Tag Archives: Libros

Minority Report

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Original title: Minority Report.

Title of this edition: Minority Report.

Author: Philip K. Dick.

Gender: Fantasy / Science Ficction.

Saga: …

Editorial: Orion Books.

Edition year: 1, 2005.

Prizes: …

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: This book, despite the selected title, is in reality a selection of short stories written by Philip K. Dick.

Minority Report: The pre-crime department uses 3 mutants that are able to see the future to predict crime. This has taken the control of the security from the military, although the pre-crime reports are simultaneously presented to the pre-crime headquarters and the military base. The story starts with the pre-crime director finding that the next report predicts that he is going to kill a general. Not knowing what to do and fearing treachery, he escapes. In order to clean his name and recover freedom, he finds that the prediction process involves comparing the predictions of the 3 mutants. The first report is matched against the second report. In case of a disagreement, both of them are matched against the third one. If 2 reports match, it is a majority report, but if all of them disagree, then a minority report is being created where only the third prediction is taken as valid. In this case, since the director has access to the prediction, he has able to change the future and hence any of the predictions were correct.

Imposter: War! A scientist, developing weapons for the war, goes hiking for the weekend. In his walk, he is caught by a landing spaceship. The objective of this spaceship is to replace people with robots and then bomb specific facilities. The robot success in replacing the scientist… in fact, it does it so good that the robot itself doesn’t know he is a robot. He only discovers it in the very end before exploding near the spaceship and landing site.

Second Variety: War on earth has lead to the development of killing robots. Machines that go below the surface and strike when you are unaware. For this reason, the opposite sides live in bunkers. Mutual annihilation is close, so when an emisary appears proposing a meeting, the Americans agree to send a group to discuss the stop of the war. On his way to the Russian base, the American base commander Hendricks, finds that there is no Russians but 3 survivors. All killed by a new class of robots that resemble kids. One of the survivors was killed due to them suspecting he is a robot (he isn’t). The other one is killed when arriving the American bunker (which was destroyed by robot-kids entering it. Alone with the Russian girl and with no other place to go, Hendricks’ only chance is taking the rocket out of earth. Unfortunately, once he reaches de rocket, he discovers that the girl is a second variety robot… and she manages to scape earth in order to find more humans to kill.

War game: War is over, and now it is time for peace and commerce… however, every imported item has to be carefully checked, specially toys. The toy under observation is a set of soldiers that has to assault a tower. The game runs smoothly for a while, but after a long time a soldier disappears into the tower, then a second one, a third… fearing of a bomb being built, the game is banned from earth. However, the real dangerous game was allowed to enter… one where kids learn to sell all they have and get mortgages from the enemy.

What the dead men say: Dead is not the final station. Once dead, brain waves can be amplified and the dead body can think and communicate for a while. However, this communication is limited and used wisely. One of the biggest millionaires on earth has died, and his niece takes control of the company and tries to control the presidential elections. It turns out that this technology never worked on the millionaire and the visions her niece had were all fake.

Oh, to be a Blobel!: Blobels are amoeba-like extraterrestrials, and like typical human race… we have been in war with them. Veterans from that war struggle to survive on earth. Especially those that went into spy missions. Both humans and Blobels developed a technique that allowed spies to transform on humans or Blobels, however it happens only half of the day and the spy has this “disease” forever. Living with this disease, a human spy and a Blobel spy decide to marry each other, since they will be the only one able to understand each other. However, the couple comes to an end when the kids start arriving, because some are half/half, others completely Blobel and other human…. In the end, the man turns completely into Blobel and the woman completely into human and they cannot be together any more.

The electric ant: One man discovers that he is a robot, an electric ant. A pierced strip in his chest determines the stimulus that he is able to perceive. Modifying it changes his perception of reality… or does it changes reality itself? Experimenting with it leads to the most bizarre experiences. Eventually, the robot decides to remove the strip and see what happens… all disappears.

Faith of the fathers: The world is ruled by an authoritarian government. Daily broadcast messages, accompanied with drugs in the water, induce the population to obey. One man, selected by the resistance, is allowed to visit the leader and see its true nature, an extraterrestrial being trying to take control over earth.

