Review: Ubik by Philip K. Dick
Author: Philip K. Dick
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Personal library
Pub. Year: 2012 (1969)
Purchase: Amz/ B&N/ TBD
Blurb from Amazon:
Glen Runciter runs a lucrative business—deploying his teams of anti-psychics to corporate clients who want privacy and security from psychic spies. But when he and his top team are ambushed by a rival, he is gravely injured and placed in “half-life,” a dreamlike state of suspended animation. Soon, though, the surviving members of the team begin experiencing some strange phenomena, such as Runciter’s face appearing on coins and the world seeming to move backward in time. As consumables deteriorate and technology gets ever more primitive, the group needs to find out what is causing the shifts and what a mysterious product called Ubik has to do with it all.
Random: So much to talk about, so much that I didn’t talk about but I think I got the most important parts down. By the way, my love for Philip K. Dick’s books is like my love for Batman so I’m a strong supporter of his work.
Philip K. Dick is a trippy author that I immensely adore but his books tend to make doubt what I actually read. Ubik is no different. As readers, we think we understand what is going on until the final chapter just spins it on its head.
Glen Runciter is an important character but I feel the lead character is Joe Chip who does not know how to live in a capitalist world. He is always out of cash, he doesn’t know how to use consumer products properly; he doesn’t have his life in order. The world of Ubik is a world where capitalism has been taken to an extreme. In order to use a home coffee machine, the characters have to pay it 5 cents. To open the door to an apartment requires money. To leave said apartment, it requires money to open the door. It’s a harsh world and Joe Chip has no concept of money so he is constantly struggling to survive in this world.
Joe Chip and the surviving crew members of the expedition return to Earth and find that their money is “funny.” Sometimes it is worthless but other times, the “funny” money can buy items. The technology is going backwards and becoming less sophisticated and the crew makes a half-hearted attempt to understand why but they just go on with their life. Joe, Al, and Denny are the only ones who make an attempt to understand what is going on.
People who have recently died or in the final moments of death can be placed in “half-life” which means they are reanimated if they are death or in suspended animation if they are almost death. As long as their some brain activity, half-life is possible. Think of a zombie virus that doesn’t turn people into flesh-eating zombies but just keeps them sane a little longer. That’s half-life but the key is it’s half-life so the world inside half-life tends to collapse on its self and return to a simpler technological society because the mind begins to deteriorate so the people are losing their memories. They tend to remember their earlier memories more than their recent memories. With that in mind and the fact that Joe Chip’s world is regressing, it’s safe to say that it’s Joe and crew who are in half-life because it makes sense.
The product called Ubik comes into play because Runciter wants Joe Chip to find it and use it in order to protect himself against a malevolent force that is killing them in half-life. The book shifts into a quest of finding this mystical product that Joe keeps finding but in primitive forms. He needs to find Ubik in a spray can form because it is toxic in tonic form. Even when he does find it in a spray can, he cannot buy it because he has no money. Capitalism is working against him when he is desperately trying to find his salvation but he cannot purchase his salvation when he finds it. When he obtains money, the world has further regressed and the shop is no longer there so it’s a constant battle just trying to keep his world stable enough for him to just move forward with his life.
Of course, what I just said about Joe Chip being in half-life can be thrown out the window because it’s Philip K. Dick and he loves to mess with his readers. Everything about half-life is true and Joe Chip is not a good consumer in a world dominated by consumer products. Is he in half-life though? That depends on how the last chapter is interpreted. In the last chapter, it is Runciter who sees “funny” money. It is a “WTF” moment because everything the reader knows is displaced and the novel doesn’t have a solid, full circle end which can be annoying. The novel already has a deep meaning through its use capitalism and its implication for society. The ending just adds to it because it’s blurring the lines between what is real and what is not. It asks us, the readers, to decide that and that decision is based on our beliefs of our interpretation of what happened in the novel.
