Why am I here to relate the destruction of the best hope and the purest creature on earth? She was there, lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down and her pale and distorted features half covered by her hair. Everywhere I turn I see the same figure--her bloodless arms and relaxed form flung by the murderer on its bridal bier. Could I behold this and live? Alas! Life is obstinate and clings closest where it is most hated. For a moment only did I lose recollection; I fell senseless on the ground. - Victor Frankenstein after the murder of Elizabeth by the creature.
The first thing that the reader understands is that the climate has changed drastically, obliterating once coastal cities and warming the Earth to such a degree that living in the open air is unhealthy and uncomfortable. A small number of priviledged families have escaped this discomfort by existing in self-contained compounds while profiting from those less fortunate and less esteemed than themselves. This larger portion of the population lives in the “Pleeblands,” an uncontrolled area riddled with crime and poverty.
Another major theme of the book is the negative effect that bioengineering could potentially have on the ecosystem and society if driven only by profit and without ethical consideration. There are several instances where the reader views scientists inflicting greater harm on the system in an attempt to right previous blunders or to “improve” the lives of human beings. Atwood's dialogue can be heavy-handed at times, but I didn't find it at all off-putting. In fact, I found that she often did well in pointing out how convenience and a situation where demand is greater than supply can lead to some rather absurd ideas on how to “fix” things.
One complaint that I initially had regarding this book is the lack of discussion of some of the characters' motivations, but the more that I think about it, the more that I feel that it's not important to Atwood's message. I'm not going to go into detail, which would result in spoilers, but I will say that I don't think it really matters if the intentions are good or bad when the result of an act destroys the entire world... I mean really, at that point, it's a little late to determine whether or not something was a good idea. Snowman certainly didn't get the chance to fully understand it, and this is his story.
Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep Space is my dwelling place
Death my destination
Gully Foyle has been stranded in deep space on the wreckage of the ship Nomad for 170 days. He has managed to survive by living in the only airtight space left on the ship and scavaging for food and air tanks within the short intervals that his air supply will allow. When a sister ship finally arrives and then abandons Gully to his fate, a murderous rage drives him to affect his own rescue and persue those who have abandoned him.
Thus marks the beginning of The Stars my Destination by Alfred Bester, which flowers into an intriguing tale about a future when humans have colonized the inner planets and several moons of jupiter. I don't want to say anything else about the plot, because I don't want to give any spoilers, but I will say that this is a compelling book that kept me reading at the expense of both food and sleep. Highly recommended.
"The Ghost Pirates . . . is a powerful account of a doomed and haunted ship on its last voyage, and of the terrible sea-devils (of quasi-human aspect, and perhaps the spirits of bygone buccaneers) that besiege it and finally drag it down to an unknown fate. With its command of maritime knowledge, and its clever selection of hints and incidents suggestive of latent horrors in nature, this book at times reaches enviable peaks of power."
"People love Pluto, children identify with its smallness," she writes. "Adults relate to its inadequacy, its marginal existence as a misfit." Sobel has several solar system models in her house. Asked if she had torn Pluto off any of them, she said "No, Pluto is definitely there."Not being a scientist, I don't have an opinion one way another about whether this particular definition is a good one, but I do have to ask how a child's love of Pluto relates to science?
Two friends take a fishing vacation in a remote part of Ireland, and they stumble across the crumbling ruins of a stone house which has been overtaken by the foliage of a long untended garden. The house sits at the edge of a deep chasm into which flows a river of subterranean origin and also, as we soon find out, acts as a door to another dimension.
Within the rubble, the two men find the journal of an old man who once lived in the house, and they take the journal back to their campsite for further perusal. The tale that resides inside of that age-worn book is a masterpiece of the weird.
Imagine watching billions of years pass before your eyes in a matter of days, and you'll get the vaguest sense of the apocalyptic imagery that exists within this book. It's both haunting and surreal, and the story even features a chilling cameo by that darling of India, Kali the destroyer.
The only thing that I didn't care for is the inclusion of the ethereal love interest, and that's mostly because it was terribly underdeveloped. The reader gets a better sense of the relationship between the main character and the dog, Pepper (who I really liked). Had Hodgson left the romance bit out, this book would have been nearly perfect.
An online version of the text can be found at Project Gutenberg.
About a month ago my husband and I watched Mesmer and became completely infatuated with a musical instrument that appeared in the film. It was composed of nested cylinders of glass which were rotated on a spindle, and at the touch of human hands, vibrated in much the same way that a wine glass vibrates when you run a wet finger along the rim.
At the time, we didn't realize that this instrument is called the Glass Armonica, and it was invented by Ben Franklin in 1761. He had heard another artist playing the wine glasses, and he decided that he could devise an instrument that would have the same qualities but with greater functionality.
The instrument became very popular in its day, and it's history is nearly as interesting as the sound that it creates. Several artists, including Mozart and Beethoven, composed pieces for the Glass Armonica, and Marie Antoinette took Armonica lessons, however, the instrument began to lose its popularity when rumours began to spread inferring that the instrument was a cause of insanity.
According to the German musicologist, Friedrich Rochlitz:
There may be various reasons for the scarcity of armonica players, principally the almost universally shared opinion that playing it is damaging to the health, that it excessively stimulates the nerves, plunges the player into a nagging depression and hence into a dark and melancholy mood, that it is an apt method for slow self-annihilation… Many (physicians with whom I have discussed this matter) say the sharp penetrating tone runs like a spark through the entire nervous system, forcibly shaking it up and causing nervous disorders.
As these types of rumours continued to spread, the popularity of the instrument waned, but it's still possible to purchase one, and there are still composers such as William Zeitler who claim the Glass Armonica as their primary instrument. I definitely recommend checking out Mr. Zeitler's site, as it's filled with interesting historical information about the instrument.
Also, if you'd like to hear the glass armonica, there's an article at PBS.org that has a soundclip.
There's also an interactive “virtual armonica” that you can play.