Tag Archives: Book Review

Chief O’Brien at work

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Original title: Chief O’Brien at work.

Title of this edition: Chief O’Brien at work.

Author: Jon Adams.

Gender: Fantasy, Sci-fi.

Saga: Star-Trek.

Editorial: City Cyclops.

Edition year: 1, 2015.

Prizes: —

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: Chief O’Brien is a character of the TV series Star Trek the next generation, he is in charge of transporter, however, through the series it becomes clear that he is completely irrelevant as crew members can order directly to the Enterprise’s  computer to be transported from anywhere in the spaceship to anywhere in the planet or nearby spaceships. The only times he appears in the show are when “something horrible happens to Chief O’Brien”, the rest of the time, he is waiting in the transporter room for someone to be transported (and that is a huge amount of time waiting if you think about it).

Personal Review: This book started as a web comic (we spoke about it back in 2014 TNG: Chief O’Brien). Then it turned into a Kickstarter project (we proposed it as project of the week back in 2015 and pay for a copy). Now it is 2016 and the book is now real.

I have to say that this book is for Star Trek fans and to nobody else, and even between Star Trek fans, you have to have watched the Next Generation, other way the jokes will be completely nonsense to you. For instance, if you haven’t watched the Next Generation, you will not know who Riker is, and what is funny about him (he is like the official Casanova of the Star Trek).

Something I really like is when it breaks the 4th wall and demonstrates how it was broken in the TV series. “Chief O’Brien, transport me back to the ship from the planet” “planet? what planet? Do you people realise that I work in a room without any windows and nobody ever tells me where we are?”. It is great, because in the TV series it doesn’t seem to be an odd request… but only because the viewer knows everything, that’s why when crew members request transportation, it is natural to us to assume that everybody shares the same amount of information that we have. Brilliant.

On the other side, something I don’t like about the book is that the format limits the jokes. Sometimes repeating the same frame over and over makes a joke, but if you do it all the time, then it is there only to fill space (and you have to do it in order to fill the space in the selected format of the book).

Just to finish with something good, be aware that the book has hidden messages, can you find all of them? [Spoiler to one of the messages]: Put the book under sunlight and then in complete dark.

1984

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Original title: 1984.

Title of this edition: 1984.

Author: George Orwell.

Gender: Sci-fi.

Saga: …

Editorial: Salvat Editores.

Edition year: 1, 1970.

Prizes: …

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: This book focuses in the later days of Winston Smith, a member of the party which own thoughts makes him to reconsider the world that has been put in front of his eyes. In a future where the World is divided into three massive countries, each of them has established a totalitarian control of the population to ensure that the status quo remains the same. Winston’s country, Oceania is ruled by the big brother who watches everyone and controls their lives and though.

The strategy followed by the big brother to prevent any revolution from happening is based in changing the past, stopping science, keep a war always going on, constant surveillance, and fear. The main idea is that any of the 3 countries can win the final war, hence there is no point in winning the war, however, war makes industry useful, because only by destroying the production of the industry it can keeps working. The point about controlling though, historical data, and fear, is that nobody will trust anybody else and also they will not trust themselves, because… how many times history was changed?

Living in this world, Winston starts to hate the big brother because he has become aware that everything is a lie to prevent a revolution. Free from the control of the big brother, Winston starts to think and wander around the city. That’s how he meet Julia and fells in love with her. As lovers, Winston and Julia start to unfollow the rules and soon they are caught by the party.

Captured they are tortured to the point where they hate themselves, they hate the big brother, and also they betray each other. After that moment they are re-educated again and let free, because now they love the big brother again and they will come back to ask for execution as punishment, because now they hate everything that is against the party and the big brother.

Personal Review: Nineteen eighty four  represents a pivotal point in science fiction because it shows us what can happen if we transfer too much power to the government. Ironically, it was written after the WWII, in 1949. Orwell, who was British was fearing that British democracy could not survive a world where people will fear the A-bomb and where the influence of the government made WWII happen. I said ironically, because Orwell was inspired by WWII, but what happened in the soviet union was pretty much what Orwell depicted in his novel… and it started before his novel was published, and last for another 40 years at least.

Despite I knew the plot of this book and I watched the movie, it is the first time I read it. I have to say that the movie is a very good adaptation (but as a movie is a bad movie). The best part for me was when Winston reads Goldstein’s book and learns what his world is about. The second best part is the torture, and it is good because it really made me pass through an internal reflection. The point where Winston is scared about the rats eating her face is… how can I explain it, because of that experience, he betrayed Julia, he asked them to put Julia there instead of him just to escape from the rats. I have though a lot about that scene and I can only come to the conclusion that it is the ultimate torture, because they took from him the only thing that he cared for, his love for Julia, moreover, they took from him the only thing he though cannot be touched by them.