The novel ends up bringing faith into the novel. Joe needs to have faith in order to survive in a capitalism-driven world. Every chapter begins with ad about Ubik as a bra, a bank, pain pills, toothpaste and so on. The final ad ends with Ubik being God; “I am Ubik and I have always been there before humanity existed” or something like that. Consumer products have become their own of religion because they are so vital to our lives like God is. It sounds like blasphemy but how many of us could live without consuming and buying computers or an IPhone? I know my IPhone is vital to me, I panic whenever I misplaced. It’s a product that holds my identity and the sad thing is that’s true for many of us. We can deny it and say “It’s just a phone and you can always buy another one.” Only one part of the sentence is true, I can consume another IPhone but it’s just not an IPhone alone. It has a deeper meaning. It has my contact list which is vital because I don’t know anyone phone number from memory. Not even my Mom’s number. It has my pictures. It’s my connection to the world ( I wrote half of this review on my IPhone, irony). Our lives are define by consuming products and our worth is define by the products we consume instead of our humanity. It sounds cold but it is reality. Or at least, it is one version of humanity because reality is dependent on what we know and accept.
This is why I love Philip K. Dick. He makes his readers question everything about their world and that is what a great author does. They challenge our perspective and really make us wonder about how we are living our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I probably won’t make a change and depend less on technology but I’m definitely going to re-examine my relationship to products and technology.
Qualifies for: Dystopian Challenge
Review: Trigun Maximum Vol 1: Hero Returns by Yasuhiro Nightow
Title: Trigun Maximum
Author: Yasuhiro Nightow
Series: Trigun Maximum Vol. 1
Genre: Science Fiction manga
Source: Public Library
Pub. Year: 2004
Purchase: Amz/ B&N/ TBD
Blurb from Amazon:
As an anime series, Trigun gained a multitude of fans across the otaku landscape before gaining a huge mainstream manga audience. Now, Trigun goes beyond the storyline laid out in the anime and the first two volumes of the manga into brand new territory! Our hero Vash the Stampede disappeared for two years after blasting a crater onto the moon orbiting the desert planet he saved from annihilation. But, with good and bad people alike trying to track him down he won’t stay lost for long! Count on more crazy gunslinger action, new dastardly villains… and a new outfit to boot!
Random: Again, I’m a huge fan of the anime , Trigun, that I had to pick it up and it’s a little different than the show.
First off, the manga doesn’t start with a bang but it does start with something similar because it is extremely fast paced. It feels like it’s the second or third volume of the series which makes sense since the series was cancelled previously and picked up by another company. Now, I have watched the anime before so I wasn’t as confused but even I was like “Whoa, this is dropping way too much information without the appropriate background info.”
Let’s meet the character cast. Vash the Stampede is the lovable blond who wants to lead a peaceful life but he is prone to causing massive amounts of destruction. He is an expert gun marksman and not quite human. Nicolas D. Wolfgang is a traveling priest who is a bit of a pessimist and carries a large (human-length) cross that is actually a gun. Meryl and Millie are insurance investigators who have a connection to Vash. The main antagonist of the series is Knives who is the brother of Vash and a ruthless murderer.
The relationship between Vash and Nicolas is quite interesting. Vash, according to the world is a trigger happy gunman, yet it is Vash who tells Nicolas “not to kill people” which is ironic because Nicolas is a priest. They are further contrasted in their beliefs about humanity; Vash is optimistic about humanity whereas Nicolas is cynical and doesn’t believe that they should help everybody that stumbles their way. Their conversations tend to be about morality and choices.
This volume sets up the future volumes of Vash and Nicolas searching for Knives but it also introduces Legato who is interested in Vash as well. The main event of the manga is a hostile takeover of a train between rival families who are seeking to control a plant. The Earth is essentially a wasteland and plants provide the energy for life on Earth so whomever controls the plants are powerful individuals. Vash becomes involved because that’s the type of person he is; he is the type of to intervene in problems in hopes of solving them a little more peacefully.
