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Thread: The Sci-Fi Discussion Thread

  1. #1
    dissolved into molecules lovejuice's Avatar
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    The Sci-Fi Discussion Thread

    should we separate this out? i mean a lot of people here are into sci-fi more than other kind of books.



    i'm reading this. good stuffs so far. we'll see. we'll see.

  2. #2
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Cool. I just started a thread like this at another forum.

    That cover to Behold the Man is awesome.



    I am about half way through A Case of Conscience, and it is pretty good so far. Not as elegant or poetic as Bester or Sturgeon, but at its core is a very interesting concept.

    Basically, it is about a planet called Lithia. A group of 4 scientists have been sent there to determine whether or not Earthlings could colonize the planet without disrupting its ecology in a negative way. One of the scientists is a biologist, and a Jesuit priest. The planet, and its inhabitants, are utterly perfect. The have no crime, no violence, no thievery, no selfishness, nothing bad at all. They don't even have words for these acts or ill feelings.

    The ecosystem is perfect as well, as everything on the planet shares a one-on-one relationship with something else. The Lithians, lizard-like beings, are totally moral and totally logical. Their offspring evolve outside of a womb. They evolve in the ocean into fish, then onto land as amphibians, then as marsupial-reptiles. By the time they are adults they have experienced every kind of terrain and habitat and have built up immunities to anything that could harm them.

    So yes - Lithia is a perfect planet. Too perfect. Except for one thing: the Lithians have no concept of God, faith, or religion. This leads the biologist priest to believe that the planet has been created by Satan as a kind of temptation for mankind. However, according to dogmatic law, Satan cannot create tangible things, only illusion. Because the priest testifies that Lithia is a trap created by Satan, he is also in danger of heresy for putting forth a hypothesis that goes against dogmatic law.

    At the half way point the scientists have returned to Earth, and now the priest must come to terms with his questions of faith, God, Satan, a moral society without faith, and a heretical hypothesis that could undo thousands of years of Church doctrine.

    It was written in 1953, and it is considered one of the first sci-fi books to tackle religious themes in a serious way. James Blish, the author and an agnostic, won the Hugo award for it. I highly recommend it even if it the actual execution is not quite up to par with some of the other greats.

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    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    Allow me to use this opportunity to once again pimp out "I Am Legend".

    Especially to D.

    The last sci-fi I read was Dick's "Galactic Pot-Healer" - my first Dick-experience (hahaha) and I really enjoyed it.

  4. #4
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting megladon8 (view post)
    Allow me to use this opportunity to once again pimp out "I Am Legend".

    Especially to D.
    I'll get around to it. Just not in a horror mood right now.

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    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Daniel Davis (view post)
    I'll get around to it. Just not in a horror mood right now.

    Well, it's horror/sci-fi.

    I definitely wouldn't say that the book's main goal is to scare.

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    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting megladon8 (view post)
    Well, it's horror/sci-fi.

    I definitely wouldn't say that the book's main goal is to scare.
    Oh I know. I don't think of horror as exclusively "scarry."

    I've already got my reading planned out for the next couple of months. IAL will be in the next batch.

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    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Daniel Davis (view post)
    Oh I know. I don't think of horror as exclusively "scarry."

    I've already got my reading planned out for the next couple of months. IAL will be in the next batch.

    Sweet

    I am planning on going to the library tomorrow to look for some used books - they often have a big selection of sci-fi.

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    dissolved into molecules lovejuice's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting lovejuice (view post)
    this book is awesome. i'm skeptic at first since the story is nothing short of predictable. (it's written in 1969, so i guess i have to cut moorcock some credit on originality.) and i dislike the way he portrays psychological turmoil by stringing a bunch of semi-random quotations. the first half is slow. yet much better past the midpoint. once rolls the last third, the novel really comes together thematically. moorcock presents this beautiful study of religion, faith, and sacrifice.