By the way, this book makes me think of Fahrenheit 451 , the novel by Ray Bradbury.The sense that both novels aim to control population toughs by controlling their access to culture. Both authors feared a similar future, and they made it realistic enough to actually think that one day it can happen. It is interesting now, with many years from the novels, to think that we are on the other side, everyone has several copies of a book, there is media in millions of serves, computers, hard drives… and so on and so on. So it is very difficult to alter something that actually happen. However, there is a tendency to store media in a single master file and instead of each one owning a copy, stream the data from one master copy to all the users. That can be the beginning of something like what these books propose. But I’m not that pessimist, I think that culture will never again be controlled at that level and in the future we will see an even bigger diffusion of media, culture, and ideas.

The Wind in the Willows

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Original title: The wind in the willows.

Title of this edition: The wind in the willows.

Author: Kenneth Grahame.

Gender: Fantasy.

Saga: …

Editorial: Methuen Children’s Books Ltd.

Edition year: 1, 1979.

Prizes: Mr. Toad was voted Number 38 among the 100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900 by Book magazine in their March/April 2002 issue (Wiki).

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: Mole and Rat enjoy their life by the river. Taking picnics, row in the river, and stay by the fireplace in the winter, that’s all their life. On the other side, Mr Toad, rich Mr Toad, likes new adventures. That’s why Mr Toad has been trying motor boats, mobile houses… and now motorcars. Because Mr Toad is obsessed with cars, Mole and Rat have to call Mr Badger to chase Mr Toad and make him a good citizen again. But Mr Toad, refusing to give up cars, scape from his friends custody and steals a car, putting him into prison for it, and letting the Weasels into Toad Hall. The story ends by the 4 friends retaking Toad Hall and coming back to their life as it was before Mr Toad started to be a car-addict.

Personal Review: This book is a real classic among literature for kids, and most of the people I know read it while they where in the school. I don’t remember reading it completely at school, but I do remember parts of the story. That makes me enjoy the book even more, because as I was reading it, coming to a chapter I knew triggered memories of things that happened in my life while I first read it. That’s why I recommend adults to read some of the books they read as a kids, as it will be a good experience.

A part from the previous toughs, I would like to comment that this book has become such a big classic, that it has several TV adaptations. I have seen some of them, and they always focus on Mr Toad and cars (forgetting for instance some very nice adventures like Mole and Rat looking for a lost child in the river, or visiting Badger the first time). Other versions turn the Weasels into more dark characters that trick Toad in order to get the control of Toad Hall. It is not bad, but have in mind that it is not the story as it is told by the book.

I also want to comment that despite the book is fantasy, it has some elements of science fiction. There is some passages where Badger speaks about men and how they came and go and how animals are always there. In particular, Badger house connects with old human tunnels. So… what’s going on here? In other parts of the book Mr Toad interacts with several humans…. so can this be a world where some type of war or catastrophe turned animals into superior lifeforms? Did part of the humanity disappeared? How good/bad is relation between humans and animals? Do they share the same laws? More important, is it ok to eat other animals, and if so, are they intelligent as well or not? I think that if somebody wants, it is possible to turn this into a post-apocaliptic world (like Adventure Time for instance). On the other hand, Mole/Rat/Badger/Toad can be humans whose behaviour imitates those of the corresponding animals, and the authors, instead of dealing with long descriptions, simply characterise them as animals to speed up the storytelling.

Dealings of Captain Sharkey and Other Tales of Pirates

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Original title: Dealings of Captain Sharkey and Other Tales of Pirates.

Title of this edition: Historias de piratas.

Author: Arthur Conan Doyle.

Gender: Adventure.

Saga: …

Editorial: Valdemar

Edition year: 3, 2004.

Prizes: …

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: This book covers a few stories about pirate captain Sharkey and how he terrorised the Caribbean sea. Basically he is the most ferocious scoundrel in the seven seas. There is nobody as cruel and savage as Sharkey, however, due to his actions, he has lots of enemies who eventually prepare a trap and kill him.

Also in this book there is a short story about a “land pirate” a man that drives his car assaulting other cars to steal from them.

Personal Review: As a Sherlock Holmes fan, I was excited about this book, and it totally fulfil my expectations. Despite being written a long time ago, the pirate tales are completely up to date with bloody battles, savage pirates, and lots of action (in addition, probably the translator updated the language a little bit). I think that if you add some magic and some fun you can easily get Pirates of the Caribbean out of these tales.