It further showcases two different perspective on Vash. There are those who see Vash as a destroyer of humanity but there also those who are friendly with Vash and understand that he is actually keeping them safe from his homicidal brother. Vash also shows his different sides, one as a funny and very cheerful guy. He is singing “La-la-la, Oceans of Blood” ( pg. 148) right before entering a hostage situation. His other side is the serious and deeply scarred emotional man that agonizes over the death of any human.
In terms of artwork, I like it. I love the funny faces and small caricatures. There is great detail on Vash’s red outfit. The majority of the solid black comes from clothing and hair. Overall, the art is well done. There is a sense that the Earth is a barren wasteland.
In the end, I’m looking forward to the next installment and seeing the reunion between Vash and Millie and Meryl.
77th in 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: Science Fiction, 1st in a Series, M/GN/VG,
Promo Post: Bones Wires by Michael Shean
Title: Bone Wires
Author: Michael Shean
Genre: Science Fiction
Pub. Year: 2012
Blurb from Amazon:
In the wasteland of commercial culture that is future America, police are operated not by government but by private companies. In Seattle, that role is filled by Civil Protection, and Daniel Gray is a detective in Homicide Solutions. What used to be considered an important – even glamorous – department for public police is very different for the corporate species, and Gray finds himself stuck in a dead end job.
That is, until the Spine Thief arrives.
When a serial killer begins harvesting the spinal tissue of corporate employees all over the city, Detective Gray finds himself plunged into the first truly major case of his career. Caught in a dangerous mix of murder, betrayal and conflicting corporate interest, Gray will find himself not only matching wits with a diabolical murderer but grappling with his growing doubt toward his employers in the dawning months of the American tricentennial. A thrilling mystery set in the same world as the Wonderland Cycle, Bone Wires is a grim trip into the streets of the empty future.
Review: The Z Word by Bella Street
Title: The Z word
Author: Bella Street
Series: Apocalypse Babes # 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Pub. Year: 2011
Purchase: Amz/ B&N/ Smashwords
I won this book in a giveaway that was hosted by the author.
Blurb from Amazon:
The Z Word follows Seffy Carter and her longtime friends Gareth, Addison and Lani. The four besties share a past dysfunctional and dark enough to keep them bound together under do-over identities. But rends develop in their relationships from the flesh-eating pressures of ending up in 1980, in a Montana desert, surrounded by zombies wearing dated disco duds.
Odd thoughts: No questions will be answered in this novel. Plus, it has weird slang. Apparently, saying someone is “soup” is code for “crazy” or maybe it’s 80’s slang.
Another different take on the zombie apocalypse. It doesn’t really deal with the zombies. It focuses on shallow relationships and emphasizing secrets that are not going to be reveal right away. One reviewer on Amazon called the characters the Scooby-Doo gang. While I agree on some level with that reviewer, I feel the gang is more Victorious style. It was a decent book though.
Let’s talk characters. Seffy Carter, what a self-centered person to have for a main character. She was a hard person to like because she is only concerned with only herself and her attraction to Gareth. She barely cares for her friends, Addy (the redheaded bitch) and Lani (scatterbrained). She has no interest in being intelligent because she rejects anything nerdy or anything that hurts her image as Hollywood/ The Hills girl. It’s sort of disappointing because I’m all about female empowerment; Seffy does not have my vote. Addy may come of as a bitch (her reasoning for hating Seffy is not explained like Jade and Tori) but she can handle a gun. Something bad happened between them, can’t wait to find out what though. Lani is the Kat from Victorious or Luna from Harry Potter; random as hell and her logic doesn’t make sense most of the time. Even though Seffy is careless, there is something about her that I find intriguing and I can’t hate her for who she is. The reason is that on some level she is beginning to gain a consciousness about who she is and is slowly unwrapping her character. There is good potential in her character development.