We can remember it for you wholesale: A secret agent sent to Mars in a mission, has his memories erased and a new personality being implanted in other to forget his mission, however, his visit to a company that creates memory implants makes him remember everything. Being chased by the government, he agrees that the only way of having a life after this is allowing them to put a second fake memory in his brain. The second memory involves an alien race coming to exterminate earth and making a deal with him. As long as he stays alive, earth will be safe. The only problem is that this fantasy was also real.

Personal Review: This book was published shortly after the Minority report movie appeared on the theatres, hence it was an obvious choice for the title, however, it is misleading, as the Minority report story is only a few pages of the book. After saying that, we have to recognise Philip K. Dick genius as up to 3 stories here have been on the cinema.

Minority Report: This is the story which title was selected to be in the cover of the book. The reason? Quite obvious, Hollywood movie:

Which is now being expanded with a series.

To be honest, the movie is quite similar to the book in this case, however, in the movie, the crime is against a killer while in the book is against a general. The reason for the change? Quite obvious, create more drama and engage the audience.

Coming back to the book, I think the 3 mutants with 2 for prediction and one for checking is quite good. In fact, it is what happens in most of the computers, the most of the process are calculated more than once in order to double check. The only error is accepting the last prediction as correct when all of them disagree. I think in those cases the crime should be investigated instead of assuming it is real. This lead us to the next point, isn’t it too hard to punish people for things which haven’t happen yet? Even in the actual justice there is difference between achieving a crime and just planning it.

Respect to predicting the future… well, I don’t have any evidence that it can be done, so I’m just accepting it as a way of making the story funny.

Imposter: I think this story is good, but haven’t been expanded enough. A robot so committed to its task that doesn’t know it is a robot. That is a good plot. There is always the question, is it necessary such level of mimicking? Maybe a robot aware of being a robot but with the human memory can be more useful. In any case, a robot being aware of being a robot, can hide when necessary. Think about it, even a small injury will reveal its secret if he doesn’t know he has to take precautions.

Second Variety: This story has also been taken to the theatres, with no less than Peter Weller (Robocop) in the leading role:

And by the way, there is also second movie (which I haven’t seen yet).

However, in this case, the movie version changes major things in the plot, like for instance, in the movie the action happens in a different planet and the ending is different. In the movie the good guy survives (another dramatic ending).

I have to say that I like the idea behind this story, killing machines that evolve to be more efficient. But the problem here is that evolution cannot be directed without too much constrictions, and it will ended with machines competing against machines. Also, I have to point that cooperation is sometimes a better strategy than competing, hence it is expected that some machines will help humans against machines.

It is worth mentioning that evolution and game theory haven’t really advanced too much until the late 80’s and early 90’s when evolutionary strategies where studied. So it is ok if these points where not notice when the story was written.

War game: I really love this story. It is so simple, yet so interesting. Because until the very end of the story, you keep thinking there is something odd with the game. You try to discover what it is if it is not a bomb… and the you realize the big thing is the other game that manages to make it into the shops.  Which by the way, is a critic to the modern consumerism and the tendency to borrow more and more money.

What the dead men say: There is things I like and dislike in this story. The things I like, enhancing brain activity and giving dead a second chance. This opens many possible applications, and in particular, allows people time to finish their things before leaving forever. The things I dislike… the rest of the book, but in particular, the fact that brain activity is both electrical an chemical, only by enhancing the electrical signal you are not able to maintain the brain activity. Most important, memories are created by creation and destruction of dendrites (connections between neurons), which cannot be done without a living being.

Oh, to be a Blobel!: I would say this story is funny. It is not believable due to the big anatomical differences described between humans and blobels, but still it is funny. There is also a whole in the plot. Because the kids follow strictly Mendel rules. One is 100% human time, other 100% time blobel, there is 2 with part of the time…. etc. Mendel rules allow to calculate the chances of a particular breed, but they don’t mean you will have a kid of each breed. 

