The Man From Primrose Lane by James Renner

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Man From Primrose LaneThe au­thor of this book, James Renner, is a friend of mine.

Reading this book is like watch­ing a freight train bar­rel to­ward you and be­ing un­able to move, while re­mem­ber­ing a time in your past when you watched a freight train bar­rel to­ward you, on­ly to wake up to find out there’s a freight train bar­rel­ing to­ward you.

This is the kind of nov­el that should ap­peal to any­one, and the in­gre­di­ents it con­tains that aren’t to your taste should be more than made up for by the things that are. There are three acts with a few in­ter­ludes, and by the third act, I was so hooked that I read the last 100 pages in a sit­ting.

It is a deeply per­son­al, emo­tion­al­ly-charged mur­der mystery/​thriller about an in­ves­tiga­tive journalist/​writer and his search for a se­ri­al rapist & mur­der­er of lit­tle red­head­ed girls. Sorta. If Raymond Chandler had writ­ten it, that’s all it would be about. It’s al­so a nov­el about how in­ter­nal dark­ness cre­ates ex­ter­nal demons. Partially. If Stephen King had writ­ten it, that’s what it would be about. But James Renner wrote this, so it’s about those things, and much more; ob­ses­sion, re­demp­tion, fate, phi­los­o­phy, fu­til­i­ty and hope in the face of it. There are al­so plen­ty of east­er eggs for folks who live in or are fa­mil­iar with Northeast Ohio.

This isn’t nor­mal­ly the kind of nov­el that I read, so it took me awhile to get in the groove with the in­tri­cate de­tail and char­ac­ter­i­za­tion sup­plied dur­ing the ini­tial ex­po­si­tion. I found my­self won­der­ing if all this de­tail was tru­ly nec­es­sary (it is), then that ground­work starts pay­ing off over and over again. I had to keep putting the book down to calm down, such was the deeply per­son­al im­pact that the char­ac­ters ac­tions have up­on each oth­er. The struc­ture of the ex­po­si­tion places events that oc­cur at very dif­fer­ent mo­ments in the past and fu­ture con­cur­rent to each oth­er. This re­sults in two things: 1) over­whelm­ing dra­mat­ic irony and 2) the nov­el be­comes some­thing ak­in to time trav­el, ini­tial­ly sim­i­lar to the way that Gene Wolfe’s Peace is a time trav­el nov­el.

So if you want your heart-strings tuned, some ex­er­cise for your adren­al glands, your tear ducts flushed, your ac­tion packed and your food thought­ful, read this book.

Science Fiction Book Club List: The Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years, 1953 – 2002

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

The Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years, 1953 – 2002

I fi­nal­ly man­aged to track down every book on the above list, many are/​were un­for­tu­nate­ly out of print. But I did it. I’ve read them all. Mini-Reviews of all 50 are in­side.

  1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. TolkienI’ve bab­bled on about this book and au­thor far too much. Many peo­ple have no de­sire to read it be­cause so many peo­ple go on and on about it. If any­thing, it be­longs at the top of this list sim­ply be­cause its suc­cess as a pub­li­ca­tion showed pub­lish­ers that mon­ey could, in fact, be made from sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy in book form. It wasn’t just for the pulps any­more.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, Roverandom, On Fairy Stories

  2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac AsimovNearly as im­pres­sive as LotR, The Foundation Series and Asimov him­self are re­spon­si­ble for adding a new lay­er of com­plex­i­ty to sci­ence fic­tion, the gen­re ma­tured from ju­ve­nile es­capism in the pulps to com­plex po­lit­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tives. The Foundation Series is a prime ex­am­ple of the ef­fec­tive use of spec­u­la­tive fic­tion as a re­flec­tion of our own so­ci­ety.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Caves of Steel, I, Robot

  3. Dune, Frank Herbert

    I read this book my fresh­man year of high school. I re­mem­ber not lik­ing it. I prob­a­bly missed some of the eco­nom­ic im­por­tance among all the messianic/​prophetic hul­lab­u­loo and sand­worm rid­ing and nukes mak­ing people’s eyes melt. I should prob­a­bly read it again, but I don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly have any de­sire to do so. Lots of peo­ple like it and it was made in­to an aw­ful movie, so I guess it has some worth.
  4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein

    One of the must-reads for the sex­u­al rev­o­lu­tion in the 1960s, Stranger in a Strange Land seems some­what sim­ple now that AIDS is every­where. Nevertheless, the book is still quite pow­er­ful on many dif­fer­ent lev­els, na­ture vs. nu­ture, sex­u­al pro­cliv­i­ties, can­ni­bal taboos, you name it. Throughout the book the read­er is chal­lenged to eval­u­ate each as­pect of cul­ture by see­ing it through strange but sim­i­lar eyes.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Starship Troopers

  5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin

    Anything writ­ten by Ursula K. Le Guin is worth read­ing. A Wizard of Earthsea is a great, easy-to-read com­ing of age tale with a non-white pro­tag­o­nist [quite the dar­ing thing to do at the time] that del­i­cate­ly nav­i­gates the treach­er­ous wa­ters of ado­les­cence and man­ages to im­part a strong and healthy mes­sage with­out sound­ing parental.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Lathe of Heaven, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Birthday of the World and Other Stories

  6. Neuromancer, William Gibson

    I’ve not read much cy­ber­punk, so I’ve not read much Gibson. This was one of the first books I read when I start­ed the list. If I re­mem­ber cor­rect­ly, this tech­no-cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety is alot like or­ga­nized crime, and the main char­ac­ter is a sort of junkie drug-run­ner equiv­a­lent com­put­er hack­er, lots of cool tech and cool-like an­ti­hero­ism.
  7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke

    Arthur C. Clarke is the go-to guy when it comes to writ­ing sto­ries that turn deep tragedy in­to bril­liant pos­si­bil­i­ty. Childhood’s End is prob­a­bly the best ex­am­ple of this. Transcendent hu­man­i­ty is mixed, in­sep­a­ra­bly with the de­struc­tion of al­most every­thing we know as hu­man. A com­pelling read.