Moving on to the guys in the book. Gareth is the one Seffy is interested. He has a nerdy side that Seffy tries very hard to suppress. Not sure what to make of him because he appears bi-polar when it comes to Seffy. He is willing to comfort her then pushes her away (without explanation) and finally, gets jealous when someone else is near her. Street likes bi-polar men because he reminds of a previous character she wrote. Gareth has potential as a lead male character but he is not that attractive. It’s like there is a shield around him. Trent is a survivor from another group and he is a jerk (so I liked him immediately, kidding). He has a very rough side but later comes out of his shell and is on friendlier terms with Seffy. The fact that Seffy distrusts Trent makes him character that much more appealing. Another appealing man is Fenn the Doctor who might be married but definitely is in a relationship with Fiona the Preppy Bitch Nurse. She is funny but this is the men’s section. There is this weird moment of flirtation between Seffy and Fenn that I just loved.
World-building wise, it is a closed book. There is no rational explanation behind the existence of the zombies. As readers, we end knowing how the zombies are being created but not why. It’s even weirder to have Russian mercenaries in Montana. It is true the Cold War is still going on in the book so that could be it. It looks like a dystopian setting but it doesn’t come out and spells it for the reader. I’m unsure if the United States has been conquered by zombies or not because Montana has reception for the television. I don’t think television rates that high in a post-apocalyptic world. For now, I’m saying dystopian because zombies are around.
This book is seriously closed lipped about everything. It doesn’t explain the time travel at all. It looks like Montana might be the only one affected by the zombies but I could be wrong. The gang shares a past but there is no in depth details as to how they know each other or what prompted them to make a pact to never speak of their past. Seffy and Addy have a love-mostly hate relationship but it is never explained why. Having read a previous book by Street, this is really surprising because she answered most of the questions that can arise from a reader. I realize this is the start of the series but not one bone was tossed to the reader.
Overall, it’s a zombie book but not Resident Evil style. Surprising but it is a little more mellow. There is an inexplicable glue binding the gang together and I’m looking forward to seeing what that it.
68th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for Dystopia, Zombie, Science Fiction, First in a Series, E-book, Self-Published, Where are you reading?-Montana
Review: Dead Tropics by Sue Edge
Title: Dead Tropics
Author: Sue Edge
Source: Innovative Online Book Tours
Pub. Year: 2012
Purchase: Amz/ B&N
I received this novel free of charge from the Innovative Online Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Blurb from Amazon:
IN THE MIDST OF A CATASTROPHE LIKE THE WORLD HAS NEVER SEEN, ONE WOMAN WILL STOP AT NOTHING TO PROTECT HER FAMILY.
Lori Nelson has always seen herself as an ordinary woman, doing the best she can to juggle family and her work as a nurse. But the most dangerous creature in nature is the mother whose offspring is threatened?
When miners release an ancient virus Lori is at ground zero of the deadly battle for survival. With the help of a laconic ex-soldier, can Lori find the strength to fight the spreading threat and save her family?
Random: It is as entertaining as a zombie movie.
BEST ZOMBIE BOOK that I have read so far. It is fantastic and it kept me intrigued the entire length of the novel. In terms of zombie books with a high level of action, it is going to hard for other zombie books to surpass this book.
Lori is a great protagonist. She is fiercely independent and a willing fighter. She takes on the zombies in order to rescue children from the children’s ward in the hospital and in order to save her sister’s neighbors. Lori is really courageous but Edge allows the readers to know that Lori has a vulnerable side. Lori is afraid of what is going on around her but she has a need to try to help others that tends to over-ride her fear.
One of the great things about this novel is the inclusion of children as survivors. Most books and movies only have adult as survivors. Edge has included about five small children and two teenagers in the book. It shows a different perspective of what a zombie apocalypse would be like if the adults had to worry about their children. It adds to the story because finding and protecting the children are added as obstacles that need to be overcome but also make the adults vulnerable and human. It is the children that bring down Lori’s survival character to realistic level. She is mother trying to protect her children and that is why she is willing to fight zombies.
