in our prime, to be able to enjoy those extra years. Who wants to live to be a hundred and seventy years old if you’re old, wrinkly, and have to stay in a wheelchair all the time? The most we can expect these days, out of our life span, is about a hundred years, and they’re usually not good years after about eighty. Heck, they may not be good years after seventy. If I had the choice of living to be a hundred and seventy years old, but most of it would suck past ninety, or dying at ninety, I would choose to die at ninety. There’s too much crap in life to add decades on to it that aren’t going to be that great.
What I didn’t like
Despite how interesting this prolonging life debate is, it’s cliche. How many stories have you read that involve some scientist trying to prolong his life for nefarious purposes or even just debauchery? It’s so darn common. Maybe someone does it and shares his discovery with the rest of the world and it’s freely given. It always tends to be someone hoarding this secret for themselves, or offering it to only the very elite. Doesn’t that say something about humanity? Never is something like this given to everyone. This just proves how inherently selfish we can be as humans.
What’s in that strange hole we dug up? You don’t want to know.
If someone found a way to prolong life, do you think they would share their secret?
If you had the choice of living multiple decades more than usual, but it was awful, or dying at a normal age, which would you choose?
The Martian by Andy Weir
Mark Whatney was on a routine mission to Mars. Well, it wasn’t entirely routine as there hadn’t been that many missions before. The entire thing took over a year of travel and the crew was supposed to be on Mars for a month, studying things. Well, a storm came along and the crew had to abort the mission. The only thing was that Mark got separated. They thought Mark was dead, so they left.
Mark wasn’t dead. It sure seemed as if he were, but he wasn’t. His blood clogged the hole in his spacesuit when it clotted. Mark was alive. He knew everyone was gone. He had to figure out how to survive. He had no contact with anyone, at all. He was the only living being on the entire planet. Mark had to make a plan.
Mark was a botanist, so he decided to grow plants. He knew he could grow potatoes. So he managed to colonize the Martian soil with Earth bacteria. Things were going well for a while. He started modifying the rover and created water, in a crazy dangerous way. He went on a trip to get Pathfinder.
Around this time, the people on Earth realized that Mark Whatney was alive on Mars, by himself. NASA started scrambling for a way to get him off of the red rock. Mark knew his best hope was surviving until the next mission, which was around four years away. He rationed food and grew his own, but it didn’t work out entirely as planned. There was a breach in his hab. There was a power failure which ruined his communication with Earth via the Pathfinder. Mark kept on with the plan though. The plan, by this time, was to rescue Mark. He was going to the landing spot for the next mission. It wasn’t going to be easy though.
The whole world watched Mark Whatney. Would he make it off of Mars alive?
What I liked
I am not a space person. I usually don’t like books or movies about space. I don’t know why. This book was highly enjoyable though. Mark was a relatable character, who just happened to get stuck on Mars. His desire for survival and his ingenuity make for some very interesting reading. It’s actually highly entertaining, but I am kind of a nerd, maybe I find talk of science and botany entertaining for that reason.
I feel like Andy probably did a heck of a lot of research for this book. I commend him for that. I’m not going to double-check it, but I think most of what Andy put in this book is fairly scientifically sound. I feel like I understand a Mars mission now.
This is a book that glorifies the world of the nerd and that’s not a bad thing. Programming, botany, and general science are where it’s at people.
This book does make the idea of Mars more tangible for me. I can see how life on Mars might work. It’s sad that we’re not going to see people living on Mars anytime soon, but we can always hope. There are definitely a whole lot of dangers that have to be overcome to make something like that work. There’s not food and there’s not oxygen. They only way to make it on Mars is to use what you take with you. It’s not like the explorers of Earth who took their own provisions, but were sure to find something to eat when they got to where they were going. It may be snails, but they could eat it.
What I didn’t like
I really enjoyed it; there’s not really anything bad I can say about it.
You know what, I do have something to say. I don’t trust that the government would save Mark Whatney. If this actually happened, would the government spend billions of dollars to get Mark Whatney back to Earth safely? Heck, this might even run into the trillions. I just don’t have the warm and fuzzies about the government actually spending the money to rescue one man. I can see them covering it up. “Yep, Mark Whatney is so dead, it’s like Dead McDeaderson up there,” all the while watching a man starve to death because they didn’t think this one life was worth it. People have been left to die before, by our government, is various situations. Why would Mars be an exception?
I don’t want to get stuck on Mars. It’s just as well that I’ll never get the chance to go.
Do you think your government would rescue Mark Whatney?
Could you handle being the only person on a planet?