dystopian


Author Rating: D

The Handmaid’s Tale (listened to audiobook read by Claire Danes, March 2017; not recommended)

This will be an unpopular opinion but this book is terrible. It’s boring. Twenty-five chapters in and I want to slap the main character, Offred. Just eat the fucking toast already.

I do not understand why this novel is recommended so glowingly by so many. Has anyone actually read it since they were 14, in 1985?  I don’t believe in the dull, gray world, and I have been given no reason to care about any of the characters, least of all the main character, Offred, who is as appealing as gray washwater.

It’s hard to find really good speculative fiction. This doesn’t even rise to the level of passable.   Claire Danes might be a good reader. It’s hard to say given how unremittingly dreary and uninspired this particular book is.

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"Mr. Wells evolving a cosmic thought" by William H. Cotton, 1935 (Library iof Congress)


Charles Dickens was still alive in September 1866 when H.G. Wells was born in Bromley, County of Kent, England. Wells died in 1946, a year after WWII ended. The technological, scientific and social changes which occurred during his life were huge. He spent his life pondering — and attempting to influence — the future.

While some of Wells’ ideas are shocking and repugnant, the pessimism he expressed in his last book, Mind at the End of its Tether, is well founded.

H.G. Wells, 1905 (Library of Congress)

“In the face of our universal inadequacy . . . man must go steeply up or down and the odds seem to be all in favor of his going down and out. If he goes up, then so great is the adaptation demanded of him that he must cease to be a man. Ordinary man is at the end of his tether.”

The current level of technological change has brought a degree of complexity to everyday life that cannot be sustained. People are indeed reaching the end of their tether.

Things to Come (1936) is a movie adaptation, which Wells wrote, of his 1933 novel The Shape of Things To Come, a dystopic view of life from 1936 to 2036 which questions the price of “progress.”

A bibliography “inclusive of books, major pamphlets and collected letters only” can be found here.

Author Rating: A

Starlight 1 (read 5/17/09) recommended

Don’t wave off this collection of short stories put together by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, published in 1996, because they are labeled as “science fiction.” Few involve outer space, all are well written, many took my breath away.

Someone gets the bright idea to replace workers with zombies.

Only the Crazy Water Man can truly hear her.

The source of Emily Dickinson’s vision revealed.

Historical fiction of science.

The future tries to steal the present.

England is a land of magic.

The life saving qualities of validation.

To me, this is the only unsatisfying story in the book. A woman has sex with a man in her office.

I struggled to understand this story.

This one was also difficult for me to understand because I lack any real knowledge of Shakespeare and Greek tragedies, but what I did understand made me queasy.

Re-drawing the world.

People are just not very nice.

Author Rating: A

Farewell Summer (read 5/16/09) recommended

According to the postscript at the end, this short novel was originally part of Bradbury’s 1957 semi-autobiographical novel Dandelion Wine, which I had read and liked very much back in the 1970s. Both are set in the fictional town of Green Town, Illinois. The action in the first book takes place during the summer of 1928, the second begins on October 1st 1928. Douglas Spaulding, his brother Tom and their friends don’t want summer to be over, they don’t want to grow old. It’s a story about the beginning of understanding.

I listened to — and very much enjoyed — the Recorded Book edition, read by Robert Fass. Three and a half hours in length, it fits perfectly into a summer afternoon.

Fahrenheit 451 (read 1970s) recommended

A frightening vision of the future which in some ways has already come true. Books are burned, ignorance is celebrated.

The Martial Chronicles (read 1970s) recommended

Stories written by Bradbury in the 1940s about life on Mars, some funny, some scary, all of them well worth your time.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (read 1970s) recommended

I remember being actually frightened reading this short novel about two boys and the “dark carnival” that arrives in their town.

The Illustrated Man (read 1970s) recommended

First published in 1951, this is a remarkable collection of 18 short science fiction stories told through the moving tattoos on a man’s body.

A Medicine for Melancholy and Other Stories (read 1970s) recommended

More great short science fiction stories.

Author Rating: A

1984 (listened Recorded Book 3/07) Recommended

This indeed is not for the faint of heart. I cannot recommend the AudioBook version strongly enough. It is wonderfully read by Frank Muller.

You can listen to it streaming on the internet here.

Author Rating: A

The Minority Report (Read 1980s) Recommended

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Read 1980s) Recommended

Both of these are collections of dystopian and science fiction short stories.