The action is non-stop which might be the best feature of the novel. Lori is swimming with crocodiles to evade the zombies, crawling under cars, running over cars, and stealing cars. It is really exciting to read the action scenes because they have enough to details to create a movie in your head. The supporting cast also have their action scenes. The action never really stops and certain event will surprise the reader. I wasn’t expecting the final boat scene but it is one of the best one in the books. It’s not due to the action but the suspense surrounding it.
The only negative thing I could say is that I’m not entirely sure how the virus originated. Did the miners released something or did they not? I have to be honest, I really do not care because the book was highly entertaining that it made me forget to question the origin of the virus. In fact, I’m going to let it slide and not deduct a half butterfly (which is what I should do but won’t) because Lori’s journey is fascinating and heartbreaking at times.
Dead Tropics is a five butterfly. Non-stop action, a compelling heroine and children as survivors make it a fantastic book.
47th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: E-book, Zombies, Dystopia, Science Fiction, Men in Uniform, Where Are You Reading?-Australia
Review: The Annihilation of Foreverland by Tony Bertauski
Title: The Annihilation of Foreverland
Author: Tony Bertauski
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Year: 2012
I received this novel free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Blurb from Amazon:
When kids awake on an island, they’re told there was an accident. Before they can go home, they will visit Foreverland, an alternate reality that will heal their minds. Reed dreams of a girl that tells him to resist Foreverland. He doesn’t remember her name, but knows he once loved her. He’ll have to endure great suffering and trust his dream. And trust he’s not insane. Danny Boy, the new arrival, meets Reed’s dream girl inside Foreverland. She’s stuck in the fantasy land that no kid can resist. Where every heart’s desire is satisfied. Why should anyone care how Foreverland works? Together, they discover what it’s really doing to them.
Random: Just because we may be headed nowhere, doesn’t mean we can’t turn around and head somewhere.
This was a pretty awesome novel to read. There is a sense of confusion at the start of the book but there are clues as to which direction the book might head into. It reminded me of The Island with Ewan McGregor. (And in a strange way, Digimon, the second season)
There is an uncertainty as to why the boys are in the island. Danny Boy and his friends appear to be healthy and happy while there are old men who are just creepy (the word “pedophile” ran across my thoughts every now and then). For awhile, I thought the boys were dead or in a coma because they were isolated in the island. What I liked though about the uncertainty is that it slowly begins to clear up the more Danny Boy goes into Foreverland and explores the alternate reality/computer program. We learn at the same time Danny Boy is learning. The inclusion of newspaper articles was really well done because they clarified the background of certain characters and added new questions about the purpose of the island. The articles also served as a connection to the outside world and proved that at least the boys were real people who had lives before the island.
The purpose of the island is chilling because the boys are being tortured physically before entering Foreverland where there is no pain. I’m not going to give it away but halfway through the book, Bertauski will lead the reader in the right direction. (I was half-right in my guess about the purpose of the island, yay). There is this weird game that is played inside Foreverland that reminds me of a capture-the-flag game. The purpose is to win three times in a row so that the boys can enter Foreverland quicker for the next round. It serves the purpose of making the boys more addicted to Foreverland since they don’t have to go through the torture session.
Character-wise, I did like most of the characters. Danny Boy along with Reed are interesting characters. Danny Boy takes Foreverland and makes it his own while Reed refuses to enter the computer program. Reed has a strong backbone because he is tortured every single time that he refuses to enter Foreverland and it’s all thanks to a dream that warned him against the program. It is sad what happening to him but he gets his happy ending. The old men (all of them) kept their creepy factor all the way through the novel. The man in charge known as the Director was a megalomaniac who played God on the island. He wasn’t as creepy as he was disturbing because of his thought patterns. His reasoning for the island make sense on some level but he loses it in the end.
Overall, it was an entertaining novel to read. The concept of what is going to happen to the boys and their mind is in intriguing and disturbing at the same time. It raises an interesting concept of the separation between the mind and the body and which one can last longer when they are in conflict with each other.
