Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reviews: Everything Matters, Ring Around the Sun, Foundling

Book Review: Everything Matters by Ron Currie Jr.

A modern Candide. Voltaire used his episodic tale of misery and woe to demonstrate that happiness can never really be found, not until the very end, when the main characters all live in a shack and tend a garden outside. Living life is the only true happiness that mankind can have, and no amount of philosophical reasoning, or wealth, or fame, can ever get him that status. Except that's not the book I'm here to review.

I love apocalyptic books. I can remember reading When Worlds Collide by Wylie and Balmer at Band Camp, laying on the couch in the building next to our cabin and loving every minute of the book (well, the comfy couch and air conditioning helped.) There's nothing like the end of the world, and Currie's book is all about that. Except, the main character, Junior Thibodeax, has known all his life that the world will end on a certain day in the future, and it's the alien voices' experiment to see whether the knowledge of impending doom has any impact on his life. Whether, in a world where nothing matters, if anything matters at all. Starting with a blow by blow of his deliverance in the hospital, to his destruction by asteroid (maybe), the book details his life with a sardonic irony and humor that is quite entertaining. With Junior's knowledge and intelligence he sets out to save the human race, trying to fight the prediction that everyone will die in a gigantic fireball.

However, whether he succeeds or not, we aren't really sure, because the aliens come to him right before the end date and explain to him something he already knew... that the Earth he lived on is only one of millions of possibilities in a multiverse separated only by a sliver of a second. That basically there is a ring around the sun of different realities, and in each of those Earths, Junior makes a different decision, from not squashing a bug to not telling his big secret to his girlfriend, which effects the outcome of the world tremendously. It's the whole butterfly in the Sahara theory. A bit of a spoiler, but, the ending chapters are considerably different than the rest, and nothing much happens, but in the end, Junior's realization that Everything Matters proves the aliens wrong in their original assumption, and proves Voltaire right.

Book Review: Ring Around the Sun by Clifford D. Simak

I read this book right afterward because it influences so many authors and novels in the present day. Simak is one of the most important Science Fiction writers of the early 1960's, mostly because he created novels of marvelous ideas, ones with much potential and meat on them, if you understand. But Simak didn't always create great characters and plots to go along with those ideas (like so many other science fiction novels, the ideas are more important than the story). However, Ring Around the Sun is not one of those. It is a marvelous sci-fi novel, centering around the very idea that Currie used in Everything Matters, that the Earth is only one of millions of Earths existing in multiple space-time planes. This book is mentioned in Stephen King's Hearts in Atlantis and influenced King in his Dark Tower series. It is, in my opinion, a book that should be included in the modern Western Literary Cannon, mainly because it merges literature and science in a way that most high school students could easily understand it and enjoy it.

In the story, Jay Vickers, on his way to a meeting with a Mr. Crawford, sees a shop selling Forever Light Bulbs, as well as a razor that never needs sharpening, a car that runs forever...etc... This, explains Crawford, is crippling the industries of the world, causing chaos and fear. Vickers is supposed to investigate it and expose it in articles to be published. But it's not all that simple, because the people behind the Forever Light Bulb are trying to save the world, not destroy it.

A fabulous book, one that I've read twice now. It's very rare for me to do that. The other books I've read twice include LOTR, Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson, Dragonriders of Pern by McCaffrey, and Dandelion Wine by Bradbury. Simak's book easily ranks among these.

Music Review: Foundling by David Gray

Okay... this is the album Gray should have released instead of Drawing the Line. A work of introverted folk musings that is more reminiscent of a Monet painting than music itself. It is, like most of his albums, in need of a little tweaking. But that is easily done with modern MP3 players. Take out a couple of tracks from CD1, and add a couple from CD2 (a double disc album), especially "Who's Singing Now," and you've got an album that can be repeated over and over in your car or as background music in the home. Fantastic!!

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