The electric ant: The most interesting thing here is not a robot and its not the idea that we create the reality by observing it and matching it against our internal model of the world. The most amazing thing here is that the robot is able to play around with his own mechanism. Will you do the same if you where allowed to do it? Enhancing your vision for instance, or reducing your sound perception… eliminate the pain will be useful sometimes, and night vision will be great. At the same time, imagine being able to see everything all the time, it will be boring after a while.

Faith of the fathers: This is very difficult to read and some parts don’t make sense. I mean, you miss what is going on or why the characters react how they do. However, it is interesting the fact that they use drugs to make people see strange things in the TV. On the other side, why do aliens need to appear on TV? Why not leading the world in the shadow with a fake human president? That will make everything easier.

We can remember it for you wholesale: The last story has become a classic movie of science fiction. However, the title was changed. For the theatres it is know as Total Recall:

with it’s new version wich is a complete different story which only keeps the idea of memory being erased and changed.

In this case, I think the 80’s has the best argument, even better than the original story. The original story is quite inocent, and tries to finish as fast as possible. That is why the reason for giving the secret agent a new identity is not good enough. If secret is the key… then why not killing him? In the movie at least they do it in order to pretend he has deserted but still was too valuable to be killed.

A part from the movies/book discussion, I think the real good thing here is the possibility of creating an artificial memory. Which is brilliant. Obviously you will only remember it, and not actually pass through the real experience, but imagine the training possibilities. Everybody will be able to learn anything within minutes. Relocation from one work to another can be done in minutes, and of course expertise will never disappear. With a machine like that, human race will speed up its evolution.

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The rest of the robots

Asimov; robots;book;

Original title: The rest of the robots.

Title of this edition: The rest of the robots.

Author: Isaac Asimov.

Gender: Science fiction.

Saga: Asimov Robots.

Editorial: panther 

Edition year: 1, 1969.

Prizes: …

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: As the own Asimov states, the book is made with stories that didn’t fit anywhere. They are robot stories, sometimes involving Susan Calvin, all happening before the Foundation, but not following the same plot.

Robot AL-76 Goes Astray: A robot designed to work on the moon gets lost on earth and as a result of its program, builds a machine to harvest resources. His design is much more efficient and the humans around him are scared because robots are prohibited on earth. In the end his machine is destroyed and there is no way of reproducing it.

Victory Unintentional: There is an alien civilization living on Jupiter. Due to the high pressures on the planet, they never get out of the surface and no human has ever been there. An expedition of robots is sent for the first contact. Jupiter’s population, initially hostile, comes to peaceful terms with earth because they mistook the robots, and their capabilities, with average human beings.

First Law: Very short story of a robot escaping and letting one man to die. It seems the robot had a child and was protecting it.

Let’s Get Together: Americans versus Russians. The Russians let know the Americans they have a group of humanoid robots that will meet inside united states and when that happens… explode.

Satisfaction Guaranteed: The new robot version has to be tested with humans… the chosen one is the wife of one of the engineers… At the beginning she was not sure about it, but after a while she falls in love with the robot. In fact, she is so much in love with him that the robot has to abandon her in order to protect her.

Risk: A spaceship that uses teleportation has to be tested…. with a robot. Unfortunately it doesn’t work, and a human has to be sent in order to study why. The reason… the commands given to the robot induce him to overturn the controls and destroy them.

Lenny: Dr Susan Calvin finds a robot with some oddities in the neural networks that allows him to learn as a human. She trains him to speak. He is also able to develop feelings.

Galley Slave: A robot is developed to perform article reviews. While it represents an advantage for the community, one evil professor tries to accuse him of deliberately changing his manuscript. However, it’s own lack of knowledge about robots betrays him and he is finally accused in court.

Personal Review: This is a very nice collection of stories with the pure Asimov essence. Because they are very brief, sometimes is difficult to judge if they are good or bad (in general good). The one I liked the most is “Victory Unintentional”, because it goes beyond the usual stories of robots including aliens. More interesting, it gowns around the question about humans/robots. Asimov imagined Jupiter as the scenario for his novel, but imagine something much more further away. In the other side of the galaxy for instance. Imagine that we send a spacecraft in a 1000 years voyage with robots in it. They will be our expeditioners, our ambassadors… and most likely, by the time they arrive, they will be like ourselves. Interesting.

