” I was once sorta…”

There is really something about a great post-apocalyptic novel. It can get you lost in the maybes out there not to mention the what ifs. Unfortunately at times someone decides to make a movie and ruins it.ThePostman(1stEd)

The Postman is a great story, David Brin did a great job convincing you that a little man desperate to survive can use an ideal in order to con his way into food, sex and supplies. At the same time inadvertently reconnect the west coast with the idea they can become a nation again. It is a big book built on the small idea that if communities can gather around an idea and communicate then society can go on, that human connection can overcome barbarism and peace is a good idea.

Then Kevin Costner came along and ruined a good story with ridiculous hero worship and gung ho patriotism. Don’t get me wrong the book can be quite bleary eyed about the USA but in a well done the little man way, Costner turned this element into the over riding them in the movie.

The best aspect of the movie is Tom Petty as a slightly deranged rock star survivalist who has the best line in the movie. It is the reply to Costner’s “I know you, you were famous.”

So at the end of the day go read the book, unless you want to see how beautiful Oregon is.

Lord of Light

When I began this blog it was to record my reading. Over time that has changed to be some sort of ongoing discussion of my obsessions, from music to books to whatever is on my mind at the time.

I do however still read, surprise to some. I still have my original project of trying to read some of the greatest science fiction written, as well as my current re-reading of the Eternal Champion Cycle by Michael Moorcock and my return to vinyl. So much going on in this messed up head of mine.lolnovel

Today I finished another of those classic sf books in Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light. I have always enjoyed Zelazny, he has the Hawkwind connection for those interested, Lord of Light being an epic track from The Space Ritual album, with searing synth work and a driving blanga beat that cannot be beaten, Simon King and Lemmy at their best. That however is for another post I think.

A novel taking on every major religion in a satirical manner, looking at the dangers of religion and the joys of religion and absurdity of gods. It is also a fun filled adventure. What is not to love?  Zelazny is one of the best writers of sardonic science fiction and does not miss the mark with this novel.

 

The unmade movie script for this novel was the cover story used by the CIA as shown in the movie Argo which I am sure amused Zelazny.

Way more information here: http://web.archive.org/web/20110724150727/http://lordoflight.com/

And then there is this which has nothing to do with the book whatsoever:

Now I’m Just A Cosmic Man

I have loved Hawkwind since the first time I heard them. I have been l at times completely infatuated with and then at other times totally dismissive of them. The first album I ever heard was Hall of the Mountain Grill and I was captivated almost immediately. Swirling mellotron’s, thunderous bass from Lemmy and the relentless guitar of Dave Brock all crowned with Nik Turner parping away on untutored sax and violin, rock violin. It is a cacophony that only one band can ever get way with, strange dystopian science fiction lyrics sung so seriously all surrounded by driving drums and an almost punk attitude.

Titles like Psychedelic Warlords, D-Rider and Paradox and You’d Better Believe It, do not prepare you for what you are about to hear never mind Goat Willow, the cover of a space ship crash landed in a swamp can only hint at the insanity inside. hawkwind-hall-of-the-mountain-grill-non-sticker-lpIt was a revelation to me, almost Floyd but too harsh, not metal, not pop it was something I later discovered is space rock, although that term can’t really do what you find inside justice. The best term I have ever heard to describe the music is BLANGA, for a full description of what the term means go here:

http://www.doremi.co.uk/hawks/index.php

For me it is that moment when the chaos settles, the beat goes on and all is well with the world, Crazy Horse can get there but Hawkwind do it almost without thought on a good day.

Hawkwind while a bunch of anarcho hippies did not have that slightly fey west coast hippy vibe, they looked like they may destroy your town when they arrived and you would feel good about it after they leave. They were more influenced by the metronomic music of German rock music such as Amon Duul, Neu and Can. They were relentless in their drive and their search for the perfect trance like moment. Space Ritual is the epitome of this but Hall of the Mountain Grill is my album.

I remember the strange days of my teen life crouched around a pye record player listening to a borrowed scratched copy of the album. Trying to understand what was going on and almost succeeding. I read the entire Hawkmoon trilogy by Michael Moorcock to this album.hawkmoon And then I got to that point in my Eternal Champion reading and I knew I had to get the album again before I started so off I went searching it out and buying it for the 5th or 6th time in my life. It is one of those audiophile 180gm vinyl versions, They have spread it over two albums and it has lost some magic because of this, they should have kept the original package. Audiophile and Hawkwind are two words that do not make sense.

