Sunday, August 12, 2007

Rambling on Sci-Fi Stuff

Sometimes I hear how it seems passe and old-fashion to be reading Hemingway these days. I don't think there is anything wrong with reading and loving Hemingway - but maybe he seems passe these days because there have been too many imitators of his terse, musculine style since, so now he reads like a counterfeit of himself.

In a nutshell: he was cool when he first came out, but we've since we caught up with him.

In a way, that's how I feel about William Gibson. Neuromancer still stands as a must-read among the sci-fi canon, but I find it hard to re-read Gibson's cyberpunk novels without feeling how they don't age well. The Guardian interviews William Gibson recently, and they also pointed out how technology had superceded the novels - so much so that they lost their visionary kick.

Was he a prophet? 'Not a very good one: there are no cellphones in Neuromancer. A 12-year-old would spot that straight away. There's no email either, no websites, no internet really.

Question is: is it still worthwhile reading Neuromancer? I can't bring myself to recommend it anymore, especially not to someone new to the science fiction genre.

I've been reading the reviews for Spook Country online recently. Gibson has taken a thematic departure from cyberpunk a long time ago, but I've been slow to catch up with his novels after Virtual Light. (Yes, I have been pretty behind times on Gibson.) Should I, or should I not read Spook Country?

There just seems more exciting authors exploring new grounds in the cyber-noir thriller genre. I've read Richard K. Morgan, and he's interesting. Thirteen is his newest title, and I'm intrigued by the premise, which explores genetically enhanced superhumans, and examines how personality is shaped by nature and experience.

Another author on the sci-fi reading list: Ian McDonald's River of Gods. Amazon synopsis:

In the India of 2047, genetically engineered children comprise a new caste, adults can be surgically transformed into a neutral gender, a water war has broken out as the Ganges threatens to run dry, AIs are violently destroyed if they approach levels akin to human intelligence, and something strange has just appeared in the solar system. The deliberate pace and lack of explanation require patience at the outset, but readers will become increasingly hooked as the pieces of McDonald's richly detailed world fall into place.

Or the synopsis for his more recent title, Brasyl:

British author McDonald's outstanding SF novel channels the vitality of South America's largest country into an edgy, post-cyberpunk free-for-all. McDonald sets up three separate characters in different eras—a cynical contemporary reality-TV producer, a near-future bisexual entrepreneur and a tormented 18th-century Jesuit agent. He then slams them together with the revelation that their worlds are strands of an immense quantum multiverse, and each of them is threatened by the Order, a vast conspiracy devoted to maintaining the status quo until the end of time. As McDonald weaves together the separate narrative threads, each character must choose between isolation or cooperation, and also between accepting things as they are or taking desperate action to make changes possible.

I think what intrigues me with Ian McDonald's novels (as described in the synopses of his novels) is how he seems to be an author who plays with multi-cultural ideas and riff them on a sci-fi storyline. I want to see how he plays them out - and whether he's any good.

I've also been researching on the phenomena known as Second Life recently, and it amazes me. I'm reminded of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, with his concept of Metaverse. I've only read Diamond Age, but I was impressed by how he seems like a writer with an expansive mind.

By the way: I have my eyes on the 5 discs ULTIMATE LIMITED EDITION of Blade Runner to be released this December.

What is there not to love? Blade Runner is a visual magnum opus drenched in existential gloom. And most of all, it has Rutger Hauer in his platinum-blond replicant glory running around half-naked. I loved the Director's Cut of the movie, with the unicorn, even as I look forward to the various "extras". One of my favourite scenes of all time remains Roy Batty's dying speech.

Toward the end, the replicant saves Deckard - an act that Deckard can only guess at its motives. But in saving Deckard, it allows the latter to bear witness to Batty's death speech. There is something almost Shakespeare in that speech, in its flickering grandeur. A connection is sealed between Roy Batty and Deckard - something is exchanged, passed on. And everything changes for Deckard from now on.

I hope this is as Ultimate as it gets. Because I don't think my wallet can take any more Ultimate.


chrisa511 said...

Oh wow!!!! I hadn't seen that ultimate edition of Blade Runner, nor had I heard of it. That's incredible. I want it!

I've had River of Gods on my wish list for awhile. That book sounds great and I'm in love with the cover. That was the original reason for it going on my wishlist :p.

I've never read any Gibson and I don't have much desire to. I'm not big on the cyberpunk genre. I tried it out and it's just not for me...or maybe I just haven't found an author that does it well. The last one I tried was Philip K. Dick's Valis.

Carl V. Anderson said...

I cannot wait to get that Ultimate Blade Runner collection. I also cannot wait for its re-release in theatres as I never saw it on its original run.

I like cyberpunk well enough (LOVE steampunk)and I don't mind reading books that don't jibe with the future they envisioned when they were written. As a fan of classic/retro science fiction I feel that these kind of books fall into that category. If they are well written it doesn't bother me at all that the world hasn't quite turned out like the author envisioned.

Imani said...

Hemingway passée already? What the hell.

Anonymous said...

That Blade Runner package is a thing of beauty!

darkorpheus said...

Chris Hee. Lovely isn't it?

But cyberpunk - I find it harder these days to get into cyberpunk. I'm still trying, but because I also need a story, it's sometimes hard to find an author that can juggle plot with style.

Carl Isn't the new DVD set just awesome? Question though - do I get it in the Blu-Ray or HD version? HAven't upgraded my player yet - and I would hate to have my DVDs got obsolete in a few years time. *sigh*

Imani Oh yeah. It's no longer fashionable to say you LOVE Hemingway. He's just an old dead guy. ;p

Stefanie Ain't it? And it's going to sit well right next to my existing copy of Blade Runner: Director's Cut.

Do I need another version of Blade Runner, I ask myself? D'uh.

Anonymous said...

i still think "neuromancer" is relevant. i agree, it has dated, sadly... the cyberpunk look and manner and the technology... but theres still a lot there for the reader.

i don't think one needs to take the book literally. i think it can function as comment on where we're going, or might go. the state of society he presents us with - the infusion with technology and how that affects identity and interaction etc. the reality/non-reality of a heavily cyber-influenced life. in that sense i think its still very relevant.

that "blade runner" set looks gorgeous!

i was curious, what are your feelings on the discrepancy between "electric sheep" and "blade runner"? i love "blade runner" and it is one of the films that really got me into science fiction. however, since i can remember i was always told that the book was far better than the film, but when i eventually got around to reading it i was a bit disatisfied by it. i expected more. it was still good - don't get me wrong... but, perhaps controversiall, i think i might prefer the film...

i'm not sure about this, 'cause i haven't watched the film since. it rankles a bit that they differ so much - its as if they're almost saying two different things.

i don't know...

darkorpheus said...

Jean Pierre Neuromancer - there's something about the prose style that feels abrupt. But with the anachronism it makes the writing seem overly "musculine" - too abrupt.

Maybe Neuromancer is still relevant for some discussion - but the genre has developed a lot since then - although it has not yet abandoned the noirish influence.

Have never read "Electric Sheep" so I can't compare. Sorry. But "Blade Runner" as a film stands on its own merit, I believe.

Anonymous said...

hmmm... i'll have to take another look at "neuromancer".

but yeah, "blade runner" is a beautiful thing!