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Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Time Machine

Today I'm reviewing The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. This is a truly great piece of classic Science Fiction. The story revolves around a group of people listening to the narrative of a man who claims to have invented and used a machine that allowed him to go into the distant future and view the fate of mankind.

Long story short: The Time Traveler uses his machine to go into the much distant future, and when her gets there he sees an evolved form of mankind called the Eloi, who are peaceful, simple, and seems to be free of social class or suffering. He observes their behavior and goes out to explore the nearby area. When he returns to the place he left his time machine, he discovers that it is gone.

He begins to panic and searches frantically, only to figure out that it has been placed inside the pedestal of a nearby statue. He examines the pedestal, but can find no way to pry it open, and he ends up spending the night there. He notices the Eloi become agitated at night, and he catches glimpses of white, apelike creatures which the  Eloi call Morlocks.

Being as the Time Traveler and Eloi don't speak the same language, he can't figure out what the Morlocks are or why the Eloi are terrified of them- he only knows that they are very pale, very agile, and only come out at night. He grows curious about them, and tries to find one to get a better look. He manages to follow one, only to see it climb down a tube that lead underground, which leads him to believe that the Morlocks took his machine.

One day, the Time Traveler saves an Eloi woman, Weena, from drowning. After she is saved, she follows the Time Traveler around, placing flowers on him and showering him with affection. He tries to get her to explain the Morlocks to him, but she grows agitated at their mention and he learns nothing. He decides to climb down one of the well-like tubes that lead underground to find the Morlocks, find his machine, and get back to his own time.

Once underground, he finds a sophisticated network of tunnels and machinery. He finds some Morlocks while they are eating a meal of meat. This strikes him as unusual, since there are no cattle and the Eloi eat fruit. That's when he realizes that there are no old Eloi. No sick Eloi, either. The Eloi ARE the cattle! Realizing his danger, he barely escapes the Morlocks without becoming their next meal.

During his escape, he finds that matches are a useful tools against the Morlocks because they are adapted to the dark and the bright light of fire blinds them. He also realizes that he's been wasting his matches, and has very few left. He decides to journey to a large ruin in the distance in the hopes that it will have some means to make fire so he can find a way to get the Morlocks to give him back his machine and hopefully find a way to help protect the Eloi.

The Time Traveler and Weena make it to the ruin, which, as it turns out, used to be a museum. He finds some useful items against the Morlocks, and starts to head back. The Morlocks pursue him and Weena, There's some struggling, and an accidental forest fire which kills off a number of Morlocks and Weena.

When the Time Traveler makes it back to the statue, the pedestal is open and his machine is visible. He climbs in, and the Morlocks close those door, thinking they have him trapped- but the Time Traveler hops on his machine, fires it up, and gets out of there in a hurry.

He goes further into the future, sees a mostly dead world with a giant red sun, really thin air, and some large aggressive crabs. Then he decides its time to go home. He goes back to his time, tells his story, and most people don't believe him.

This story touches on a lot of social issues not highlighted in this review. It is a story which makes you think, and that is my favorite kind. It is also a story which has managed to stay relevant over a hundred years after it was written, and even though it is a bit short you still get a deep feel for the characters. I recommend this story to anyone who wants to broaden the way they think of the fate of our species- and I think it should be required reading for anyone who claims to enjoy science fiction. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Life, strife, and suffering

Are you comfy? You cozy? You snuggled up next to your computer with a warm cup of coffee like I am? Good. We're lucky. Not only are we just lucky- we're AMAZINGLY lucky. I believe, with all of my heart, that if we, as a species unite to help each other we are unstoppable. I've decided that I'm going to occasionally list causes that I'm supporting along with information and links to be able to donate. I can't make you care, and I can't make you donate- but I can't enjoy my cheap coffee with a clear conscience if I don't at least try.

It's hard for me to just think of just one cause to start with because there are so many wonderful ways we can all contribute to each other's well being, so I'm going to start with the last cause I donated to- Habitat For Humanity, specifically, the chapter of Habitat for Humanity that is supported by The Echelon (read: awesome huge fan base/family) of the band 30 Seconds To Mars.

I'm an Echelon member myself. Partly because their music is awesome, partly because of Jared Leto's extreme sexiness, and partly because of all the causes the band and their fans support. The Echelon House (HFH's 30STM group) is responsible for the building of 24 houses all over the world- that's 24 houses built by the fans of one band. Can you imagine what could be done if every major band put their backing to causes like this?

I recently chatted on Skype with the primary founder of Echelon House, and I can assure you that there's wonderful plans for the upcoming year: houses for people in flood-ravaged Australia, houses for people still displaced by the Haiti earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people last year, houses for people in places where you forget there is suffering.

As I sit here in this townhouse, it's easy for me to think about how much I hate the carpet or how I'd rather be somewhere else- but when I think about all of the individuals and families who don't have a place to call home, I become overwhelmed with gratitude for the things I have and I feel my desire to help others start to boil over. It makes you think about how lucky you are, and when you feel grateful for who and what you have around you, you treat people a little nicer, laugh more often, and cultivate compassion for the people around you.