  9. #9
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    A Case of Conscience (1959) - James Blish

    I've always been interested in the exploration of religious themes in fiction, especially in science fiction. This is one of the main reasons why I am so drawn to the work of Philip K. Dick. When I first read about James Blish's Hugo award winning novel A Case for Conscience, it sounded like the perfect book for me. It tells the story of Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez, a man of the cloth and a man of science; in addition to being a priest, Father Ramon is also a distinguished biologist. He is sent, together with a small group of scientists, to the distant planet Lithia to measure the social and ecological impact of an Earthmen colonization. What Father Ramon discovers is something that may be far too sinister to ignore, and something that may, in fact, challenge his own faith and thousands of years of church dogma.

    At its core, A Case of Conscience offers up an interesting premise while it also asks some important questions. It deals with the discovery of an alien society that is totally moral; they have no crime, no violence, they do not lie, and they are not bad in any way, as a matter of fact, they completely lack the words and references for these things. The planet, too, is a representation of perfection; its biology, geology, and ecology all work in tandem to form a perfect ecosystem. Everything on the planet is perfect, too perfect, at least as far as Father Ramon is concerned.

    Father Ramon discovers what he perceives to be a singular flaw: the Lithians have no concept of faith, God, or religion of any kind. It is Father Ramon's hypothesis that the planet has been created by Satan to ensnare humanity in some kind of trap. However, according to dogmatic law, Satan can only create illusion and cannot create anything tangible. Ramon's hypothesis is not only controversial to the secular scientists, but it also leads him down a road paved with heresy towards his church's dogmatic law.

    As I sit here and pound out the above description, it is with some disappointment. Unfortunately, Blish never really delivers on the incredible premise he sets up in the first third of his novel, and by the midpoint he almost lost me completely. One of the first problems is with the writing itself. Now, this may not be fare to Blish, but I have recently been spoiled by Theodore Sturgeon and Alfred Bester, two masterclass wordsmiths. A Case for Conscience simply lacks the poetic prose needed to convey such an emotional and spiritual topic.

    The prose is not necessarily bad but it is only serviceable, and when an idea as ambitious as Blish's is conveyed in a less than remarkable way, it accentuates the drabness. The biggest problem with the novel's execution is the dialog: it's too on the nose. The characters always seem to say exactly what they mean, and most of the narrative's mystery is told rather than shown. Plot points that should have been revelatory discoveries full of majesty are simply told to the reader through uninteresting dialog and exposition, like utterances of little importance. Imagine being told how amazing Yosemite is after passing up a chance to see it for yourself.

    Another major problem is chapter eleven. Alright, maybe I should back up a bit to give some perspective. First of all, let me give some praise, because there are some things beyond the premise that I really do like. It all starts out brilliantly with the central characters already on Lithia. That we don't have to wait for the excursion to get underway, nor do we have to sit through pages of exposition waiting for the alien planet to arrive, is a welcome turn of events. This is good, the plot gets rolling from the first chapter, and pushes right along until about chapter ten, but then by chapter eleven I feel as though the book gets derailed, in a bloody, gory, massive train-wreck kind of way.

    Chapter ten is the first chapter of the second part of the book, and its almost as if this part was written by a different author who forgot what the first part was about. Unimportant new characters are introduced, Father Ramon is forgotten about for a long passages, and nothing interesting or of note happens. But chapter eleven is the worse! It's one of my least favorite things I have ever read. It introduces a totally insipid situation that just doesn't make any sense, and offers up nothing in terms of believable character development or engaging narration. You could probably rip this chapter out of the book and not miss a thing. It's as if Blish switched gears in between the two parts of his book, and decided to focus on a different premise than the one he initially set off with, one that is not nearly as interesting or well developed.

    Unfortunately, the book never regained my interest after this crucial juncture. This book is like a roller-coaster with only one hill. It starts off great, and then, with each passing chapter, it becomes less and less interesting. I could hardly bring my self to finish the last fifty pages because I simply didn't care about anything that was happening or anyone it was happening to. So yeah, this review turned out really negative, and it saddens me in a way. However, I am only this down on the novel because of how great it's premise and beginning are. It was like being promised a cake and then finding that the cake was a lie (sorry Portal, but I had to do it). I will say this about James Blish though - his imagination has piqued my interest, and even though I cannot recommend A Case of Conscience, I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

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    MADMAN THE 13TH MadMan's Avatar
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    Awesome write ups Davis-I'll have to check out some of those books.

