out of the silent planet

title: Out of the Silent Planet

author: C. S. Lewis

genre: Fiction, sci-fi, space travel

suggested by: Sam B.

date read: December 7th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: Dr. Elwin Ransom, trying to help a young man return home, finds himself drugged and kidnapped, waking up on a spaceship headed for a distant planet (which turns out to be Mars).  His two captors, Dr. Weston and Dick Devine have been to the planet before and Ransom overhears a conversation which leads him to believe that he is going to be a sacrifice to the beings that inhabit the planet.  After they land, he finds a way to escape and wonders into the wilderness, where he is found by one of the species that live there.  This encounter opens up a while new world for Ransom.

personal thoughts: Sci-fi is always a little sketchy for me, which I think I’ve mentioned in other reviews.  However, I thought this was an interesting story and like Dr. Ransom and the compassion he had for the planet’s inhabitants.  I already love C. S. Lewis and it was cool to read something different by him.  I’m always amazed by people’s imaginations.  I have a vivid imagination, but it’s more grounded in things that could actually happen, rather than coming up with new worlds and species.  It’s especially cool when I can get a clear picture of what is being described, which I felt happened a lot while I was reading this.

favorite quotes:
“you cannot see things till you know roughly what they are.” p. 26

“‘the best pictures are made in the hardest stone.'” p. 75

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the things they carried

title: The Things They Carried

author: Tim O’Brien

genre: Fiction, Vietnam war, the power of stories

date read: December 7th

review: 3 out of 5 stars

summary: A collection of stories about a platoon of soldiers in the Vietnam war.  While not a memoir, O’Brien does write about the character Tim O’Brien.  The men struggle with death, missing their loved ones, and the sanctity of life.  The importance of story telling is a major theme of the book, coming back again and again as O’Brien recounts the lives of these men.

personal thoughts: I did not enjoy this.  The “meta-ness” of the book was really distracting and the disjointed stories were confusing.  He retold some of the stories several times and I didn’t care for most of his characters.  Honestly, I really hate it when stories that try to pass themselves off as real but not.  This is the problem I had with Life of Pi (I realize this was actually fiction, but the whole premise is that the character is telling a story that might be real, or it might not be, which made me feel like I just wasted so much time reading the book) and Shantaram.  I know we draw inspiration from life, but at least give your character a different name than your own.  This is obviously a personal pet peeve, so you might love this book.  I just can’t get past this, apparently.

favorite quotes:
“They used a hard vocabulary to contain the terrible softness.  Greased they’d say.  Offed, lit up, zapped while zipping.  It wasn’t cruelty, just stage presence.  They were actors.” p. 19

“Stories are for joining the past to the future.  Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are.  Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.” p. 36

“Courage was not always a matter of yes or now.  Sometimes it came in degrees, like the cold; sometimes you were very brave up to a point and then beyond that point you were not so brave.” p. 141

ready player one

title: Ready Player One

author: Ernest Cline

genre: Fiction, virtual reality, competition, year 2044

suggested by: Phil S.

dates read: December 5th – December 7th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: Wade Owen Watts is an orphan in 2044 using the “globally networked virtual reality” OASIS to escape the reality of his life.  Living in the “stacks,” a neighborhood of trailers stacked at least 15 units high, with his aunt and 13 other people, Wade’s life seems pretty bleak.  James Halliday, the videogame designer of OASIS and billionaire passed away at the age of 67, leaving behind no heirs to his mass fortune.  Instead, he created a complex game within OASIS and whoever finishes it first, will inherit his company and fortune.  Wade is one of those competitors and the first to pass the first level of the game.  With that one “small” accomplishment, Wade’s avatar is now globally known and Wade’s life changes forever.

personal thoughts: This really reminded me of Gamer with Gerard Butler, which is a movie I really love, even though it shows the depravity of humanity.  This was not quite as depraved, though it did show the greed humans are capable of.  I might not be as massive a nerd as some who have read this, but I still appreciated all the references that I did understand, from Firefly to Star Trek to Monty Python to PAC-MAN to D&D.  So clever and engaging.  Wade also developed a lot as a character, which added another element to the story.  Well told, and a nice tribute to all things nerdy.

favorite quote:
“I decided whoever Art3mis really was, I was in love with her.  I could feel it, deep in the soft, chewy caramel center of my being.” p. 179