Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain
Author: Michael Crichton
Publisher: Ballantine (my copy; Harper in the above link)
Genre: Science Fiction
Amazon's rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Ennui's rating: 4 stars

What the book's about: A satellite lands in a small town in Arizona; when the government goes retrieve it, a startling discovery is made: Everyone is dead. Soon after, the men sent to retrieve the satellite send one frantic message back to base before they too are subdued to death. An account of five days, the book follows the Wildfire team as they attempt to study and maintain the viral outbreak from consuming the entire nation and world.

Thoughts: Some are led to believe this is a typical work of fiction; I warn you, it is not. From the get go, The Andromeda Strain reads like a commission report that goes into great depths of what happens in the five days in which the story takes place. Many other reviews have noted that Michael Crichton had a plot going steadily and then somehow lost it. He didn't. What they failed to understand that the book wasn't meant to be taken in like a work a fiction; it was meant to be read as a "factual" account of "factual" events. Plain and simple.

As with most of Crichton's books, he provided laymen readers, such as myself, with accurate description and definition of certain scientific terminology and theories, so you're never really left behind contemplating what exactly he was talking about.

It's a fast paced book with several nerve wracking events that leaves readers at the edge of their seat. Crichton provided several foresight passages that increases the adrenaline that the reader experiences as the page is turned.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Philosophy of Watchmen

Watchmen and Philosophy: A Rorschach Test
Editor: Mark D. White
Series: Blackwell Philosophy And Pop Culture
Series Editor: William Irwin
Genre: Nonfiction/Philosophy, Popular Culture
Amazon's Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Ennui's Rating: 4 stars

What the book's about: The highly acclaimed graphic novel, Watchmen, which was selected by Time Magazine to be one of the 100 best pieces of literature of the 20th century was littered with philosophical allusions. Even the fact that a graphic novel appears to the subject of one chapter of the book. The book maps out the intentional philosophical references and those that might have fans returning to the book to evaluate the arguments.

Thoughts: Cheesy, I know; but I'm a sucker of philosophy and an even bigger on when it comes to pop culture. However, the book is a must read for fans of the graphic novel and those who are scratching their heads after watching the film - caveat: the book follows the graphic novel and not the motion picture; if you haven't read the book, it is suggested that you do because, as with all adaptions, the film rearranges time lines and rewrites events.

There is little I can say about the book, however - really, how does one review a book on philosophy of popular culture without trying to muck of the book or explain each chapter one by one? The arguments made are compelling, provoking one to return to the graphic novel and recheck previous assumptions - that is if you're reading the book as literature and not just a graphic novel.

The topics range from what is good and evil, what is virtuous, homosexuality, feminism (which, by the way, was actually my favorite argument), political philosophy and the metaphysics of Dr. Manhattan. However, it would seem the two most popular characters these philosophers wrote about were Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias) and Rorschach (the subtitle is, in fact, A Rorschach Test). It's understandable why these two characters are the most famous - if you break down the graphic novel, you'll see the whole thing revolves around the deontology of Rorschach and the utilitarianism of Veidt. Nite Owl is touched upon, being claimed as the most virtuous character in the book. Silk Spectre (the first and second) are really only mentioned as main subjects in one (can you guess the topic?) and only slightly touched on in the other essays, if at all. Dr. Manhattan is another famous character - he gets his own section in the book! - especially when it comes to metaphysics (no surprise there).

It's a great read and I highly recommend it to those who are still trying to grasp and understanding of the graphic novel (or those of you who opted to watch the movie instead and are still scratching your heads about what just happened).