Anyway, I started this most recent reading jag with
Jack London's The Jacket (or The Star-Rover)
If you're only familiar with London from his dog-alicious tales of the Great White North, this will certainly be a digression. And a worthy one, as it details the story of a condemned-to-deathrow inmate who learns how to astrally project his consciousness across the very gulfs of time + space... Interspersed with these remembrances of his past lives lived throughout history are his detailed descriptions of the woeful state of the penal system in the U.S. at the end of the 19th Century. Quite a good + enthralling read.
This one was more of a challenge to actually get through, as the language of the novel is that of the post-nuclear-holocaust society that has forgotten almost all of the scientific advances of mankind's relatively recent past and the story hinges on the philosophical question confronting this future: should we even attempt to recreate the technology that destroyed our race? And Punch + Judy show up for the fun, as well. This was a weird book; the expanded edition features some appendices that illuminate some of the more obscure stuff + also help with some of the Anglo-specific stuff that means little to my not-so-worldly frame of reference... A neat read + good, but be up for a little struggle early on to get into the rhythm of the language. The language is so well-crafted that it gets easier soon, in the same way as Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire. I recommend this for those linguistics fans out there, too. (If such things as linguistics fans exist...)
This is an incredibly fast-paced novel, which was adapted as Tirez sur le pianiste in 1960 by the legendary Frenchie filmmaker François Truffaut. Ain't seen it, but if it's anything like the novel, it's OK with me. The novel is fast-paced like few others. It's one thing to eagerly anticipate finding out what happens in the next chapter, and totally something else to find your breathing + your pulse have sped up from the on-the-edge-of-yo'-seat tempo of this book, about a talented piano player with 2 brothers, 1 girl, and a whole pile of trouble standing between him + doin' his thing.
Stephenson's earlier work was some straight-up science fiction, in the same vein as William Gibson. And I'd just read Gibson's Pattern Recognition + Spook Country prior to starting The Jacket at the beginning of this jag, noting that his recent work was less about the future of a decade or so down the road + more about the day after tomorrow or next week. Stephenson achieves much the same with Cryptonomicon, reaching some conclusions about current technology + the directions it might take very, very soon. At the same time, though, there's another storyline to the novel, focussing on the codebreakers of World War II + spending a lot of time lasing in on the near-future + past of the Phillipines. This is a classic summer read, thick + complicated, with plot twists, good guys, bad guys, some of those gray guys (but no little grey men), and above all, fun.
Oddly enough, both Cryptonomicon + The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle detail a good bit of WWII-era "secret" history of the Japanese campaigns in China + Mongolia. That detail, combined with all of the codebreakery in Cryptonomicon, made me certain that I was experiencing some odd synchronicity, almost like I was being steered by some strange force into re-attempting to read Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow... But I remember my last run at that one, + decided to veer off-course for a bit first. And waiting for me at Barnes+Noble that day was...
It's actually less of a film + more of a photomontage with narration. There is a moving picture shot at one point + some mumbled, barely audible German dialogue, but otherwise it most resembles a short comics story.
In a post-nuke future (seems to be a lot of that going around...), the people who've survived in France live underground. A group of scientists (who mutter in German + look ominous + malevolent) are experimenting with time-travel on subjects that seem at best barely willing. They finally center their efforts around a man who has a vivid half-memory of a beautiful woman + some sort of violent incident. Her face continues to haunt him, making him an ideal candidate for the time-travel-trials. After a bunch of botched attempts to visit the past, it is decided that he should instead be sent into the future, where he meets a race of future-men who send him back to his present, where/when he discovers that he is now a target of the scientists who have been experimenting on him + must escape immediately or be killed... This was extremely reminiscent of classic EC Comics stories + the short speculative fiction of The Planet of the Apes author Pierre Boulle. Wicked good, yo!
"...alienists in black seven button suits..."
...and then it somehow just fell away from me. Again. By somewhere around page 90, I was struggling to even read a full page before going narcoleptic. What the fuck am I gonna do when I go back to re-read Ulysses?!?
Darn you, Thomas Pynchon!!!
The real meat of this book, though, comes when PKD explains the events of 2-3/74, which convinced him that he was being enlightened by an information source from outside himself that informed him of his son's life-threatening illness + the 'fact' that the world as we know it is a complete lie, fabricated to obfuscate the true teachings + meanings of Christ + to mask Jesus' second coming...
(who could do something like that, hmmm? Could it be... Satan?!?)
...cuz none of that'd cause bad dreams, right?