    Some of the sci-fi novels I've read:

    2001: A Space Odyssy by Sir Arthur C. Clarke
    Jurassic Park-Micheal Crichton
    The Lost World-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    Ender's Game-Orson Scott Card
    Fahrenheit 451-Ray Bradbury
    1984-George Orwell
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    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting MadMan (view post)
    Awesome write ups Davis-I'll have to check out some of those books.

    2001: A Space Odyssy by Sir Arthur C. Clarke
    Thanks. If I could suggest one, it would be The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester.

    I have not read 2001 yet, but today I ordered Childhood's End by Clarke. This will be my first Clarke book.

    Just today, I started my first Asimov book, The Gods Themselves. It is awesome.

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    MADMAN THE 13TH MadMan's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Daniel Davis (view post)
    Thanks. If I could suggest one, it would be The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester.

    I have not read 2001 yet, but today I ordered Childhood's End by Clarke. This will be my first Clarke book.

    Just today, I started my first Asimov book, The Gods Themselves. It is awesome.
    I've never heard of Bester or that book. I'm intriegued though. I regretfully haven't read Childhood's End, especially since I've liked everything I've read from Clarke. And I must confess I have yet to read any of Asimov either despite hearing really great things about this books.
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    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting MadMan (view post)
    I've never heard of Bester or that book. I'm intriegued though. I regretfully haven't read Childhood's End, especially since I've liked everything I've read from Clarke. And I must confess I have yet to read any of Asimov either despite hearing really great things about this books.
    Yeah, it is pretty weird. I've always considered myself a fan of science fiction, but once I started this Hugo project I quickly realized that I've only ever explored a very, very small niche of the genre. I tend to do this with things. With sci-fi, I've gotten into a few authors, and only focused on them while turning my back on others. Usually this is for the best, because as Sturgeon's law states: 90% of all science fiction is crud, but then 90% of everything is crud.

    It's hard to find that 10% worth reading, and so I've always played it safe and only read the bona fide masters that I know I like:

    Bester, Ballard, Bradbury, Sturgeon, Dick, Moorcock, Rucker, and Harrison.

    But now I am forcing myself to branch out by using the Hugo award as a map. I've now read my first Blish book, I just started my first Asimov, and then I will be reading some Le Guin, Silverberg, and Delany among others. It's going to be awesome.

    Here is a link to a review for the Bester book. Just read it man, it is a masterpiece. Bester was one of the most important figures in the pantheon of science fiction - he acted as the bridge between the golden era and the new wave, and planted the seeds for the cyberpunk movement. He is considered one of the grandfathers of literary science fiction.

    http://genrebusters.com/print/review_demoman.htm

  14. #14
    Quote Quoting Daniel Davis (view post)

    I have not read 2001 yet, but today I ordered Childhood's End by Clarke. This will be my first Clarke book.
    *liked*

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    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    As I mentioned in D's A Canticle for Liebowitz thread, I have several sci-fi books on my shelf which have been there for quite a long time - in fact, a few of them I have had for 10 years.

    Anyone read any of these?


    "Earth is Room Enough" - Isaac Asimov
    "Foundation and Empire" - Isaac Asimov
    "The Planet That Wasn't" - Isaac Asimov
    "Isaac Asimov's 'Ghosts'" - a collection of shorts, compiled by Asimov
    "2010: Odyssey Two" by Arthur C. Clarke
    "3001: The Final Odyssey" by Arthur C. Clarke
    "Rendezvous With Rama" by Arthur C. Clarke
    "The Alien Dark" by Diana G. Gallagher
    "Burning Chrome" by William Gibson
    "Count Zero" by William Gibson
    "Neuromancer" by William Gibson
    "Starship Troopers" by Robert A. Heinlein
    "The Jesus Incident" by Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom
    "The Ark" by Ben Jeapes
    "Outbanker" by Timothy A. Madden
    "Ringworld" by Larry Niven
    "The Tarnsall Saga" by Gary Paulsen
    "Armor" by John Steakley