The second story that i liked most is Satisfaction Warranted, because it describes perfectly how our society will be like with robots. Personal assistants, friends, people who care about us and help us having a better life. They are not a menace or a big technical leap but new friends and companions.

The other stories are good to build a background around the robots universe, but for me they are not as good as the ones I like. For instance, Risk is a good story, but they use a human to inspect the spaceship because a robot is too valuable to loose it. Why not a radio controlled robot? Some kind of drone, not as complex as a real robot but good enough to go into the spaceship? The problem here is that this is a story about all or nothing.

Star Wars

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Original title: Star Wars.

Title of this edition: La Guerra de las Galaxias.

Author: George Lucas, Donald F. Glut, James Kahn.

Gender: Fantasy / Science Fiction.

Saga: Star Wars.

Editorial: Círculo de Lectores.

Edition year: 1, 1995.

Prizes: …

Personal Review:  I think it is not necessary to resume this book, since it is probably one of the movie adaptations most watched of all times. What I need to say is that this story influenced very strong my childhood and my adult life. It is not only a story, its a complete universe that allow us to fantasize and enjoy dreaming of the possible stories.

Despite the books are quite similar to the movies, they still have big differences (you can check the differences with respect the movies here:  Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker  The Empire Strikes Back (novel) Return of the Jedi (novel)). The major difference that I notice is that in the books we can actually see what are the feelings and thoughts of the main characters. I would say that it is quite interesting Darth Vader’s though while at the Emperor’s throne in the new Death Star. After reading this you realize that Vader’s thoughts are actually good, but too naive and controlled by the dark side. So, he thinks the Galaxy can be safe place, but he thinks he cannot defeat the emperor, and also, he thinks he can do it better than the emperor but keeping the same government system.

Also, it goes deeper into Luke development and personality. It’s not only what we see in the movies, but also what he feels and it makes a difference. The Luke in the book is making complex decisions and he is tempted by the dark side. I’m sure that is going to be a huge part in the new movie that comes.

Leonard Nimoy

Mr Spock (Leonard Nimoy) died 2 days ago, and the world is a little bit darker because of that.

 

4000 Years of Christmas: A Gift from the Ages.

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Original title: 4000 Years of Christmas: A Gift from the Ages.

Title of this edition: Historia de la Navidad.

Author: E. W. Count, A. Lawson Count.

Gender: History.

Saga:

Editorial: Jose J. de Olañeta.

Edition year: 1, 2000.

Prizes: …

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: Basically this is a very short book about some interesting “facts” about how different cultures mixed their festivities to create what it is known as Christmas.

Personal Review:  You might notice that I said “facts”, it is because many of the things presented in the book, despite they are interesting and easy to read, they might not be true. I mean, some of them are just hypothesis not completely proven. This point is what makes me underscore this book. It is easy to read and nice, but its inaccuracy (trying to make it more funny I think) just makes me don’t like it.

Star Wars: Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka

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Original title: Star Wars: Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka.

Title of this edition: Star Wars: Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka.

Author: L. Neil Smith.

Gender: Fantasy / Science Fiction.

Saga: Star Wars: The Lando Calrissian adventures.

Editorial: BoxTree.

Edition year: 1, 1996.

Prizes: …

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: This is the 3rd book in the Lando Calrissian series. Continues the story told in Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu, and in Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oscon. In this story, Lando and Vuffi Raa, decide to help a race of aliens that live in the intergalactic vacuum (like a manta ray). The alien race is being besieged from the evil Rokur Gepta, the Sorcerer of Tund and Lando’s mortal enemy, and the Renatasians, who seek revenge from Vuffi Raa.

Lando manages to clear his path through the block playing sabacc and disguised as a merchant. Once with the aliens, Lando teaches them sabacc and manages to fight back the Renatasians until a race of robot-ships (which created Vuffi Raa) appears to stop the war. While the robot ships appear, Lando is duelling with Rokur Gepta. This last one is killed with the help of Vuffi Raa.