The album sounds great from that 1st wash of synth and the riff to the ending insanity of Paradox but it was never a double album, it was 40 minutes of perfection and now we have extra tracks and alternate versions stretching it out.

Oh well it is still my Hawkwind, raucous and comforting, dangerous and safe all at the same time, as my friend Greg would say, it’s the dialectic man don’t you get it?

Or in the words if Dave Brock:

You think you know the answers but we don’t tell no lies
We can take you anyway thro’ seven different highs
World turned upside down now, there’s nothing else
to do, but live in concrete jungles, but they block up the views

These Fifty Years

So I have entered my fiftieth year, and along with that realisation came all the insecurities and celebrations that go along with it, So begins the mid-life crisis with two maybe three projects that are not necessarily incompatible.

The first is to practice mindfulness on a regular basis and live more in the moment and experience the simple joy of living. Something that my family will benefit from as much as me but is more of a struggle than you may imagine.

The second is to read Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion sequence in order.

The third is to take the time to gather my absolute favorite albums on vinyl and enjoy them.

January and February have been something of preparation for this adventuree.

The Moorcock has been bought and stacked on the bookshelf. It all looks really impressive, a necessary mix of hard and paper back but it is all there, the only exception being Earl Aubec which is in a different addition but I was not able to get myself to pay so much as 80 dollars for a book, although I came close. I began the reading with the Eternal Champion Omnibus, remembering almost every line as I went, playing Hawkwind and Uriah Heep as  I read, memories of those teen years when I discovered Moorcock and Hawkwind almost the same month.Then I began Von Bek, a much more serious book, darker, richer and more mysterious. Almost immediately Tom discovered these books and began to read them as well, something that instantly made me feel closer to him. As you can see there are gaps on that shelf.

Moorcock

Along the way I started buying vinyl with no turntable in place. Goodwill can be a terrible place. Well there are two turntables  in my home but they belong to Tom and Chris and I wanted this to be my experience with my equipment. I immersed myself in reviews of turntables. Which one was best, direct drive over belt driven, vintage over new. I read again and again how this is an expensive hobby and not for the feint hearted. I looked on craigslist, made plans thought about it agonized and realized I am not necessarily an audiophile and had never really been one. Yes I had always had good stereos but not the most expensive. In a house with five stereos it seemed overkill to head down the expensive road, I also looked at some of the vinyl I had brought from the UK and realized it was all in very good shape particularly considering how it had been played over the years. So those mid-price turntables of the past did not destroy that precious vinyl so it may be a safe gamble.

So the decision was made, get the best quality entry level belt driven deck I could find, I had no intention of using the deck to scratch so belt driven was the preference, also they have less interference. Then which one, no usb turntable, I have some of these albums on CD and mp3 already so why would I rip them, also the desire was to experience the past on some level to revel in the warmth of vinyl. I also wanted an internal pre-amp, so much easier. Again more reviews and then the finances hit in so I got the Audio Technica ATLP60, the reviews were generally good, apart from the audiophiles who are convinced that this deck will tear your vinyl to shreds and leave you with bleeding ears. Yes I know it has limitations and that as I get obsessed with vinyl I may have to upgrade, Ben is counting on this so he can have the turntable.

 

vinylWell I am sure if I spent two times or four times as much as the $60 I did that I would be happier, spending makes us all happy at the end of the day doesn’t it? It sounds great, that rich warmth of vinyl, occasional pops and clicks included, despite the Bose speakers is an all enveloping experience. But that spending may have labeled me a hipster wannabe.

So then all I have to decide is what are those albums that mean the most to me so I can play them on this fine machine, This is made difficult by having given the majority of my albums to Tom and Chris over the years. I may have to buy them over time which could be fun. Also you have to be careful of what pressing you get, going analog means just that and avoiding those digital transfers to vinyl. Heavens there is so much to think about. They will however be records that have meaning to me not necessarily the greatest records ever made. I do have a liking for the Kinks Preservation Act albums and Floyd’s The Final Cut so you never know what you may see.

Well the mindfulness part may be the most difficult right now. Although listening to an album is a mindfulness exercise, it is much more focused an experience than mp3’s or CD’s in the car. The fact of the muscle memory of placing the disc on the turntable, sitting and listening and then flipping every 15-20 minutes, very relaxing almost like visiting another time period.