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    dissolved into molecules lovejuice's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting megladon8 (view post)
    "2010: Odyssey Two" by Arthur C. Clarke
    Odyssey the books, imo, are very different from Kubrick's vision. i'll say, it's worth checking out, but if you're really the fan of the movie, it's more likely that you'll be disappointed by it.

    i on the other hand prefer the books, and no, i don't think of the movie that highly.

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    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting lovejuice (view post)
    Odyssey the books, imo, are very different from Kubrick's vision. i'll say, it's worth checking out, but if you're really the fan of the movie, it's more likely that you'll be disappointed by it.

    i on the other hand prefer the books, and no, i don't think of the movie that highly.

    Yes, I have heard this from many.

    Apparently "2001: A Space Odyssey" the book is much more of a straightforward science fiction story, rather than an existential and experimental mindfuck.

  18. #18
    Not a praying man Melville's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting megladon8 (view post)
    "2010: Odyssey Two" by Arthur C. Clarke
    "3001: The Final Odyssey" by Arthur C. Clarke
    "Rendezvous With Rama" by Arthur C. Clarke
    I've read these. The first two are pretty silly, expanding on the story of 2001 in completely uninteresting ways. Rama is kind of pointless: astronauts explore an alien spaceship, briefly discuss why large-breasted women shouldn't be allowed in zero-gravity situations, and then leave the spaceship. I don't think any of the three are particularly worth reading, but I think our tastes are pretty dissimilar, so you might get something out of them. I've heard that the Rama series as a whole is significantly better than the first book alone.
    I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can'st not go mad?

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    dissolved into molecules lovejuice's Avatar
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    i used to translate clark's 900 page collection of short stories, so i'm quite sick of him. he seems a pretty banal guy with occasionally good idea. too optimistic for my taste.

    to be fair though, i belive 2001 was actually cowritten by kubrick.

  20. #20
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting megladon8 (view post)
    "Neuromancer" by William Gibson
    I would read this. Even though I didn't really like it the last time a read it, I still think it is required reading for the genre. It is an interesting landmark that really was a great influence on so many things, and while not the first cyberpunk story, not by a long shot, it introduced and popularized many of the things we now consider a part of that milieu.

  21. #21
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting lovejuice (view post)
    i used to translate clark's 900 page collection of short stories, so i'm quite sick of him.
    Did you do this professionally?

  22. #22
    dissolved into molecules lovejuice's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Daniel Davis (view post)
    Did you do this professionally?
    yes, in a sense that i got paid for it.

    it's this one.


  23. #23
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting lovejuice (view post)
    yes, in a sense that i got paid for it.

    it's this one.

    That's awesome. Did you translate these into Thai?

  24. #24
    dissolved into molecules lovejuice's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Daniel Davis (view post)
    That's awesome. Did you translate these into Thai?
    yes. sadly only language beside english that i'm proficient.

    it's kinda awesome at first, but the damn thing takes me two long years -- did i mention it's freaking 900 pages! and after all, not that well paid off. clarke has never been well known for his shorts. and i got 100 bathes (about $10 after adjusting for living standard in thailand) for a page.

  25. #25
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting lovejuice (view post)
    yes. sadly only language beside english that i'm proficient.

    it's kinda awesome at first, but the damn thing takes me two long years -- did i mention it's freaking 900 pages! and after all, not that well paid off. clarke has never been well known for his shorts. and i got 100 bathes (about $10 after adjusting for living standard in thailand) for a page.
    I can't imagine the time and effort this must have taken. definitely not something I would like to do. I can totally see how doing something like this might make you totally tired of an author, especially one who you may not be all that enthused with from the get go.

    How did you get involved with this project?

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