Personal Review:  To be honest… By mistake I read first the third book of the series. Maybe that’s where my problem comes from… for me there is too many unusual names in the book and it gets confused as you read. But despite of that, the story is not very good. It is interesting when the  Millennium Falcon first appear, but the rest is just Lando thinking aboard the Millennium Falcon. My impression is that the story lacks of other charismatic characters a part from Lando. I mean, a hero is as good as bad are they enemies (that’s why everything with Darth Vader is so good).

2001: A Space Odyssey

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Original title: 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Title of this edition: 2001 una odisea espacial.

Author: Arthur C. Clarke.

Gender: Fantasy / Science Fiction.

Saga: Space Odyssey.

Editorial: Ediciones Orbis S.A.

Edition year: 3, 1986.

Prizes: …

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: A very old extraterrestrial race has evolved into a energy-based life-form. On his travel through evolution, they leave exploratory spaceships (monolith shaped). The purpose of those ships is to explore the universe and look for developing species… and help them.

One of those ships was on earth 2 million years ago and help the ancestors of men to start using tools. A second monolith lays beneath the surface of the moon, waiting to see if that race will develop to conquer the space.

When human race discovers the monolith on the moon, it sends a beacon to a third monolith in Iapetus, one of Saturn moons.

Discovery mission consists on a spaceship that will take several months to reach Saturn, 2 technicians that will take care of the instruments, 3 scientist in suspended animation… and a IA called Hall.

The IA is the only one that knows the objective of the mission and its orders are to hide it from the humans… which is against its basic program and makes it become homicide killing everybody in the ship except David Bowman.

After disconnecting Hall and travelling completely alone for many months, Bowman reaches Saturn and then he is transported through a wormhole to a unknown place. In that place Bowman transcends the limit of the human race and becomes something else. He has now many powers that allow him flying back to earth… just in time to stop the nuclear war.

Personal Review:  Dam! I really like this book! I mean, I couldn’t stop reading it… at least the part of the moon, and the Discovery while Hall was alive. I have to say that there is a reason for that, and it is that I watch the films long ago, and the first film is focused in Hall while the second film is centred in Heywood Floyd characterised by the actor Roy Scheider (I really like Scheider as an actor… do you remember Jaws? or SeaQest? and speaking of sea Quest, do you remember my reviews about the SeaQuest series? seaQuest DSV The Ancient seaQuest DSV Fire Below). Heywood Floyd is the guy on the moon visiting the second monolith.

I also have to say that the first few chapters, about humans before being humans, are quite fascinating. I enjoy the story told there. The way it is told, and what kinds of problems that animals have to overcome, seems quite real. It’s a struggle to survive and every night could be the last. It is quite interesting the though that the usage of tools was what allowed humans not to care so much for food, and that allowed them to use their time in other things… and THAT was the key difference between humans and the rest of species. I wonder now if our pets continue to live with us for a million years… could they become intelligent? Nah, although there is some kind of evolution (the more cute the more chances to get a home and pass their genes to the next generation), there is no freedom for our pets to create rudimentary societies.

Coming back to the book, I have to say that despite it was written in 1968, the description of how a computer can control a ship is quite incredible. But still, the description of the IA is not satisfactory for me, because it is quite rigid. The book says that it is unknown by programmers how the IA works, but at the same time they know it is constrained to tell the truth. I find this contradictory. Or at least, will you trust your life to that computer? Despite of that, that part of the book is quite rich in details and you like it because is possible for you to imagine how life will be on the ship. Here the film diverges from the book. In the film there is that famous scene where the astronauts speak and Hall reads their lips… It doesn’t happen in the book.

The part I like the less is the end. It will be better if Bowman’s fate was unknown, or at least, not becoming so powerful. The beginning tries to be realistic, the part of the moon and the voyage of the Discovery also. In fact, it is so realistic that you like it because of that. But the end is artificial, like the author has a desire to close the story, to create an end for it.

Overall, it was great and now I’m willing to read the other books.