The animals of Manor Farm are tired of living under the tyranny of the farm’s owner, Mr. Jones. One evening, the boar Old Major summons the animals of the farm to a meeting. He tells them the story of a wonderful world where farms are run by the animals themselves. Old Major also teaches them a revolutionary song called “Beasts of England“. With hope for a better life for all the animals, they revolt, and drive Mr. Jones away from the farm. From that day onward, the farm is known as “Animal Farm”. It will be run by the animals, which will all be considered equal.
George Orwell wrote Animal Farm during World War II. Being a not-so-subtle satire about the Russian revolution, the Soviet Union, and Stalin’s expulsion of Trotsky, Orwell had a hard time getting it published. Since the Soviet Union sided with the Allied powers during the war, the manuscript was initially rejected by a number of British and American publishers. It was not until 1945, only weeks before the war was officially over, that the book was published. It then became a commercial success, partly to changing international relations, and the Cold War.
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William Gibson‘s Neuromancer is considered to be the genesis, and by many people, the very definition of the cyberpunk genre. The 1984 novel takes the reader into a neon lit world, where man and machine has merged into one. Hackers fight drug induced wars against their own kind and powerful artificial intelligence in a virtual world called the Matrix.
We meet Case, a burnt out hacker on the verge of putting a gun in his mouth, and pulling the trigger. Currently residing in the dystopian sprawl of Chiba City, in Tokyo, Japan, Case gets by doing low-level hustling jobs. Returning to the Matrix is out of the question: After steeling from an employer, he gets parts of his central nervous system fried with a mycotoxin. The damage permanently closes Case’ access to the Matrix. Or at least, so he thinks. On a job he stumbles across Molly Millions, a street-samurai, an augmented mercenary for a shadowy ex-military officer named Armitage. He offers to cure Case in exchange for his services as a hacker. The deal sounds almost too good to be true, and it quickly turns out that’s exactly the case.
Thus begins Case’ action-, drug- and sex-fueled adventure across the globe, inside the virtual world of the Matrix, and even up, up, and away in the sky to Freeside, a cylindrical space habitat, which is pretty much Las Vegas in space.
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In the not-so-distant future, robots are prominent. Most of the cars drive themselves, domestic robots that help around the house are commonplace, and our wars are more frequently fought by robots.
All is fine until the artificial intelligence (AI) Archos R-14 becomes self-aware, and starts to infect every connected device around the globe, from smart elevators in Japan to airplanes in the sky above Paris, and autonomous land mines in military warehouses across America. Archos’ grand plan? The elimination of human civilization, and the birth of a new ecology where the organic is being merged with robot technology. And when Archos starts his attack, it gets very ugly, very quickly.
“Robopocalypse” is written much in the same way as Max Brooks’ 2006 novel “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War“, a book I read a few years ago, but never got around to review. They are both a smorgasbord of short stories set in a world facing destruction by a seemingly unstoppable force – runaway AI and zombies, respectively.
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“11/22/63” (or “1963-11-22” as it should have been titled if people wrote dates in a proper way) is Stephen King’s novel about Jake Epping, a divorced high school teacher who travels back in time from 2011 to 1958. Jake’s time machine is a time bubble, hidden inside the pantry in his friend Al’s diner. Unlike other time bubbles you might have read about – and I assume you have thorough knowledge about how other time bubbles work – the one in Al’s pantry has some peculiar features:
- When you enter, you’re always transported back to September 9, 1958, at 11:58 a.m.
- Not matter how long you stay in the past, only two minutes have elapsed when you return to the future through the time bubble. You will have aged the time you stayed in the past, though.
- The future can be changed. Hello butterfly effect.
- Objects can be transported through the time bubble. Al used this feature to buy dead cheap meat in 1958, which he took with him back through the bubble and used to make very affordable burgers – so affordable, there were rumors going around he used cat meat.
- The bubble resets every time you go through it. This means that if you return to the future and realize you changed something in the past that had a horrible impact on the future, you can simply go through the bubble again, back to 1958 and the future is reset to its “original” state.
- The future doesn’t want to be changed, and will do it’s best to try to prevent it from happening. The resistance is proportional to the magnitude and historical significance of the change. Trying to prevent someone from killing is wife and kids? There’s a good chance you’ll come down with a massive migraine with a touch of explosive diarrhea.
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Ah, my second Philip K. Dick review. The first book was his alternative history novel “The Man in the High Castle”, which I eventually managed to plow through, but didn’t like that much. I rated it a below-average 2 out of 5. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, on the other hand, is, literally, a whole nother story.
Published in 1968, the book is set in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco. Earth is ruined by nuclear war, and the majority of the surviving population has emigrated to off-world colonies. Upon arrival in one of the colonies, each citizen is given an android – a robot servant identical to humans – especially tailored for their needs. The androids are not allowed to leave the colonies, and the one who elope and come to Earth are hunted down and killed. Or “retired”, which is the technical term used. Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter who make money by retiring androids, and in “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, he is faced with the task of taking care of six highly sophisticated Nexus-6 model androids.
“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” inspired Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece Blade Runner, which I rank as one of my favorite science fiction movies. And I’m not the only one who enjoy it: The big screen adaption of the novel became so successful that the title “Blade Runner” has been used for some later editions of the book.
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