    My longer re­viewof Childhood’s End.
    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Rendezvous with Rama, 2001: A Space Odyssey

  8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick

    Philip K. Dick isn’t the best writer, but his cre­ativ­i­ty is so full of mind-bend­ing psy­cho-hor­ror that his sto­ries over­come their words. This book was made in­to the amaz­ing Bladerunner [lots of Dick sto­ries have been made in­to movies, Minority Report, Total Recall, Paycheck, Second Variety] and prob­lems con­cern­ing cre­ation and epis­te­mol­o­gy are ul­ti­mate­ly deemed ir­rel­e­vant in this ex­is­ten­tial mas­ter­piece.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Selected Stories

  9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley

    The on­ly strict­ly fem­i­nist book on this list, I didn’t like it too much. Of course, I’m not re­al­ly the au­di­ence, but I thought that the wom­en, while puis­sant-willed, ul­ti­mate­ly be­came the things MZB was op­pos­ing. To me they seemed bitchy and ma­nip­u­la­tive, and while it could be ar­gued that was their on­ly way to have pow­er, it still re­in­forces stereo­types. Nevertheless, more books with fe­male pro­tag­o­nists would be wel­come.
  10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

    This book is stan­dard high school read­ing list fare, but its worth lasts un­to adult­hood as well. The re­pres­sive so­ci­ety re­minds me quite a bit of Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron but Bradbury’s tale ends on a slight­ly more hope­ful note. I quite like Bradbury, his writ­ing style hear­kens back to sci­ence fiction’s found­ing fa­thers [Jules Verne, H.G.Wells] but he wrestles with time­less con­cerns and adds an­oth­er di­men­sion to his sto­rys by do­ing so. NB: 1984 [search­able on­line ver­sion!] didn’t make this list be­cause it was pub­lished be­fore 1953.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine

  11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe [1, 2]

    I hadn’t been too in­ter­est­ed in read­ing Gene Wolfe, for no re­al rea­son. I’d been miss­ing a lot. It seems like there are a lot of Catholics writ­ing good sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy, and Gene Wolfe fits that mold. The Book of the New Sun is a four-vol­ume meta­phys­i­cal mas­ter­piece that goes al­ways in un­ex­pect­ed di­rec­tions and has a neb­u­lous sense of agen­cy. One of the best books I read on this list.

    My longer re­view of The Book of the New Sun.

  12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.

    I think Einstein said that World War IV would be fought with sticks and stones, and the post-nu­clear ar­maged­don world in which Walter M. Miller puts us is a car wreck rub­ber­neck­ing read that seems to say fear and jeal­ousy will trump good sense as long as hu­mans are hu­mans. There are sev­er­al morals here, at least one for every­body who reads it.
  13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov

    Where I, Robot main­ly fo­cused on the log­i­cal co­nun­dra of positron­ic ro­bot­ics and the Three Laws of Robotics with a sec­ondary fo­cus on in­ter­ac­tions with hu­man emo­tion, The Caves of Steel of­fers more poignant sto­ries where hu­mans at­tempt to cope with the dis­trust and fear as­so­ci­at­ed with cre­at­ing some­thing su­pe­ri­or to them in all ways.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Foundation Trilogy, I, Robot

  14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras

    This book reads some­what like any oth­er mid-cen­tu­ry child­hood ad­ven­ture book. Except all the kids in this one are su­per­ge­nius­es and were os­ten­si­bly the in­spi­ra­tion for the X-Men. During the Atomic Age ra­dioac­tive ac­ci­dents didn’t al­ways end hor­ri­bly. A nice read, if a bit bland at times.

    My longer re­view of Children of the Atom.

  15. Cities in Flight, James Blish

    This thick book is more a com­bined se­ries of novel­las than any­thing else. Early on it of­fers al­ter­na­tives to the sci­en­tific method but as time pass­es, the mas­tery of an­ti-gravitic spin­dizzies turn hu­man­i­ty in­to the pro­tec­tors of the galaxy, even­tu­al­ly even un­to sac­ri­ficing them­selves as new gods. A Magnum Opus in­deed.
  16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett

    Finally, a bit of hu­mor­ous fan­ta­sy! Terry Pratchett takes the typ­i­cal ab­sur­di­ties of life, mix­es in heavy dos­es of hu­mor and en­light­en­ing satire and pours this sauce over in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters of myr­i­ad va­ri­eties. The re­sult: Tasty treats of books that en­ter­tain and il­lu­mi­nate with­out and sense of heavy­hand­ed­ness. There is al­ways some­thing to laugh about.
  17. Dangerous Visions, edit­ed by Harlan Ellison

    One of the most am­bi­tious an­tholo­gies of all time, this book con­tains pow­er­ful sto­ry af­ter pow­er­ful sto­ry, on all kinds of bizarre and chal­leng­ing top­ics. 35 years lat­er the sto­ries might not seem quite so dan­ger­ous, but the writ­ing and con­tent still sur­prise and af­fect. Ellison in­tro­duces each au­thor and each au­thor has a bit of a foot­note about the sto­ry at the end of each. A must read.
  18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison

    While Dangerous Visions was a mas­ter­piece, this col­lec­tion of short sto­ries by Ellison didn’t do much for me. Each is con­cerned with humanity’s new gods, dark gods for the most part. I didn’t en­joy this book near­ly as much as I en­joyed Ellison’s Strange Wine [and I on­ly en­joyed half of that]. I think Ellison is just too brash for my taste.

    My longer re­viewof Deathbird Stories.
    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Strange Wine

  19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester

    This is a thriller, a jour­ney in­to the pur­ga­to­ry of the mind and a thought­ful ex­plo­ration of what telepa­thy might be ca­pa­ble of. A man with every­thing de­ter­mi­nes to com­mit mur­der and get away with it. If he does not suc­ceed he will be Demolished. That is, have his per­son­al­i­ty ut­ter­ly shat­tered. Will he suc­ceed? Read the book to find out!

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Stars My Destination

  20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany

    In post­mod­ern sci­ence fic­tion with a han­ker­ing to­ward shock and awe through sex­u­al pro­cliv­i­ties, dis­cus­sions on the na­ture of art in a world of warp­ing re­al­i­ties, in a city where build­ings burn and are not con­sumed, and pro­ject­ed im­ages seem more re­al that the gangs who con­trol them, who bet­ter to guide you through this than a filthy am­ne­si­ac mad­man who writes po­et­ry in the cor­ners of a found note­book?