Played so far:

Al Stewart, Love Chronicles, Zero She Flies and Orange

Neil Young, After the Goldrush

CSNY, 4Way Street

Yes, They Yes Album

Most of the Time

The thing about being a child of the late 70s and 80s is that the perception is there was no good music. The sixties had the revolution of music, the 70’s had the excesses of rock and then the purge of punk. The eighties according to most writers had post punk and little else of note. How sad to be defined as after something else, of course we brought this upon ourselves with New Romantics, awful synths and gated drums. The decade fashion forgot etc. the slurs go on and on. Forever defined musically as the moment between punk and grunge that had no redeeming features. Well as one who lived through the rejected decade I have to say there was some good in there, yes you had to search between Wham and Duran Duran but it was there honest.

I remember a summer spent on the LLeyn Peninsula in North Wales, all I had for company was a copy of Pink Floyd’s the Wall, Rumours  and Live by Fleetwood Mac and every science fiction novel they had for sale in small gift shops at the beach. It was a heavenly summer, the one that stands in my mind as perfect.Llyn peninsula Two weeks in a small cottage in Wales, with no worries, I think it was the year before O. Levels so it was relatively stress free, the next year I was waiting for O. Level results, it rained continuously and the house felt like the walls were closing in. That was the year we went home early, never to go back to that house.

Back to 1981, Ghost Town by the Specials on the radio everywhere we went, that and I Don’t Like Monday’s by the Boom Town Rats which was the song most often played on the pub juke box my parents dragged me to some evenings. All the girls seemed to be wearing yellow that year and have Stevie Nick’s hair. Sat on the beach I read Philip K. Dick, Clarke, Heinlein and as much Moorcock as I could find, I swam in the cold Irish Sea, snorkeled around the crusted rocks and sank the stupid canoe, climbed on cliff faces, fished with my Dad and learned how to cook crab. It was that idyllic summer that in a Stephen King novel would have turned to terror but in reality was just a wonderful lazy summer that you forever try to reach again. I don’t think my parents ever realized what they gave me although I have tried to tell them.

Which all has nothing to do with the music of the eighties in the end apart from to say those albums are etched in my mind as the soundtrack to my youth. In 1982 I went to Cropredy and then other festivals throughout the decade. I was introduced to Richard Thompson’s music and discovered a more roots based music than my contemporaries were listening too. I also became a pretentious ass, preferring the Barrett Floyd to the Gilmour/Waters version which meant I had to listen to the Dark Side of the Moon and Animals in the closet.

The music I remember from that era now is Julian Cope, the Teardrop Explodes, the Icicle Works and Waterboys and also Robyn Hitchcock. I still return to that music even now. I also have a fondness for Here and Now who seemed to be on every festival stage passing the hat around.  My wife was very much in the Benatar, Idol, Journey and Foreigner camp. I remember listening and on strange occasions dancing to it in smoky Liverpool clubs but have to admit I don’t return to it. The biggest musical constants in my life though had to Fairport Convention and Hawkwind. I always seemed to be going to a Hawkwind gig or planning for the next and saving for Cropredy, or going to the seemingly endless tours a band that had split up constantly was on.

It could be a little odd at times to watch your peers succumbing to the synth pop agenda, of course now I can enjoy Depeche Mode and Ultravox along with Japan and the others but at the time it was anathema. So I ended up spending time looking for those lost gems of the 70’s and 60’s and actually becoming more pretentious than my lip stick wearing contemporaries, it also meant I missed out on the Jam, Elvis Costello and other joys through having my head so far up my own behind. I did allow myself as mentioned earlier to enjoy some contemporary music but it had to be performed by relative failures, if it was on top of the pops it sucked if it was on the Tube it was cool etc.

Anyway here is the mix of what I was allowing people to know what I was listening to during that weird strange period. As I made this I realized that with the exception of Hitchcock and the Icicle Works I discovered most of the other music of the eighties once the period was over. I guess I was more pretentious than I realized, although that may be the reason for a blog at the end of the day.

The mix:  https://anonfiles.com/file/fb2b53d006e85fdf82774ffedb437222

 

 

Play Me My Song

Been a few weeks, it’s not like I was busy I just had little or really nothing to say.