38th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: E-book, Science Fiction, Self-published
Review: Across The Universe by Beth Revis
Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Series: Across the Universe # 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Pub. Year: 2011
Purchase: Amazon/ B&N /TBD
Blurb from Amazon:
A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.
Cover Love: OMG, that is one fantastic cover. At first, I though they were mountains but no, they are faces. Sweet.
I really love this book. Two things did annoyed me but oh my god, it was a great read. It’s been awhile since I read a book where it takes entirely in space. Because it happen in a space ship, I kept thinking of Pandorum which is a fantastic movie and has nothing to do with this book.
The characters were fleshed out in a spectacular way. We have Amy the red-headed girl aboard a ship where everyone has similar skin, hair color, and same beliefs. She sorely stands out with her black and white ideology. There is Elder who is going to take over the ship when Eldest (the current leader) dies. He was interesting because he was acting like a rebel going against the orders of Eldest even though he is going to be the new leader eventually. He question Eldest about the plague and protected Amy from Eldest. Eldest is like a deranged Dumbledore; just an old man that hides the truth in order to maintain the peace aboard the ship. Harley was really a fantastic tortured artist. Calling Amy his little koi fish because of her vibrant red hair.
The inner workings of the story really kept me on the edge. There are just a quite a few twists that rocked your mind. I can’t spoil them because they are a great addiction to the book. I will spoil this because I did suspect it and if I suspect it, there is a good chance that other readers did too. My theory was that the ship was slowing down in reaching its destination and that’s what Eldest was trying to hide. It usually happens in certain science fiction novels so I sort of assume that. There are like three major twists that are just shocking and breath taking. Especially who woke Amy up. I wasn’t expecting that.
One of the elements I really liked from this novel was the slow progression of the romance between Amy and Elder. I would have been suspicious and dislike the novel if they had an instant love connection. Amy just woke up from being cryogenically frozen for 250 years; she is out of sort in this new environment and had a boyfriend on Sol-Earth as the original Earth is called. Elder, on the other hand, I don’t think has grasp what love is because there is no emphasis on love in the ship. There is no sex aboard the ship but there is mating for reproductive purposes. There is a great difference between that. It makes sense that he wouldn’t know how to properly act around Amy and Amy is still confused about her new “world” so adding an intense relationship would further complicate matters. I applaud Revis for taking the relationship at a realistic pace.
The two things that annoyed me was the fact that I suspected who was the one killing the frozen patients right away and how were all the patients connected. It took Elder and Amy more than a three-fourths of the book to figure this out when I figured it out during the second murder attempt. It was right there on the wall; Amy wrote it on the wall and no once could tell that it was *****. Sorry, no spoilers allowed in this post.
I mentioned Eldest is a deranged Dumbledore and he is because he is keeping secrets and lying about what is really going on but he is not as deranged as I made him out to be. Logically, Eldest had a valid point in keeping the truth hidden considering what happen during the Plague. The new life aboard the ship is a dystopia because there is no freedom to decide on anything. But at the same time Eldest’s regime wasn’t too oppressive. He made people into simple-minded people with no concern for philosophy or science but they were happy. Idiots but happy. There was some twistiness to saying that Lincoln and the US Civil War was about the elimination of a race; that’s why Hitler was a great leader because he attempted to establish one superior race. Amy was horrified at hearing that and so was I. There are certain moves that Eldest took that are part of the spoiler so I can’t give it away but I have to say that there is valid reasoning behind his logic. It’s a bit disappointing that Amy and Elder would not consider Eldest’s point of view. Even if they ended up rejecting the tactics employed by Eldest, it would have been intriguing to see them debate about moral issues instead of saying “It’s wrong and it’s over.”
Overall, I do love this novel and I’m looking forward to reading the second novel. I can’t wait to see what how the reality of the dire situation the ship faces affects everyone.
13th book in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualify for: 1st in a Series, Dystopia, Science Fiction,