My Struggle Book 4, by Karl Ove Knausgaard

My Struggle: Book4, by Karl Ove Knausgaard

  “…he would have to work out the social game for himself. He would have to learn he would get nowhere by whining or telling tales.” Karl Ove isn’t talking about himself in this quote, but he might as well be. Eighteen year old Karl Ove spends most of the book whining about his inability to lose his virginity, and attempting to write short fiction (telling tales). You might think I’m joking, but I think the moral of this story is that people should masturbate more often, and especially in their early teenage years. Let me backtrack a bit… Like book 3, book 4 doesn’t jump around as much as 1 and 2. It stays mostly focused on his life from age sixteen to eighteen, with an occasional leap forward… Continue reading

The Survivors, by Nick Farmer

The Survivors, by Nick Farmer

“Do I miss it? I dunno, man, maybe. I feel like everything before the sleep was a lie, and now I’ve woken up, in more ways than one. But being awake is scary.” The Survivors is a clever viral outbreak story that takes a unique, layered point of view on survival of the fittest. On the surface there’s a straightforward tale of post-apocalyptic existence at play, but there is also a lot between the lines about transhumanism, genetic modification, living rather than just being alive, fear motivating division motivating hatred, etc. It’s a great story, and the novelette form is the perfect length for it to unfold in. Personally, the thing I love about short fiction is that when the word count is only so long, instead of filling in… Continue reading

High-Rise, by J.G. Ballard

A disturbing/enthralling allegory – class struggle, self deception, and the animalistic brutality concealed just below the surface of human civilization. I knew of Ballard from the new-wave SF of the late 60s / early 70s, particularly Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions compilations, wherein he’s described – by Ellison in his story introduction – as one of the few mainstream lit crossovers coming from the world of speculative fiction. He is an eloquently gifted writer, straightforward but poetically descriptive at the same time. High-Rise is one of those few short novels that could be the topic of a very concise thesis, that ultimately clocks a longer page count than its source material. There is a simple story of ascent/descent at play, but quite a bit of expressive analogy hiding between the lines.… Continue reading

Poems, by Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod

Poems, by Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod

Unless someone seriously goes against his publicly (and hopefully legally) stated wishes, there will only ever be 30 Iain Banks books, including this one, his last and only posthumously published work. It combines his personally selected poems, mostly unpublished, with the poetry of his friend and colleague Ken MacLeod. Now, I have to be up-front here: I know very little about, and have a hard time understanding poetry. I know enough to be fairly certain that my lack of knowledge concerning the form probably shares a strong causal relationship with my difficulty in appreciating it. I say this just to be clear. I think that like most folks who pick this one up, I read it more as a fan of Iain Banks, than as someone who knows literally anything… Continue reading

Ethics in the Real World, by Peter Singer

A wonderful collection of short essays, aimed toward every day people. Each designed to introduce some difficult ethical questions to those that may have never been forced to confront them in their day-to-day lives. The only failure of this book is, in retrospect, actually a success, it being inherent to the function of what the book set out to achieve; the essays are too brief, and as a result, often too black and white. The author, a utilitarian, undoubtedly understood that this was unavoidable, and chose to sacrifice a more complete, complex examination of each ethical quandary, in favor of reaching those most likely in need of asking these questions, by keeping the essays concise and to the point. Easily digestible in a few minutes. Demonstrably, this could be seen… Continue reading