The Man From Primrose Lane by James Renner

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

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 ole 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

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.

Deloused in the Comatorium

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. 8/10. Thanks to Phil for the rec­om­men­da­tion.

The Decemberists: Castaways and Cut-outs

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

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 chateau 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 uber-cheesy part, fol­lowed by an uber-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

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.