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A superb tale of a future where artificial intelligence rules(0)

April 27, 2017

This Perfect Day, by Ira Levin @@@@@ (5 out of 5) Centuries in the future, the people of Earth live under the control of an artificial intelligence called UniComp. A century and a half earlier, the computers governing the five continents had come together in the Unification. The result was a worldwide society free of… Read More ›

Overpopulation in fiction and on film

Make Room! Make Room!, by Harry Harrison @@@ (3 out of 5) In 1973, American filmgoers were shocked by a film entitled Soylent Green, starring Charlton Heston and Leigh Taylor-Young. The film depicts New York City in 2022 with a population of 40 million. The streets are crowded with homeless people, but those few with… Read More ›

In an alternate history, the Nazis occupy England

SS-GB, by Len Deighton @@@@ (4 out of 5) In the literature of alternate history, Nazi Germany often wins World War II. Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, Fatherland by Robert Harris, and Jo Walton’s Farthing Trilogy (Farthing, Ha’penny, and Half a Crown, all reviewed here) are prominent examples. There are many others,… Read More ›

A terrifying vision of the future in an award-winning young adult novel

Feed, by M. T. Anderson @@@@@ (5 out of 5) M. T. Anderson’s award-winning novel, Feed, is one of the scariest books I’ve read in many years (and it was written for teenagers!). Yet the terror it evokes emerges only slowly, as Anderson reveals, chapter by chapter, additional details that demonstrate the hopelessness of the… Read More ›

Kurt Vonnegut’s classic warning about automation

Player Piano: A Novel, by Kurt Vonnegut @@@@@ (5 out of 5) Kurt Vonnegut was never willing to concede that he wrote science fiction. Though it’s difficult to read his work without drawing that conclusion anyway, his many novels could also be considered as social commentary. Biting commentary, at that. A pessimistic view of the… Read More ›

The book behind the film “Blade Runner”

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick @@@ (3 out of 5) Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is regarded as one of the most outstanding science fiction films ever made. The film was released 35 years ago, in 1982. Google its title, and you’re likely to come across the following description: “Deckard (Harrison… Read More ›

Rereading Brave New World with a would-be dictator in the White House

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley @@@ (3 out of 5) Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s seminal works of dystopian literature. Critics today tend to group it with George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and… Read More ›

Reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” in the Age of Trump

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood @@@@@ (5 out of 5) In a front-page essay in The New York Times Book Review for March 19, 2017, Margaret Atwood reflects on writing her science fiction classic, The Handmaid’s Tale. “Back in 1984,” she notes, “the main premise seemed—even to me—fairly outrageous. Would I be able to… Read More ›

The exciting second book in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga

Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga #2), by Lois McMaster Bujold @@@@ (4 out of 5) Commander Cordelia Naismith of Beta Colony is leading a scientific study team on an unnamed planet when she and a colleague become separated from the rest of the team. They witness their planetary shuttle taking off in the distance, only… Read More ›

A deeply affecting novel of the Holocaust

The German Girl: A Novel, by Armando Lucas Correa @@@@ (4 out of 5) In a moving first novel, Armando Lucas Correa tells the story of The German Girl, a tale of the Holocaust loosely based on historical fact. The “German girl” is Hannah Rosenthal, the blonde, blue-eyed, 11-year-old daughter of a wealthy and prominent… Read More ›