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Apocalypse

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Title: Oryx and Crake
Author:
Margaret Atwood
Year: 2003

Strangely enough, my most prominent impression of Margaret Atwood before I actually read any of her books, is that she is quite silly in trying to categorise books that are clearly science-fiction as something that is not (although I approve of the term “speculative fiction”, which is allegedly what she preferred instead for Oryx and Crake as well as The Handmaid’s Tale). Oryx and Crake consists of two story lines dispersed in time, one of them telling the story of Snowman after the fall of civilisation as we know it, and the other explaining the events leading up to that downfall, also focused on Snowman (or Jimmy, as he was called then).

Central to both threads are the main character’s relationship to the other two protagonists, Oryx and Crake, from whose names the title is derived. Oryx is a girl who Jimmy has seen on a porn site in his adolescence, who in some mysterious way manages to touch him deeply and has great impact on his way of thinking. Crake is his mate from school, and a genius, working his way up through the genetic engineering enterprises that seem to be ruling an increasing part of novel’s world. Still, it is Jimmy who is the main character and even though the others are of great importance, it is he who narrates and it is his thoughts and emotions that matter most.

Since the chronology of the novel is not straightforward (the post-apocalyptic part only gives clues to the reasons of the current state of affairs, and the other thread takes its time working up to the explanation), the reader only gets glimpses of what is happening, but still enough to create and patch up interesting speculations from the very start. In short, information is portioned out in an interesting and skillful way.

Oryx and Crake alternates between describing Snowman’s despairing situation together with the enigmatic Crakers (who seem human, but obviously are not), and Jimmy’s life before the catastrophe, focusing on the stampeding research on genetic engineering and the breakdown of civilisation. Even though I do net feel that credibility is the main target, the story is carefully thought out and feels solid.

Contrary to what my statement above might convey, credibility is still what makes this novel worthwhile, but it is not the extrapolation of today’s environmental problems or overpopulation that interest me. Instead, it is the thrilling, touching and interesting story of Jimmy himself, a story made plausible by nuances of language, as well as by small details in the narration. Seldom have I come a cross a more lively description of a character’s inner feelings that, at the same time as being touching, also are interesting.

In addition to this, the language is brilliant, almost good enough to merit a read even if the rest of the book would have been totally worthless. Atwood employs a witty, realistic and sometimes also funny language that truly enables the reader to get close to Jimmy and get under his skin. Also, the life he leads and the themes thus covered have much bearing on the word today (such as child porn, genetic engineering, environmental issues and corporate power). The difference between this novel’s and others’ approach to these themes is that, in Oryx and Crake, Atwood manages to make them relevant and touching. They are not superficial. Instead, through straightforward and often brutal language usage, they seem to reach their intended goals without being overly moralising or pretentious. By talking about these issues mediated by a hypothetical future, they are made manageable (I do not think that I would have appreciated a novel focusing on these issues if that was the superficial focus as well as the deeper one).

Conclusively, I think that Oryx and Crake is a novel most people, if not everybody, ought to read. If you are not familiar with science-fiction as a genre, books like this one serve as excellent introductions, because they show very clearly that even though the story takes place in another time than our current one, the novel has much to say about our world today. Also, the author is competent enough to merit reading regardless of genre. I will definitely read more by Margaret Atwood, and I hope that you will, too.

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Title: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
Author: Kate Wilhelm
Year: 1976

My odyssey through the Hugo Winners draws to a close, but there still seem to be treasures on the final stretch. Kate Wilhelm’s book Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang was presented to me as being the epitome of science-fiction writing on the subject of clones, and I must say I was a little bit hesitant at the beginning of the novel. However, the story quickly unfolds, presenting the end of the civilised world as we know it, but with some people in it with the foresight to prepare for the downfall. Their only way of ascertaining survival of the human race in the long run is through a flawed cloning process that quickly runs out of control.

I like many things about this novel. For instance, the author seldom bothers with the unimportant bits, making Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang exactly as long as it has to be. Another author might have told the same story using three times as many pages, which would of course have ruined the novel. However, this does not mean that the narrative is terse in any way, it just means that the author has an acute sense of what to describe and what to leave out entirely.

Also, the topic of cloning is interesting, because it is dealt with in a very philosophical way. I thought the subject was used in fiction to boredom, but I was proven wrong. Even though Kate Wilhelm wrote the book more than thirty years ago, it still feels relevant and important. The need for diversity and uniqueness is something which is essential in most contexts, not only after the fall of civilisation, which happens to be the background against which Wilhelm paints her theme.

Admittedly, I was close to giving this novel five snails, but I did not. Argument for five snails primarily involve the feeling created in the story, something I have difficulties putting my finger on. The title is derived from Shakespeare’s sonnet 73: “Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang”, and herein can be sensed the feeling I am trying to describe. A deserted church choir, fallen into ruins, and in the stillness of autumn, sweet birds are singing as nature recaptures what man once dominated. I am not saying that this is what Shakespeare meant, but I think the title really manages to catch the essence of the story.

Still, even though the story is intriguing and its concepts interest me highly, it will have to suffice with four and a half snail for Kate Wilhelm. Even though the characters are interesting, I think that parts of the story could have been better (do not misunderstand me; nothing in this book is bad), particularly, I think parts of it is old stuff I have seen before (also things that I know have been published before 1976). Anyway, I still consider Were Late the Sweet Birds Sang a masterpiece and highly recommend it to everyone.

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Titel: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Regi: Jonathan Mostow
Manus: Michael Ferris, John Brancato och Tedi Sarafian
År: 2003
Recenserad: 2006-08-05

När det gäller film och musik är jag lite märklig. OFtast tycker jag att sådant jag tyckt varit bra en gång i tiden, fortsätter att vara bra även när jag blir äldre. Jag tror inte att det är så vanligt. i vilket fall var jag inte så gammal när jag såg Terminator 2 första gången. Mina föräldrar tyckte att vi kunde se den, men inte ettan då den är rätt mycket råare. Idag tycker jag att båda dessa filmer är riktigt bra, men på helt olika sätt. Som vanligt när uppföljare släpps till filmer man gillar, blir man skeptisk. Kan de inte bara låta filmerna vara och sluta när de fortfarande är bra istället för att, så att säga, göra en Alien?

Mina intryck av Terminator 3 är rätt ljumna och inte så intressanta, eftersom de inte utmärker sig mycket. Idéerna bakom en tredje film var helt okej och intrigen fungerade och var till och med bra på en del ställen. Skådespel och effekter och så vidare har jag inte heller något att klaga på. Det jag däremot vill klaga lite på är att den är väldigt lik Terminator 2. Det är knappt någon skillnad på T-1000 och T-X, förutom att den senare är bättre på allting. Jag hade velat ha en helt ny film men nya, fräscha idéer.

Trots detta var jag ändå väldigt intresserad av hur det skulle gå i flimen och den lyckades fånga mig på så sätt. Jag trodde att jag skulle ogilla den här filmen riktigt mycket, men så blev det alltså inte. Nu när de ändå dragit igång kan jag till och med tänka mig att se en postapokalyptisk fyra. Det vore kul.

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