    An ex­cerpt from my fa­vorite part of Dhalgren.

  21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey

    Anne McCaffrey has pro­duced near­ly in­nu­mer­able nov­els about Pern. Dragonflight is the first one, and the on­ly one I’ve read. As books go this one has some cool time and space warp­ing drag­ons an in­ter­est­ing ex­am­ple of cul­tur­al evo­lu­tion and a pret­ty be­liev­able fe­male pro­tag­o­nist. It def­i­nite­ly blurs the lines be­tween sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy and is def­i­nite­ly orig­i­nal in idea, if not ex­act­ly in style.
  22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

    This is more mil­i­tary sci­ence fic­tion, but when it comes to think­ing around things Orson Scott Card man­ages time and again in this book. Ender Wiggin, a ge­net­i­cal­ly bred boy ge­nius is trained to ex­haus­tion in or­der to save hu­mankind from an in­com­ing alien in­va­sion and cer­tain an­ni­hi­la­tion. Another clas­sic must read.
  23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson [1, 2, 3]

    When it comes to atyp­i­cal pro­tag­o­nists, the lep­rous and cow­ard­ly Thomas Covenant takes the cake. While this book could have dealt quite stun­ning­ly with the na­ture of mad­ness and psy­chic trau­ma, it takes a dif­fer­ent path and spends three books wal­low­ing in its own mis­tery. Meh.

    My longer re­view of The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.

  24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman

    In a sense this is more mil­i­tary sci­ence fic­tion, but it is al­so hard sci-fi, tem­po­ral rel­a­tiv­i­ty is the prime mover and cause of more men­tal an­guish [kind of a trend here isn’t there? I won­der if it has to do with the time pe­ri­od the­se books were writ­ten in…] as a space sol­dier spends sev­er­al years sub­jec­tive time fight­ing in dif­fer­ent parts of space, while thou­sands of years pass ob­jec­tive­ly. Haldeman is ex­cel­lent.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: All My Sins Remembered

  25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl

    Space trav­el, ex­plo­ration and mis­un­der­stood alien tech are the heart­wood of this be­gin­ning to Pohl’s tales of hu­man­i­ty and the Heechee. This is a dan­ger-filled ad­ven­ture tale like a walk through dark and strange wood­land.
  26. Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

    Despite its al­most clichéd sta­tus in pop­u­lar cul­ture, the first book in the Harry Potter se­ries was an un­ex­pect­ed de­light for folks of all ages. Just enough hu­mor, just the right mix of fa­mil­iar­i­ty and strange­ness and a very British feel to it make this book a quick and en­joy­able read.
  27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

    Everybody should read the Hitchhiker’s Guide. Don’t Panic, it is more com­e­dy than sci­ence fic­tion, so even if you typ­i­cal­ly as­so­ciate sci-fi with Vogon po­et­ry this book is fun­ny enough for you to for­give it for be­ing out of this world.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide

  28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson

    Richard Matheson wrote lots of stuff for The Twilight Zone, so if you ex­pect I Am Legend to be like that rock­in’ se­ries you’re both right and wrong. This book was made in­to a few movies The Omega Man is the one I’ve seen. Look, it is about the last man on earth when every­one else is a vam­pire. A great book.
  29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice

    Most folks have prob­a­bly seen the movie. This is one of the rare cas­es where I like the movie and the book equal­ly. Anne Rice does an ex­cel­lent job show­ing us what life is like when you are a re­gret­ful he­do­nis­tic vam­pire.
  30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

    The on­ly rea­son I can think of that this book is so far down on the list is that Mrs. Le Guin al­ready has a book in the top five. She seems to chan­nel her an­thro­pol­o­gist fa­ther Al Kroeber in this par­tic­i­pant-ob­server tale of po­lit­i­cal in­trigue in a land where the an­drog­y­ne in­hab­i­tants can take on ei­ther male or fe­male sex­u­al char­ac­ter­is­tics de­pend­ing on their en­vi­ron­ment. Like I said, any­thing she writes is worth a read.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Wizard of Earthsea, The Birthday of the World and Other Stories

  31. Little, Big, John Crowley

    One of the big sur­pris­es on this list is Little, Big. It is an ethe­re­al, me­an­der­ing, mys­te­ri­ous and quite po­tent med­i­ta­tion on re­la­tions be­tween our world and Faery. You can al­most pick it up at any place and start read­ing with­out miss­ing much. A book to read more than on­ce, for sure.
  32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny

    On a plan­et where an im­mor­tal oli­garchy pre­tends to be the Hindu Pantheon, one god, the Lord of Light is con­stant­ly offed and re­born to op­pose them. Should we be sur­prised that he is the Buddha? Not re­al­ly. I don’t think I quite got this book. It was weird. I think I missed the point.
  33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick

    The weakest thing I’ve read by Dick, lots of peo­ple say this is his finest work. It is re­vi­sion­ist his­to­ry as on­ly sci-fi can do it. What if Japan and Germany had won World War II? That is a pret­ty cool idea but Phil spends too much time dick­ing around in mun­dane events and wor­ries for my taste.

    My longer re­view of The Man in the High Castle.
    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Selected Stories

  34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement

    This is hard sci­ence fic­tion with a main char­ac­ter who is ba­si­cal­ly a big olé cen­tipede. It is al­so a sea ad­ven­ture, al­beit on an ovoid plan­et with the strangest grav­i­ty imag­in­able. All the char­ac­ters are out for their own best in­ter­ests which makes for some in­ter­est­ing hag­gling and in­ter­ac­tion.
  35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon

    I re­al­ly like Theodore Sturgeon. His sto­ries are de­cep­tive­ly sim­ple. He hints at things that you on­ly re­al­ize af­ter you put the book down. More than Human is a sto­ry about half-wits and half-hu­mans be­com­ing greater than the sum of their parts, ul­ti­mate­ly ex­ceed­ing their hu­man­i­ty, de­spite or per­haps be­cause of their in­no­cence.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon [10 vol­umes]

  36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith

    This book should be much high­er on the list. It is a col­lec­tion of all of Cordwainer Smith’s short sto­ries. Mr. Smith is re­spon­si­ble for start­ing the sci­ence fic­tion ca­reers of more than a few peo­ple on this list and his 30,000 year chron­i­cle of humanity’s con­stant strug­gle to­ward even it doesn’t know what is orig­i­nal from the first page to the last one. A bit more from me on Cordwainer Smith and a re­view of Norstrilia.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Norstrilia