There has been much music and a few books, the books are mostly about work, Farrell’s the Myth of Male Power and Gurian’s How Do I Help Him? Both are really useful if you live with a man or boy, or work with one.

With science fiction. I became disappointed by Frederick Pohl’s Gateway, it was an incredible idea but the main character was so unlikable.gateway It was set in a universe were humanity was a disposable commodity, starvation the norm and medical care something to be striven for, far too close to reality at times maybe? It’s a shame as I’ve really enjoyed the other Pohl books I’ve read.

It  has been a struggle to read, I have spent much more time watching TV, Glee, Once Upon A Time, the new season of Grimm and the new Sherlock Holmes show Elementary, although there is no need for the Sherlock connection apart from to attract an audience which I guess it did with me. Most promising worst TV has to be Arrow, it’s so out there and yet cliched that we may become hooked and another season of Being Human.

Thanksgiving has now come and gone, the turkey, well most of it, is eaten and all that is left is the remains. The carcass may be destined for soup but by then we may be tired of turkey all together. It was a good day and as an Englishman living in the USA it is my favorite holiday as there is no pressure to bring a gift for anyone.

Musically it has been a Genesis fest,revisitiedI am not ready to admit that Duke is my favorite but it is the one I know all the words to. This all began with Steve Hackett’s latest Genesis revisited album. Out of curiosity I bought it and the versions on the album were so close but the singing so different I had to revisit the originals. Of course Gabriel’ s  reading of the lyrics will always be the best but Hackett has managed to revisit the songs with enough passion to make the album enjoyable.

Genesis are a band I have obsessed over as much if not more than Fairport Convention and Pink Floyd. They are also the band I have managed to shamefully hide my love of over the years. Let’s face it they are not as acceptable as most of their much more pompous contemporaries. It is still alright to love Yes, enjoy ELP and King Crimson have become beattified. Genesis however largely because of their success in the 80’s have become the prog band everyone loves to ridicule. Even in their 80’s shame they could still knock out Mama or Heathaze, yes they would never sing about giant plants, supper, or mythical beasts but they could still crack the 8 minute barrier when they wanted to and the magic of Genesis was always the melodies. Even if their guitarist invented tapping they were never going to shake their heads although their lead singer might fly and wear a flower or foxes head and a dress.

Genesis were never as flamboyant as a whole, they left that up to the singer.gen gabriel They did however always have a pop sensibility that could be heard in their melodies. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway may be an almost indecipherable prog rock masterpiece but it is filled with 4-5 minute classic songs, the longest being In The Cage. It is a series of short songs tied together by an at best tenuous story, and what other English band would attempt to write the bizarre story of a Puerto Rican punk sucked into the underworld from Times Square. Carpet Crawlers, Fly On A Windshield and the others are all great songs that do not rely on the story to carry them, they succeed almost despite the story.

When Gabriel left the melodies remained and the costumes and theatrics left, Collins filled the void with his charm. For some reason Collins is blamed for the demise of Genesis but they entered their most successful phase with him out front. Yes they got more approachable as a band but they always acknowledged their prog roots, live and even on record. We Can’t Dance had Fading Lights to end the album, it was a brave move for a “pop” band to throw a 10 minute track on an album, Invisible Touch had Domino and the Genesis album had Home By The Sea and 2nd Home By the Sea, all adventurous tracks nestled among the pop songs.

gensis collinsThe Collin’s years also had A Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering, two albums filled with progressive masterpieces such as One For The Vine, Ripples and so many others. Live they were still knocking out White Mountain and Supper’s Ready almost to the end. The true reason for fans distaste is that they actually progressed as a band and allowed their love of pop music to spill out and become part of their sound. Without some of that awful 80’s production the albums would have sounded so much better but that was the time.

Well this post has been a long time coming. It’s kind of fun to put my love of Genesis out there. I watched Prog Rock Brittania the other day on youtube, it’s a fascinating look at the Prog movement and how it is viewed as the porn of music, anyway take a look it;s wirth the hour and a half:

If after all that you want to listen to Genesis here is my considered list:

Nursery Cryme

Foxtrot

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

Wind and Wuthering

Seconds Out

Duke

Of course you could just go an immerse yourself in the music and have fun with all the albums.

I started writing this in November and so much has happened since then, anyway my hope for this New Year is that we pay attention this year to our similarities and not be so focused on our differences and that politicians can look beyond their reelection hopes.

