Back in late March, I wrote a post about searching for an Austen audiobook I needed to read for a book club discussion. At the end of that post, I promised a followup post on watching a movie using Hoopla and Google Chromecast. I did search diligently for a movie to watch via Hoopla, one that I hadn’t already seen and that was even remotely appealing. I watched two movies from Hoopla: The Girl on the Train and Drive Hard. I wasn’t overly impressed with either of them. I searched and searched and determined that Hoopla’s catalog is just not for me, at least for movies.
I’m my own worst enemy though. I’ve been a Netflix subscriber for years, both Blu-Rays and streaming. I’m a snob when it comes to video quality as well. For example, I rarely watch anything provided by my Dish Network subscription because they compress their “HD” to such a point that it might as well be “SD” quality. If it’s not at least Blu-Ray quality, I’d rather not watch it. So anything worth seeing, I’ve either gotten the Blu-Ray from Netflix or I’ve bought it through Google Play.
So Hoopla’s movie and television catalog is dated or full of not-so-highly rated offerings. i could say similar things for Netflix streaming, but at least there are occasional gems to be had and the television shows available on Netflix are only about a year behind, except for their own flagship shows of course.
But Hoopla has more than just movies and shows. It has music (and ebooks and audiobooks and comics and … well a whole lot more). This will become significant in a moment.
Continue reading “Taking the Fifth”
I finished Kallocain early this morning. Finished is too final a word. I doubt this book will ever fully leave me. I should give this book four or five stars, but it’s hard to ‘lie’ to myself (as the narrator so aptly does until nearly the end) that I liked or loved this book. It’s dystopian ficion – not an overly likeable or loveable subgenre of science fiction. Even so, decades later, we as a society still devour and crave stories that allow us to peer through a mirror darkly at what might grow if we nurture security at the expense of liberty.
Often compared to Huxley’s Brave New World (published eight yours before Kallocain) and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (published eight yours after), and having read both of those famous classics, I put forth that Boye’s Kallocain is more insidious, more disturbing than either. Leo Kall invents a drug which facilitates the policing of thoughts, the ‘holy grail’ of any totalitarian police state. The tragedy is Kall’s complete almost innocent faith in his Worldstate while his closest fellow-soldiers (wife, supervisor, test subjects and high ranking officials) exhibit humanity (laudible traits and those less laudible ones that bear fruit in totalitarian regins) and individuality. Kall wishes to eradicate these treasonous thoughts in others and so aids less scrupulous officials in legislating and condemning them. Once he achieves a modicum of his own power and acts upon his fears, Kall beings to regret, doubt takes root, innocence toward the benevolence of the Worldstate crumbles and his conscience awakes.
Continue reading “Reading the 1941 Retro Hugo Best Novel Nominees – Kallocain by Karin Boye”
Yesterday I finished the fourth Best Novel (2016 Hugo Awards) nominee out of five. Butcher’s Aeronaut’s Windlass surprised me. I’ve previously read selections from his Dresden Files and from the Codex Alera series, but this novel, the first in his new Cinder Spires steampunk series, really impressed me. I simultaneously listened to the audiobook and read the ebook (more the latter towards the end because I read much faster than the audiobook progresses, although I don’t do voice characterizations nearly as well as voice actors do). I gave it a solid four stars out of five, but when compared to the other nominees, I’m afraid it will fall mid-pack behind Lemke’s Ancillary Mercy and Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. And I’m having trouble classifying this as fantasy or science fiction, although it does fit well within the subgenre of steampunk. Both scientific and fantastical elements abound.
That leaves me just one more novel to read to complete the Best Novel nominees for 2016 – Stephenson’s Seveneves. But before I bury myself in hard SF, I turned my eyes to the Retro Hugo Awards (for 1941) and started reading Slan by A.E. van Vogt.
I found a copy of this book via my local library’s access the regional library system in Northeast Kansas. Nearby Atchison kept an edition published as part of the Garland Library of Science Fiction (1975) described as a “collection of 45 works of science fiction selected by Lester del Rey.” I started the book early afternoon on Sunday the 3rd and would have finished it by ten o’clock if I hadn’t kept nodding off – not because I wasn’t interested, but just because I was up past more normal bed time. I picked the novel back up this morning with less than fifty pages to go to the end.
Slan kept my interest despite dated technology and the lack of technological development aside from the usual 1940s fascination with atomic power. The only interesting tech bit was anti-gravity, which was more of a plot device than an actual technological achievement. Colonization of Mars assumes water and a breathable atmosphere, both of which seem laughable to us today. The psi powers of the slan are pivotal to the plot, but not in the way you would imagine. I found Slan to be an enjoyable, fast read with a bit of adventure (typical for the time period and the rampant serialization in SF magazines). I gave Slan a solid three stars out of five.
Next up for the Retro Hugo Best Novel nominees will be T.H. White’s The Ill-Made Knight, which I found in audiobook format via Hoopla. I’ve previously read Doc Smith’s Gray Lensman, so there’s no need to re-read that one. The other nominees are on request via InterLibrary Loan and I hope will arrive soon to give me time to complete them before voting closes at the end of July.