  37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute

    This book was per­haps the most sur­pris­ing one that I read on this list. I think it should be much high­er. It prob­a­bly isn’t on­ly be­cause it isn’t quite as sci­ence fic­tiony as the oth­ers. It is a heartwrench­ing­ly bru­tal con­tem­po­rary mid-20th cen­tu­ry sto­ry of post-nu­clear an­ni­hi­la­tion in Australia. Australia hasn’t been hit, but the jet stream is slow­ly bring­ing the ra­di­a­tion to the con­ti­nent. Everyone knows they are un­der a death sen­tence. It is an amaz­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing an­ti-war sto­ry that is quite ef­fec­tive at deeply per­son­al lev­el. I need to scrounge up one of the movies [1, 2].
  38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke

    This is more space ex­plo­ration in­volv­ing alien tech­nol­o­gy, on­ly this time the hu­mans are in­sidea mys­te­ri­ous and vast alien craft that con­founds al­most all of their at­tempts to ex­plore it. How do you ex­plore the in­side of a sphere? of a cylin­der?

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Childhood’s End, 2001: A Space Odyssey

  39. Ringworld, Larry Niven

    To quote Niven:

    “I my­self have dreamed up an in­ter­me­di­ate step be­tween Dyson Spheres and plan­ets. Build a ring nine­ty three mil­lion miles in ra­dius — one Earth or­bit — which would make it six hun­dred mil­lion miles long. If we make it a mil­lion mies wide, we get a thick­ness of about a thou­sand me­ters. The Ringworld would thus be much stur­dier than a Dyson sphere.

    “There are oth­er ad­van­tages. We can spin it for grav­i­ty. A ro­ta­tion on its ax­is of sev­en hun­dred sev­en­ty miles per sec­ond would give the Ringworld one grav­i­ty out­ward. We wouldn’t even have to have a roof over it. Put walls a thou­sand miles high at each rim, aim it at the sun, and very lit­tle air will leak over the edges.

    “The thing is roomy enough: three mil­lion times the area of the Earth. It will be some time be­fore any­one com­plains of the crowd­ing.

  40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys

    A sto­ry of ma­nip­u­la­tion on mul­ti­ple lev­els and in mul­ti­ple places, Rogue Moon is the sto­ry of an ex­plor­er who must, by tri­al and er­ror, find his way through an alien con­struct. The on­ly prob­lem is, each time he er­rors, he dies, and the psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects of this are just as un­known and in­cal­cu­la­ble.
  41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien

    The Silmarillion is my fa­vorite work of Tolkien’s. It is grand mythopo­et­ic sub­cre­ation, with in­cred­i­bly rich and some­what ar­chaic lan­guage. It is easy to see why this was his life’s work and it would be quite in­ter­est­ing to see what it would have even­tu­al­ly be­come had he not died be­fore com­plet­ing it.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Roverandom, On Fairy Stories

  42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut

    Even peo­ple who hate sci­ence fic­tion seem to like Vonnegut. Deeply satir­i­cal and si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly sen­ti­men­tal time-trav­el must have atavis­tic ap­peal to most hu­mans. As an­ti-war books go, this one is prob­a­bly one of the top five.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Cat’s Cradle, Welcome to the Monkey House

  43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

    Snow Crash is a cy­ber­punk nov­el filled with ar­che­typ­al char­ac­ters with de­lib­er­ate­ly odd lives. Contemporary life is ex­trap­o­lat­ed in­to a fu­ture where sexy 16 year old sk8r gr­rls wear nar­cotic vagi­na den­tata, piz­za de­liv­ery guys who live in U-Stor-Its are gods of the in­ter­nets, and large Aleutians with glass ra­zors kill peo­ple like noth­ing. It was a good read, but a bit over the top.
  44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner

    This is a deeply per­son­al book, you can re­al­ly feel John Brunner’s soul be­ing poured in­to it. Concerned with over­pop­u­la­tion, first world com­pla­cen­cy, vic­ar­i­ous life through tele­vi­sion, and a chron­ic andacute ex­is­ten­tial anomie, it ul­ti­mate­ly ad­mits its love for all of us, de­spite our im­per­fec­tions.

    My longer re­view of Stand on Zanzibar.

  45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester

    Alfred Bester has two books on this list for a rea­son, his sci­ence fic­tion is un­like any­thing you’ll ever read. He sort of prog­nos­ti­cates the cy­ber­punk gen­re, es­pe­cial­ly in this work, where a thug named Gully Foyle jaunts around seek­ing re­venge for be­ing aban­doned in a dere­lict space­craft.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: The Demolished Man

  46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein

    I’ve read this book prob­a­bly eight or nine times since I first nabbed it on this lit­tle quest of mine. It is said to be a rather con­ser­v­a­tive out­look on a mil­i­tary so­ci­ety, but I think it mix­es just the right amount of piz­zazz with quite thought-pro­vok­ing civics lessons to come up with the best use of na­tion­al­ism pos­si­ble. This nov­el is ap­prox­i­mate­ly in­finite­ly bet­ter than the bat­shit crazy movie adap­ta­tion.

    Recommended oth­er read­ing: Stranger in a Strange Land

  47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock

    This dark fan­ta­sy is dri­ven by a pro­tag­o­nist who is in­her­ent­ly evil, an alien be­ing who is mo­ti­vat­ed and wracked by shad­owy emo­tions. It is vi­o­lent, es­cha­to­log­i­cal, and quite short. I didn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly en­joy this book be­cause Moorcock is so ef­fec­tive at cre­at­ing twist­ed be­hav­ior, strange emo­tion and alien­ation that I had noth­ing to hold on to. Just be­cause I didn’t en­joy it doesn’t mean it sucked though. Moorcock wrote many oth­er books in the Stormbringer se­ries.
  48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks

    This book should not be on the list. It is ter­ri­ble. The on­ly book I didn’t fin­ish on this list. It is so un­abashed­ly a cheap and lame and crum­my Tolkien rip-off that I got 200 pages in, re­al­ized that plot point for plot point the nov­el was copy­ing Tolkien and stopped read­ing. A large num­ber of oth­er sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy books could re­place this one. I think it on­ly made it be­cause of its pop­u­lar­i­ty. Even Terry Goodkind would have been a bet­ter choice.
  49. Timescape, Gregory Benford