Slide Through My Fingers

The great musical journey continues along with the reading, sometimes at the same time.

The music today has been Tame Impala, an Australian band that is at times channeling Pink Floyd and T-Rex at the same time. A truly psychedelic experience and nowhere near the list in the 1000 Recordings book but hey this is my journey.

So it’s Tame Impala and the self titled ep, it’s strange to call a CD an ep, as that was originally an extra play single  usually  four songs instead of two, in the 80’s they always seemed to be of the 12 inch variety and have pointlessly meandering remixes or extended versions, these are now what fills up the “deluxe” edition of any CD that gets the “deluxe” treatment.

Tame Impala-Lonerism was next which definitely has expanded on the sonic palette of the ep. Much more of a Flaming Lips feel to this one but definitely worth the listen.

The drive into work was accompanied by Crosby Stills and Nash, which really is a masterpiece, well the drive was only Suite: Judy Blue Eyes but I did hear the rest driving around.

Reading wise the science fiction continues, I have been reading Gavin Smith’s military science fiction novel Veteran. I am only about a third of the way into it but the characters are engaging and I have no idea were the story is going which for military science fiction is a good thing. A strange war in space being fought by modified humans who when they reach the end of usefulness are discarded by the government to live in squalor, and in the case of Jacob the main character knowing they can be brought back into service.

At the same time I continue with the Neil Young biography. Diversions and then information in equal measure.

Should have been a no-brainer, David Byrne and Brian Eno My Life In The Bush of Ghosts, two geniuses playing off each other. It’s universally acclaimed but just left me cold. I get the idea world music and electronica but for me it just does not work, it’s too difficult, too clever, too self conscious. I’m not sure what it is but I love both these artists and am a little saddened I did not get this. I can’t even say it was a brave attempt although there must be something there for so many to rave about it. Or maybe it’s a big joke and we have been convinced by the hype that we should like it.

Another hyped album though with Todd by Todd Rundgren, again it’s taken awhile but I finally took the plunge and it is a collection of quirky and inventive pop songs that are captivating as well as challenging.

More normal has been Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall in 1971, this a great document of the early Neil Young, many songs from the first four albums performed solo. It is amazing that this album took so long to be released and makes you question what else is hiding out in the archives on the ranch. I’ve been avoiding Neil Young since beginning the book, mainly because I can become a little obsessed at times and did not want to be a total freak for a week.

Playing the whole album is difficult it seems. I have become so used to the constant change of sounds that it’s a little hard to stay  in the moment with an album. I hear moments that make me want to skip to another artist as my mind has been triggered, Playing CSN always reminds me of Yes, I think Anderson and co. must have been listening to the harmonies on the first CSN album when they recorded The Yes Album. The urge to search out Yes halfway through Lady of the Islands was almost overwhelming. I have always had the tendency to flit around often not even listening to the whole song. This has apparently got worse over the most recent years. This may be a useful discipline to practice, listening.

To finish the week off in the Jeep was Bongo Fury by Zappa and Beefheart. It’s amusing to me that once you own a Wrangler it’s no longer the car, or truck but the Jeep. Bongo Fury was particularly fun as I pulled into the bank that was having a Justin Bieber promotional event, I have no idea why. The look of confusion on the attendees face was worth going to the bank for, there was a moment of disgust at the strangeness of the rhythms and then Beefhearts voice took it over the edge.

Then there was Green on Reds No Free Lunch, haven’t heard them since the 90’s but some great memories of dancing in the dark at the Bierkeller on Mt. Pleasant in Liverpool. This was a fun place I almost remember seeing Big Audio Dynamite and many a Roy Haper gig here.

Saturday night was finished off with Michael Chapman’s Fully Qualified Survivor. This is a great folk-rock album although some would like to call it psych-folk whatever that means.

I just realized I could get really pretentious doing this, so I’m going to do my best not to. There are so many albums I have never gone near or been afraid of going near, so the library will get a work out for sure. There is also so much new music being produced that it could get confusing.

I finished the Neil Young book this afternoon. It was a great ride, repetitive at times although I cannot Imagine it being edited. A real attempt by Neil to settle some rumors and come to terms with some tough decisions and losses in his life.