Donating, no matter how small, makes you feel this amazing gratitude and compassion. When I'm having a shitty day (or I want to beat someone's head in with a frying pan because they're a moron) my whole outlook is changed when I donate to something I believe in. Sometimes it's only pocket change. The economy blows and money doesn't go as far as it used to. But $.01 donated by each of us could, literally, change the world. So, the next time you're out and you see a donation jar, put a penny in for me. Regardless of what it's for, that penny is going to help someone who needs it. And the gratitude you feel expands not just with the amount you donate, but with the cause you choose.

Here's a link to The Echelon House. Each donation makes a difference, no matter how small.

If you're on Twitter, The Echelon House would like you to nominate them for a Shorty award for their cause.

If you love photography and want to support a good cause, Jared Leto's book of photos from his time spent helping Haiti can be preordered/purchased here, and 100% of net proceeds will be donated to help people in Haiti:

Thanks for reading, and happy helping!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

His Robot Girlfriend by Wesley Allison

This is another free book I read on my ipod Apple iPod touch 32 GB (4th Generation) NEWEST MODEL I'm totally digging this whole 'free books' idea. Or, as my husband puts it: "Don't you EVER put that thing down?!" The only problem with e-books is that you don't get that wonderful book smell. If any of you know where I can get book smell perfume, I will love you for life. Seriously. Ok, enough B.S. Let's do what we came to this shady corner of the internet to accomplish!

The official book blurb is: "Mike Smith's life was crap, living all alone, years after his wife had died and his children had grown up and moved away. Then he saw the commercial for the Daffodil. Far more than other robots, the Daffodil could become anything and everything he wanted it to be. Mike's life is about to change."

Although that sums things up quite nicely (as book blurbs often do) it doesn't really do story justice.  

Long story short: Mike Smith's life is crap. He's widowed with two grown children who are out of the house and busy with their own lives, he's a chubby, lazy school teacher with few friends and no real life. This book is set in the relatively near future (which is done very well, I'll get to that in a bit), and Mike decides to get himself a multi-purpose robot companion to help with household chores, companionship, and his sexual needs. He designs and purchases his ideal robot companion, and when she arrives he names her Patience.

Patience becomes Mike's chef, maid, lover, landscaper, financial analyst, gym partner, friend, and savior.  She changes his diet and gets him to work out, she organizes his house and sells his junk on ebay, and she helps him cope with tragic memories he's suppressed deep withing himself. She even risks her 'life' to protect him! She has some very human traits (shoe fetish!) and it is easy to forget that she's not human. So easy, in fact, that Mike develops a genuine love for her. This, of course, is not well-received by a lot of people- and this is also what makes the story pull at me. 

Once you get past the futuristic robot concept, this story is about one man wanting to marry the person he loves - even though most people strongly disapprove of people marrying robots . This part of the story doesn't show up until the end, but that's because you need to read the stuff before it to become attached to the characters. And the characters are easy to get attached to. 

The environment that Wesley Allison creates is so realistic that you can easily visualize the future he writes about. It's quirky, fun, and totally believable. The writing style is easy to read, and I laughed out loud several times throughout the story. I have only one gripe: the predictable and abrupt ending. But, to be honest, I can totally understand it. I just wanted the story to keep going. 

I really enjoyed reading this, and I plan on reading more of his stories since I saw there's a bunch of free ones on iBooks. I'm a book whore- it's what I do!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Demon Girl by Penelope Fletcher

See? I told you I would blog again soon? ;)

I got an iPod Touch for Christmas, and The Demon Girl is the first book I read on the iBooks application. It was a free book with a pretty cover and an intriguing title, so I decided to give it a try.

Long story short: Rae Wilder is a Disciple in a world where humans have been nearly wiped out. An event, called the Rupture, caused all kinds of previously repressed beings (known as Demons) to come out into the open. The list of Demons contains all the usual suspects: vampires, were-beasts, and fairies. There's also witches, which are humans who are sensitive to the Source (as in source of life, source of everything- source of power for the beings in this book) who are shunned by normal human folk and are generally considered bad. Humans have walled themselves up in self-contained city/compounds to protect themselves from the Demons who run wild outside.

One morning. while out for a run, Rae finds finds a way through the wall that protects her and the humans around her from the murderous chaos of the demons outside. Being brave and foolhardy, Rae sneaks outside into the unknown, where her life is changed forever.

There's a lot to this book, so I'll just say that you will find yourself immersed in the following: love, hate, interspecies romance, blood drinking, human sacrifice, beheadings, fancy powerful jewelry, pretty wings, were-cat things, naked guys, not naked guys, tattoos, tribe wars, and an interesting plot line.

When I got to the end of the book, I was excited to see that it's going to be a series- I am eagerly anticipating the next installment!

There were a few bad things about this book- but none of them are story-related. I notice a lot of wrong words (wrong forms of the word to/too, various other mix-ups of homophones) a few misspellings, and some confusing grammar/sentence structure. Once you see past all of that, however, it is a truly engaging read.