    Hard sci­ence fic­tion with deeply per­son­al char­ac­ters, this nov­el deals with the in­her­ent dan­gers of time trav­el, but on­ly time trav­el com­mu­ni­ca­tion, not phys­i­cal time trav­el. There is a lot of physics in this book, but Benford makes it rel­a­tive­ly easy to un­der­stand. The world is be­ing de­stroyed due to pol­lu­tion and a few sci­en­tists are try­ing to speak to the past in or­der to change the fu­ture. The ef­fi­ca­cy and af­ter ef­fects of this are some­what am­bigu­ous, and Benford, like a good sci­en­tist, lays out the prob­lem as he sees it, and lets the read­er de­cide.
  50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip José Farmer

    Everyone who is dead wakes up on this Riverworld. No one knows why, or how. The main char­ac­ter seeks to find out why and how. He ends up get­ting killed, but then dis­cov­ers that he just wakes up the next day some­where else on the river. So, play­ing the odds, he los­es any re­straint on keep­ing him­self in­tact and hops from death to death hop­ing even­tu­al­ly he’ll come to the end of the river. Along the way he runs in­to all kinds of fa­mous peo­ple, Nazis, Neanderthals, you name it. A re­al­ly fun book.

Ten Books I rec­om­mend you read from this list [in no par­tic­u­lar or­der]:

  • The Rediscovery of Man
  • Dangerous Visions
  • The Silmarillion
  • Little, Big
  • The Foundation Trilogy
  • Starship Troopers
  • On the Beach
  • The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Dhalgren
  • The Book of the New Sun

Transform

Monday, 30 June 2003

Powerman 5000’s lat­est LP, Transform, marks a tran­si­tion for the band from goth­ic space-rock to a niche be­tween n?-metal and stan­dard hard­core. Its not as good as it used to be, but at least it ain’t Linkin Park or Limp Bizkit.

If it is any­thing, Transform is one of the strangest calls to arms I’ve ever come across. It is a much blunter ex­pli­ca­tion of PM5K’s an­ti-es­tab­lish­ment oeu­vre than they usu­al­ly spit out.

Tonight the Stars Revolt! was a metal­lic bar­rage with a dis­tinc­tive Ziggy Stardust space­man feel. Transform, is lit­er­al­ly more down to earth. Spider One, is de­cide­ly in just about everyone’s face: the gov­ern­ment, cor­po­rate bu­reau­cra­cy, and es­pe­cial­ly sil­i­con breast­ed, boy­band mar­i­onettes who pass them­selves off as artists in­stead of en­ter­tain­ers. At the same time he wants “hands up to mis­fits, the ones that don’t fit.” Granted, not the most elo­quent of verse, but the point is clear enough.

The mis­fit mus­ter­ing songs don’t re­al­ly do much for me lyri­cal­ly, and on the whole, while the blunt­ness is ap­pre­ci­at­ed, and the drool­ing in­vec­tive in songs like “That’s Entertainment” makes me grin and sing along with in­fer­nal de­light, the mu­sic is what makes the al­bum.

Nothing in par­tic­u­lar is out­stand­ing­ly orig­i­nal here ei­ther. The first eight true songs all rock, but the al­bum kin­da ends flat­foot­ed. None of the songs are over­ly long, most are pret­ty catchy, and good to rock out to, but with­out the ‘space-vibe’ it miss­es some­thing. This will def­i­nite­ly be an al­bum I take with me on long car trips. It re­al­ly isn’t some­thing I just want to sit back and lis­ten to, it does not de­mand that much at­ten­tion.

This is a good tran­si­tion al­bum for PM5K. They ef­fec­tive­ly changed their sound, but avoid­ed be­com­ing a n?-metal clich? by ap­peal­ing to ac­tion from their angst-filled de­mo­graph­ic in­stead of com­mis­er­at­ing with pul­ing whine-songs. Hopefully their next al­bum will com­plete the trans­for­ma­tion. Knowing Spider One’s metic­u­lous and de­mand­ing ethic to be a dif­fer­ent kind of rock force, this is like­ly to be the case.

Recommended songs: That’s Entertainment, A is for Apathy, Sterotype.
Rated: 6.5÷10.

Thursday, 26 June 2003

Deloused in the Comatorium [DITC], the new se­man­tic ex­pe­ri­ence from The Mars Volta. Read my pompous re­view, but first go buy the al­bum.

When At the Drive In split a while back, my friend Kyle was pret­ty miffed, they were one of his fa­vorite bands. From the splin­ters of this band emerged two new mu­si­cal di­rec­tions: Sparta and The Mars Volta. Unfortunately Sparta seemed to get their act to­geth­er a bit too fast, and in­stead of a new mu­si­cal di­rec­tion, the band’s sound foundered in the seas of medi­oc­rity [at least for me it did]. Their brand of rock­in’ was a bit too, um, un­o­rig­i­nal and cooki-cut­ter for my tastes. In fact, I couldn’t tell you what one of their songs sound­ed like right now, de­spite hav­ing seen them in con­cert, and lis­tened to their al­bum, and I must not for­get pal Kyle.

The Mars Volta, took con­sid­er­ably longer to pro­duce a full al­bum. Wisely so, if this de­lay has in­creased the qual­i­ty of DITC. Granted, they re­leased the Tremulant EP awhile back, but its three songs, seem to me more of a test bed for their sound, be­fore the full blown ex­pe­ri­ence emerges [and getes paid for].

Tremulant pre­pared lis­ten­ers for the in­ven­tive se­man­tic mum­bo-jum­bo and ex­per­i­men­tal punk [re­dun­dant or just that mar­gin­al?] sound that The Mars Volta had de­fined as their own. Their lyrics are shall I say, in­choate. An ad­mix­ture of var­i­ous lan­guages [eng­lish then span­ish are the heav­i­est thank­ful­ly] and spack­led to­geth­er phonemes and mor­phemes, lis­ten­ers pret­ty much have to re­ly on the singing to get a han­dle for what the songs are about. The lyrics for Eunuch Provocateur off of Tremulant can be found here. [As you will note, one of the lines from this song be­came the ti­tle of the LP].