Children of the Revolution

Reading, I finished Snow Crash. It is a good book, although I’m confused why it ended the way it did. I’m not going to spoil the story as it is so good but why after such a roller coaster ride did Stephenson end the joy-ride so abruptly? Stephenson created with this book a truly unique look at the future, franchised corporate states with the US government reduced to piece work programming for a crazy preacher and the mafia being the most ethical force around.

It’s a book full of humor and fun, let’s face it the main character is called Hiro Protagonist. It’s a sardonic take on the cyberpunk genre without overdoing it. There are some interesting and engaging characters and the ultimate in bad boy villain with Raven and YT the ultimate take on skater girl. As with any Neal Stephenson book it’s jam packed with ideas that you have to remember the age of the book to appreciate. One of the challenges for science fiction authors in the modern age has to be how fast technology moves today. What may have been a cutting edge idea at conception could be old hat by the time the book is published.

The joy of this book is evident form page one, which may be one of the best introductions of any new character. It’s also unusual for Stephenson not too long a book, he has taken to stretching his books to 1000 plus pages recently so Snow Crash’ modest size makes it manageable.

The to be read pile is growing exponentially it seems, this week I finally opened Icerigger by Alan dean Foster and it has got off to a good fast paced beginning. Foster is one of those authors who has written so many books it is hard to know where to begin. He has done more movie novelizations than any author  think. I do however have good memories of Icerigger from my teen years so it will be good to see if it lives up to the memory.

Right to Decide

So this week I bought a Jeep Wrangler, well the head gasket went in the 4Runner and the radiator was cracked in two places, all the hoses were leaking, the A.C. no longer worked and it was going to cost more than the vehicle was worth to fix it. So we had to go car shopping, something a little larger than my wife’s Corolla so we can get everyone in and go camping, hopefully with OK gas mileage. Well that never worked out, it’s smaller in some ways than the 4Runner, has the same gas mileage and now we have a car payment.

It’s the four door version so on some level and in some quarters is not a true jeep but what the heck some people think Coors light is beer. Yes I know it’s a gas guzzling monster and in this time of high gas prices and green awareness it was a bad decision, I really should have bought the hybrid, or the focus. I know it’s loud on the freeway and the soft top will probably leak during rainstorms, it will be cold in the winter and I will be judged by the people I pass, or more likely am passed by, but I have to admit I couldn’t resist. The whole concept appealed to my inner child, or mid-life crisis, that and finally coming to realize I was never going to buy a Land Rover Defender when a ’93 was going for $32,000. So I bought a Jeep. Here it is in the dealership.

Then all of a sudden you realize that there are all sorts of things you need to do, it’s needs a small lift maybe, new tires, an antenna that is not 5 feet long and distracting while driving, a roof rack, harness for the dog and on and on and on.

Buyers remorse set in until the first time I took the top down, it only took an hour to get down due to inexperience and the confusing directions in the manual. Don’t ask about the confusion putting it up. I had never driven a convertible before. It’s fun to drive and of course people wave to you. Then you start to rationalize, I can go 4 wheeling, back country driving will be more exciting with the top down than it was in the 4Runner, but ultimately it’s just plain fun, and it didn’t leak in the rain storm and the heater is powerful so it’s not cold.Then there is the fact that when society collapses due to zombies, pandemic disease, Triffids and bright comets then we are already 50%  better equipped to escape the town on the back roads of Oregon, as long as it is not an EM pulse. Now I have to find the survival kit to be fully prepared.

There is of course the reading, constant and at times potentially intrusive but as I will no longer be able to afford to leave our house in the new vehicle because of the car payment it’s good there are lots of books.

The last couple of weeks have seen the end of Inverted World by Christopher Priest which was an interesting account of a city travelling out of sync with it’s world. It also seemed to be about imperialism and it’s affect on indigenous populations, especially when they are faced with a more technologically advanced society. It was a fun read Priest definitely writes with skill as he should considering some of the scathing criticism he directs at others.

The biggest surprise however for me was Lloyd Biggle Jr’s Monument. This was a book filled with humor and wisdom and managed to pack a lot into 200 or so pages. Again Biggle is a new author to me and I was pleasantly surprised at how well he writes. Written in 1974 the story like Inverted World deals with a more advanced societies impact on an indigenous population. In Monument however the natives are lucky enough to have a Plan handed down to them by their Langri. This is a story with a message but it is delivered with humor and compassion, there are also a few plot twists that make for a great book.