On the other hand, the story about the “land pirate” is quite nice and suggestive. Maybe more suitable for a country like USA rather than UK. I would like to see it based in the 70’s with trailers, muscle cars, highways, and pirates in motorbikes… hold on, that’s Mad Max!

In conclusion, this is a book that is worth not missing. It is not Sherlock Holmes but it is also good.

Bartleby and Benito Cereno

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Original title: Bartleby and Benito Cereno.

Title of this edition: Bartleby and Benito Cereno.

Author: Herman Melville.

Gender: Fantasy.

Saga: …

Editorial: Giunti.

Edition year: 1, 2014.

Prizes: …

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: This book is composed by two stories, Bartleby, which is about a man that starts working as a copyist and who is suddenly living in the office and whose boss is not able to take him out, even by selling the company. The second story is about Benito Cereno, a Spaniard captain that is held prisoner in his own ship by the slaves he was carrying. The book narrates an encounter with an English captain and how he became aware that the other captain was being held prisoner.

Personal Review: I brought this book a couple of months ago when travelling from Italy to London. I was too early on the airport and I was finished the book I had for the flight. Not having anything interesting in the shop, I decided to go for this one (other option was re read Frankenstein or Moby Dick).

I would say that the first story, Bartleby, is quite easy to read and interesting at the same time. It is narrated from the point of view of the boss. He is naive and surprised at the beginning, but quite good person at the end. This is because at the beginning he doesn’t understand Bartleby, he thinks he is only a bad person whiling to take advantage of the boss, but little by little he realises that Bartley is a dysfunctional person who needs help.

The second story, on the other hand is not interesting and difficult to read. This is because it is over saturated with adjectives and descriptions (using not common words), which makes its reading difficult and annoying. The story itself… basically there is no story told, just a ship full of slaves, two captains and descriptions on how captain Benito misbehaves.

Close encounters of the third kind

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Original title: Close encounters of the third kind.

Title of this edition: Encuentros en la tercera fase.

Author: Steven Spielberg.

Gender: Fantasy / Science Ficction.

Saga: …

Editorial: Ediciones Grijalbo, S.A.

Edition year: 1, 1978.

Prizes: …

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: First encounter between humans and an extraterrestrial race. They come to earth and appear as sounds in the sky, lights… and they select a group of people to make the contact. The place, Devil’s tower in Wyoming. The book tells the story of Roy Neary, and electrical engineer selected by the aliens to go to the encounter. His mind is full of visions of the Devil’s tower and he has to go there. The government, with a special department, has been hunting down the signals and has everything prepared in the landing site to welcome the aliens. Rather than a military force, the place is full of scientist whiling to learn. The aliens want some astronauts to go with them and in exchange they released people gathered on earth along many years. No one has aged.

Personal Review: Despite been one of the best films made by Spielberg, I only watch it very recently, and it took me this long to read the book, which by the way is a copy of the film.

Honestly, the story has very few weak points. However, there is some. One of them is the aliens and humans breathing the same air. Chances are we will breath different gases combinations, we were used to different pressures, and most important, we will be exposed to each others virus and bacteria. So, aliens or humans without astronaut suits… no.

Second point is the combination of music and colours used to communicate. It looks colourful and good for a movie, but honestly, the movie Contact is much better in this topic. In Contact they use prime numbers to stablish communication and then they continue with very basic symbols to communicate with maths (i.e. one point, two points… one point plus two points equals three points… and so on).

The last thing is manipulating minds. It looks like the kind of “power” aliens can have… however, there is no evidence it can be done at all. For instance, in the movie Abyss, they do the same and in the book it gets a decent explanation, the aliens create nano filaments that enter the human brains and manipulate emotions. At least, it is possible to release some chemicals and induce happiness, sadness… and many other emotions.

So, what is good in the book? The fact that there is no dark side, from the government and from the aliens, everything is friendly and the emotion comes from the surprise. This is a good change in these kind of movies, and somehow is the formula that Spielberg repeats in E.T. In fact, there is more echoes in E.T. from here, the fact that aliens manipulate minds, the disk shaped spaceship with lots of lights, the naked aliens which can breath our air… The “friendly” government, and a normal human which is selected to make the contact. Also, which is good is that there is no other similar movies and this one doesn’t focus on the aliens and answering questions. This is a key thing in science fiction movies, don’t answer questions and focus the story not in the technology or the aliens but in the human beings and their emotions.

In conclusion, it is a good book for reading when there is nothing else you can do, but nothing more than what we see in the movie, hence there is nothing to win by reading it, better to watch the movie if it is possible. Focusing on the story, it is family friendly and that is a good change, and by not answering the questions it creates the necessity of keep reading it.