Stupidly, the lyrics for DITC are go­ing to be avail­able for mailorder pur­chase some­time next mon­th, mak­ing them that much hard­er to ac­cess. You re­al­ly have to want to know what the fuck he is say­ing if you are will­ing to pay for it. Personally, I will wait till some­one does buy them and then sticks them on the ‘net.

The vo­cal pirouttes of Cedric Zavala are what make this al­bum for me. His tenor is crisp and clear and loud, but thank­ful­ly not pierc­ing. Its like wind off of a moun­tain, or if you live in the city, what your clothes smell like af­ter you toss in about eight dry­er sheets with them.

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez can wring some mighty wild sounds out of his axe let me tell you.

DITC be­gins with a steadi­ly grow­ing sound of syn­the­siz­er and dis­tor­tion, and then Cedric comes in with his elec­tron­i­cized voice, and you know some­thing huge is about to hap­pen, then you are teased with some false starts be­fore C re­al­ly lets it rip in­to the first true song ‘in­er­ti­at­ic esp.’ This seems pret­ty straight­for­ward The Mars Volta, the mu­sic is seg­ment­ed in­to sev­er­al mod­es, usu­al­ly with quick but full stops be­fore launch­ing in­to the next sec­tion. Beware though, The Mars Volta can switch gears seam­less­ly if they want to, and some­times they want to.

‘roulet­te dares (the haunt of)’ presents a slight­ly more melod­i­cal­ly vari­ant, though smoother, ex­pli­ca­tion of what­ev­er the hell C is singing, it ris­es and val­leys, then peaks and then falls again, some­times precipices lurk right in the mid­dle of things, but the song is quite mel­low and quite cathar­tic at the same time.

‘drunk­ship of lanterns’ bor­rows its end from their Tremulant fin­ish­er ‘Eunuch Provocateur,’ and ‘ci­c­itriz esp’ is al­most just like Tremulant’s ‘Cut That City’ ex­cept quite a bit longer. I don’t feel that they are just re­cy­cling this be­cause they can­not hack it. To me it seems that Tremulant tru­ly was a test­ing bed, and they took what worked from that EP and beefed it up for this al­bum.

This was re­al­ly hard to write, be­cause DITC is so queer. Somehow The Mars Volta has made it pos­si­ble for two ob­jects to ex­ist in the same space at the same time, con­trary to the lit­tle mu­si­cal physics I am ac­quaint­ed with. Songs can be mel­low but un­re­pen­tant­ly cathar­tic from one sec­ond to the next. It works. 810. Thanks to Phil for the rec­om­men­da­tion.

The Decemberists: Castaways and Cut-outs

Friday, 30 May 2003

Hell, I’m al­ways on the look­out for some good new mu­sic. Unfortunately my search of­ten re­sults in less than good new mu­sic. There are far too many bands out there with delu­sions of grandeur, weird gim­micks, and stranger sounds, all of which don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly agree with my con­sti­tu­tion.

Thankfully, The Decemberists al­bum Castaways and Cut-outs does not fit this bill.

[ini­tial­ize pom­pos­i­ty]

They are from some­where in the Pacific Northwest, Washington or Oregon, or some­place. Treehuggers. Their sound on the oth­er hand, seems to draw on in­flu­ences from the world over, merged in­to a very in­die feel. The vo­cals fo Colin Meloy gives the band a very Irish sound, he’s got an Irish name too, but he is from Missoula, Montana. Some of the song con­tent is al­so quite rem­i­nis­cent of rel­a­tive­ly cur­rent events in Ireland. “Leslie Ann Levine” in par­tic­u­lar would fit quite well as a med­i­ta­tion on the rife sub­ject of teenage preg­nan­cy, abor­tion and the Kerry ba­bies case.

The songs are quite seedy in con­tent, and cre­ate with­in me a sense that the en­tire al­bum is a pe­ri­od piece of wharves, docks, and sundry oth­er salty top­ics from a 19th cen­tu­ry sea sto­ry. Petticoats, camisoles, cast­aways, and men at war, all blend to­geth­er to cre­ate a sub­tle and sin­is­ter lyric-scape that is on­ly height­ened by the pep­py mu­sic. You en­joy lis­ten­ing to the songs but then when you think about the lyrics you’re, like, whoa!

“A Cautionary Song” is prob­a­bly the best ex­am­ple of this. Its a song about a moth­er who whores her­self out in or­der to feed the kids. It rol­licks along though, to a concertina/​accordion, in a sea-shan­ty sailor rhythm. You might find yoru­self tap­ping your feet as you hear about how she goes through an en­tire ship in a night.

and the next time she feeds you col­lard greens
re­mem­ber what she does when you’re asleep

A nice zinger to end the song, eh? So sor­ry kids.

Their mu­si­cal abil­i­ties are an amal­gam of coun­try, pop, stan­dard rock, and var­i­ous man­i­fes­ta­tions of form [i.e. the shan­ty] through­out the al­bum. It might end on a note of hope, but it is a bit hard to tell, “California One/​Youth and Beauty Brigade” is the clos­est the Decemberists seem to get to tru­ly mod­ern cook­ie-cut­ter false unity/​alienation, yet the lyrics seem iron­ic, as if join­ing the Youth and Beauty Brigade might not be such a good thing. Perhaps this irony is meant to ex­pose the shal­low­ness of the “Youth of a Nation” vs. “Broken Home” di­choto­my that so much crap mu­sic to­day seems to feed off of.

The Decemberists’ Castaways and Cut-outs should def­i­nite­ly be added to any self-re­spect­ing audiophile’s li­brary.

an­oth­er link

[end pom­pos­i­ty]

The Matrix: Reloaded — Gothic Production Values

Sunday, 25 May 2003

The sec­ond en­try, and then I must needs say no more about ma­tri­ces till November.

As a film, The Matrix [orig­i­nal] was au­then­tic in its raw­ness of mise-en-scene, tight plot, char­ac­ter con­struc­tion and phi­los­o­phy. The Matrix: Reloaded, has the mangy paw of Hollywood over­pro­duc­tion and ov­erengi­neer­ing all over it.