 

I also managed to begin Icerigger by Alan Dean Foster and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Icerigger is an old favorite that has been waiting to be reread and I am looking forward to it, especially as I have the other two books in the trilogy now. I have been looking for a reasonably priced copy of Snow Crash and finally found one in a Goodwill store for $2.99. Snow Crash is also this months modern read at the Classic Science fiction Yahoo group,  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ClassicScienceFiction/, were it has already caused a little stir because of it’s stylistic elements and Stephenson’s writing style. I have enjoyed all the Stephenson books I have read so far, the Baroque Cycle may be one of the greatest series of books I have ever read, but he can at times be a bit too clever for his own good.

All in all it’s been a good couple of weeks, the garden is coming along well although I think I only planted onions and beans this year for some reason. It was also a reasonably good haul at used bookstores this last couple of weeks which have filled up the space on the fireplace. The ax is obviously in case of zombie attack,  the gold piggy bank is the book fund and the Costa Rica book is for Michelle and Ben who go to Costa Rica next summer and are super excited about it as they should be.

Social Alliance

Passing time reading books is one of the pleasures of my life. I have a hard time sitting still so it can be a challenge just to sit down, the one thing that can make it happen is the re-reading of an old favorite. I never had this difficulty earlier in life, easily finding time to read, now I have to make time and too often that time is at the end of the day when I am tired and not at my best to pay attention to the  book as well as I should.

The Day of the Triffids is the book I think I have read the most over the years, more than Lord of the Rings and more than any Heinlein although Tunnel In The Sky must come close. I have owned nine different copies and they have either fallen apart or been given away to other deserving owners. The book grabbed my attention from the start and has all 20 times I have been on the journey with Bill and Josella. From the age of about 12 I began every summer holiday with reading it, it was how I knew summer was here in a way, I also began every spring with Meddle by Pink Floyd and ended the Summer with Heavy Horses by Jethro Tull, so as you can see I was a child of traditions. Every year I wondered what life would be like without all the clutter of society, of course it would be a safe life so I could catch up on the reading and listening to all those things I’d missed.

Day of the Triffids and The Death of Grass by John Christopher are the best examples of what Brian Aldiss called the “cosey catastrophe” were life was dramatically changed but the survivors were able to have enough left over from the past to continue to live comfortably. There is little violence in Day of the Triffids  that is motivated by greed apart form the group in Brighton and the red haired thug who later joins them. It is really a book about ideas on how society would need to respond to adversity to survive. The Death of Grass has much more violence, ending in the ultimate betrayal in a sense in order to survive. This betrayal was repeated in Darin Bradley’s Noise which is a more modern take on the collapse and a good example of the direction this genre has taken.

Gone are the contemplative arguments on the need for leisure time and multiple wives, no longer do character’s agonize over taking what they need in the face of collapse and predatory plants are replaced by zombies lurking in the dark corners of the garden. It is probably a case of genre stories reflecting the society they are written in. Post-war England of ration cards and reasonable behavior and doing what is necessary no longer exists. The world Wyndham and Christopher wrote about in the 50’s  has changed to a much more dark world.

Zelazny saw this in Damnation Alley in 67 with his character Hell Tanner having to kill or be killed to survive in the post-nuclear wasteland. Cormac McCarthy’s the Road is a bleak novel of everything gone and predation being the only way of surviving and constant movement being the only way of staying safe. All these books emphasize the individual or the small group/family unit rather than an attempt to rebuild we have survival as the goal. This is similar to Earth Abides when Ish realizes all he can do for his descendants is give them the necessary skills to feed themselves and in the long run their ancestors will rebuild. Martin does have hope in Earth Abides but it is the long view.

I still remember those Summers of laying on the grass and hoping for the end of the world so I could read all those books and not have to go back to school in six weeks. Having read more images of collapse now as an adult I don’t necessarily think I want to be around without a bunker, enough food and plenty of heavy duty weaponry so I can be safe and read.

This last few weeks reading has been:

Day of The Triffids-John Wyndham

Who Fears of Death-Nnedi Okorafor

Deathworld 1,2  and 3- Harry Hasrrison

Inverted World-Christopher Priest still in progress.

All these books are stories of humanity attempting to overcome the challenges of it’s world, whether  that is man made, natural or the adversity of a belligerent indigenous wild life and population. It’s been a couple of weeks of armchair survivalism.