Now that the goth look is main­streamed [hoo­dathunkit?] it is at the same time ex­tremed in the Matrix, Hollywood knows who its de­mo­graph­ics are and plays to them, even putting in vam­pires and ghosts. Every good guy is goth­ic while in the Matrix. Zion even has that re­tard­ed rave/​orgy/​infernal mass­es se­quence, where every­one porks to heavy bass beats. All of the guns from the last flik have been re­placed by a va­ri­ety of weapons [katana, longsword, tri­dent, sai, mace, etc.] that don’t do much good ex­cept look cool. Then, of course, you’ve got the goth­ic château in the moun­tains, the goth­ic retro tech­nol­o­gy [old TVs etc, still cool] and the rust­ed out ships of Zion.

Costuming

The cos­tumes in the orig­i­nal Matrix were in­deed quite cool, but their cool­ness was sec­ondary and the man­i­fes­ta­tions of the mind that wears them. In TM:R the clothes were cool be­cause Hollywood de­cid­ed it must be so, and they fail at it. Keanu in a cas­sock, is a bit pre­pos­ter­ous, Trinity main­tains skintight pleather, and the on­ly no­tice­able dif­fer­ence in the agents and Morpheus is that they’ve got spiffy new shoes. The Zionists can’t man­age to clothe them­selves de­cent­ly [ex­cept for the el­ders] de­spite their abil­i­ty to hew an ex­is­tence near the earth’s core. The bad­dies just wear white or black vari­a­tions in suit themes. Who re­al­ly cares.

Plot

Schizophrenically pol­y­se­mous. Dragged a bit, then had some über-cheesy part, fol­lowed by an über-philo­soph­i­cal part. Rinse, re­peat. This is where I found the con­flict be­tween a smart film, and a Hollywood film to be most preva­lent. The cheese parts [the n Smith fight, rave, the Seraph fight, sex scene, uber­car chase, the oth­er n Smith fight, the you saved me di­a­logue at the end] are Hollywood. The smart parts [Oracle, Merovingian, Architect, back doors, Keymaker] re­mind­ed me most of the orig­i­nal film, de­spite the fact that the Merovingian and the Architect still had some ob­vi­ous dis­trac­tions to them [yesterday’s post]. Although, the Keymaker, when de­scrib­ing how to get in­to the main­frame, re­mind­ed me much of the Old Man From Scene 24 in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. There is al­so the whole Keymaster of Gozer thing from Ghost Busters as well.

CG/​Special Effects

They were cut­ting edge last time, but main­stream this time. Bullet time/​slomo adn the spin­ning cam­era moves were the same stuff from the last movie. The CGs were pret­ty ob­vi­ous too, sup­port­ing my the­o­ry that dig­i­tal still has a long way to go be­fore it can ren­der as well as film stock can pick up the min­ute de­tails of a person’s face. Thus, some­times Neo and Smith look quite CG, be­cause the sub­tle shad­ows and fa­cial ex­pres­sions are not there. Rendering fab­rics is pret­ty damn hard as well. Thus, Neo’s id­i­otic cas­sock goes from be­ing nice and tex­tured to smooth as silk when he is CG. The wire-work le­git­i­mate­ly seemed ripped off from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Sound

Sound ef­fects and Foley work was im­pres­sive, though the mu­sic was most def­i­nite­ly cre­at­ed with the sound­track in mind, and of course con­tained tracks from the most goth­ic sell­out — Rob Zombie. Hell, it even had a track by Dave Mathews. [*pukes*] I did like what Juno Reactor did with many of the songs though — mix­ing stan­dard techno/​trance with the score in many in­stances.

Other

The shot se­lec­tion was al­so a bit schizoid. The OTS shots were so repet­i­tive i could pre­dict what was go­ing to hap­pen next [MS1a, MS2a, MS1b, MS2b, MCU1a, MCU2a, etc.]. At the same time, the dig­i­tal stuff with Morpheus fight on the trail­er, and the mo­tor­cy­cle shots — were pret­ty damn amaz­ing. The washed-out hot­ness of the whites, and the sub­tle lows of the blacks seemed ap­pro­pri­ate­ly goth­ic and al­so helped the CGs fit in­to the the film bet­ter, since so much data was lost by in­ten­tion­al over­ex­po­sure.

Morpheus says the prophe­cy should have come true if Neo reached the source, but Neo did not reach the souce, he went af­ter Trinity, some­thing that I on­ly re­al­ized post fac­to the movie. There is no men­tion of it in the flik it­self.

Wrap

I liked TM:R, don’t get me wrong, I just didn’t like it as well as the first one. I give the 1st an 8 and this one a 6. Mostly be­cause, it is ob­vi­ous Hollywood tried too hard as usu­al, on­ly ap­prox­i­mat­ed what it feels is au­then­tic — rather than go­ing for the re­al thing. Ergo, all the peo­ple are goth­ical­ly se­ri­ous ex­cept for Link who is more a fam­i­ly man thug than any­thing else — and the won­der­ful Merovingian ass­hole. The bad guys are much more in­ter­est­ing than the good guys. It leaves no room for any type of those on­ce plugged in than the goth­ic. Someone should crack a joke or play a prank or per­haps wear com­fort­able clothes that are non­de­script. Right? I think it is too shal­low be­cause it is too pre­ten­tious.

Probably much like this re­view.

The Matrix: Reloaded — Fides et Ratio

Saturday, 24 May 2003

I’ve seen The Matrix: Reloaded twice now. Fittingly I will give it two en­tries, one on phi­los­o­phy and one on its cin­e­mat­ic qual­i­ties. This is the philo one. Most like­ly they will both con­tain spoil­ers.

To start out, those who say that this sec­ond film lacks [in sub­stance and thought pro­vok­ing ma­te­ri­al] are id­iots.

They must have ig­nored [slept through, dis­missed be­cause they did not un­der­stand] the Oracle, the Merovingian [who is ridicu­lous awe­some], and the Architect. Granted, much of the rest of the film is cot­ton can­dy [to be cov­ered in the next en­try], but the afore­men­tioned seg­ments are any­thing but.

Continuing the de­bate that was ex­humed in the orig­i­nal Matrix, this film deals time and again with the an­tag­o­nism be­tween choice/​free will and causality/​predetermination. Its pret­ty ho hum, and the screen­writ­ers are ei­ther ge­nius­es or stayed up all cram­ming and then re­gur­gi­tat­ed the an­swers. I lean to­ward the bile side my­self, be­cause the Oracle, the Merovingian, and the Architect all con­tra­dict them­selves in their so­lil­o­quys on choice v. causal­i­ty.

The Oracle

An ‘in­tu­itive’ com­put­er pro­gram that cre­at­ed a ver­sion of the Matrix that 99% of test sub­jects ac­cept­ed as long as they were of­fered a choice. Neo looks to her for guid­ance and ques­tions her re­gard­ing choice. If she knows the an­swer to the ques­tions she asks him, what does his choice mat­ter? She tells him that his choic­es have al­ready been made, Neo is now sup­posed to un­der­stand why he made/​making/​will make the­se choic­es.

But then, ‘we can’t see past the choic­es we don’t un­der­stand.’

All of this time, while dis­cussing choice, the dis­cus­sion has re­al­ly cen­tered on causal­i­ty, the Oracle seems to be hint­ing that choic­es do not mat­ter. At the same time, she tells Neo to makes choic­es.

For her it ap­pears that choice is mere­ly an il­lu­so­ry mech­a­nism of causal­i­ty. But not see­ing past the choic­es we do not un­der­stand gives her the lie, for un­less she un­der­stands all choic­es, how can she see the fu­ture. To me it ap­pears that for causal­i­ty to func­tion is must be con­cerned on­ly with hind­sight. It can on­ly prove its ve­rac­i­ty by show­ing com­plet­ed cause and ef­fect re­la­tions as some­thing in­evitable. It should on­ly be able to pos­tu­late the fu­ture, not pre­dict it.

The Merovingian

This guy is my fa­vorite char­ac­ter in the en­tire film. We’ll just get that out of the way.

This ex­quis­ite­ly con­temptible French pro­gram ap­par­ent­ly touts causal­i­ty as its cham­pi­on. He says choice is an il­lu­sion given by those with pow­er to those with­out it. Ostensibly, as a means of con­trol [see The Architect]. He states the hu­mans run on in­stinct, and proves this by en­chant­i­ng a hot chick with a pro­grammed piece of aphrodit­ic choco­late and mak­ing her all horny. Thus, dou­bly prov­ing his point [if you were even lis­ten­ing to his mono­logue] be­cause most like­ly the au­di­ence watch­ing the film was more in­ter­est­ed in the warm spot in hot chick’s crotch than what the Merovingian was say­ing.

He says that those with pow­er are those who ‘un­der­stand the why’ of things.

To me ‘why’ is a word that deals with choice. To know ‘why’ you do some­thing is to know the rea­sons you made the choice. To un­der­stand ‘what’ is to un­der­stand causal­i­ty. ‘What made you do some­thing’ — this rec­og­nizes that an out­side, pre­de­ter­mined, non-will­ful stim­u­la­tion re­sult­ed in an act. Why is sub­jec­tive, thus con­trol­lable, What is ob­jec­tive, and causal.

When Persephone screws him over, in a beau­ti­ful throw-away re­mark af­ter his re­cent homi­ly, he de­mands to know the rea­son she lets Neo have the Keymaker: she says some­thing about causal­i­ty and re­torts with — Cause? There is no cause for this!

The Architect

Like the Merovingian se­quence, The Architect us­es a shit­load of mon­i­tors show­ing dif­fer­ent things to dis­tract the view­er from the dis­cus­sion.

The Architect ex­plains about the means of con­trol with­in the Matrix, that Neo is an ex­pect­ed anom­aly re­sult­ing from the in­abil­i­ty of the cause/​effect na­ture of pro­gram­ming to ad­e­quate­ly cope with the de­mands of im­per­fect hu­man de­sires and choic­es. The hu­man mind is lesser or, per­haps, not bound by the de­mands of per­fec­tion. To deal with this the ma­chi­nes use life out­side the Matrix, and Zion, an ap­par­ent­ly oft de­stroyed and re­built city, as an­oth­er method of con­trol. Neo is al­so ap­par­ent­ly the six­th anom­aly, so Zion is in its 5th rein­car­na­tion.

Besides all that, The Architect points out the flaws be­tween causal­i­ty and choice. He of­fers Neo a Lady or Tiger choice, choose a door. This is where the philoso­phies get a bit shal­low for me. Cause and ef­fect seem to hang on Neo’s choice. Except, Neo seems to think he on­ly has two choic­es, one door or the oth­er. He has plen­ty of op­tions.

Other

Where is the re­li­gion? TM:R us­es the de­vices of re­li­gion [Morpheus as a prophet, men­tions of prov­i­dence, the need for faith, etc] but nev­er deigns to il­lus­trate the ef­fi­ca­cy of the­se de­mands, nor to ex­plain what it is peo­ple are to have faith in. Are we to as­sume that faith should be placed in Neo. Who should Neo have faith in then? Only him­self? Morpheus faith seems bound to his ideas about choice and prov­i­dence, but at odd points the­se eat each oth­er. He says every­thing hap­pens for a rea­son, his prov­i­dence, but he al­so says every­one has a choice. In the di­alec­tic set up with­in the Matrix, the­se are at cross-pur­pos­es.

They could how­ev­er, be ex­plained in re­gard to faith. Yet, they nev­er are.

Last BS

I think, though I am quite pre­pared to ad­mit that this could very well be wrong, that what the Architect spoke of, that 99% ac­cept the Matrix as long as they are of­fered a choice, hints at a pos­si­ble twist. Perhaps while Neo and Trinity, and Morpheus, et al. think they are out­side of the Matrix, they are ac­tu­al­ly still with­in it. Thus, The Matrix en­com­pass­es both the Zion-world and what we have come to know as the Matrix it­self.

This is ex­plained both through what the Architect says, as well as in Neo’s freaky light­ning abil­i­ties at the end. He can sense the sen­tinels in the ‘re­al world,’ and can EMP-bake them with his hand in the ‘re­al world.’ I think he re­al­ized he was in an­oth­er lev­el of the Matrix, and sent his con­scious­ness forth in­to a high­er state of mind. Yeah, it sounds a bit new-agey.

or, per­haps while he was in the main­frame, he gained a new abil­i­ty, to trans­port him­self di­rect­ly in­to the Matrix, with­out plugs.

Hell, like I know what I’m talk­ing about.