Sunday, December 31, 2017


I remembered 1984 being a lot better. Maybe I am confusing it with other similar books. (It does seem a lot like The Giver in theme. The start of the book is primarily about physical relationships, then rebellion, then torture and brainwashing, then an ending contentment. What does the main character accomplish in the story? His seed of rebellion is quashed and he is back to a "respectable" member of society. He just went through a very painful way of getting there.
The society is very stratified. The senior party officials live like kings and have a right to limited privacy. The lesser party party members are always watched, but live within a rule of law. They are protected, but most adhere to the strict rules. Even history is subject to change. They are always monitored by two-way telescreens. Even their thoughts could turn them in. The lower classes are for all practical purposes ignored. They can get away with anything, but end up punishing themselves with internal crimes. The society is content, but suffering as war continues going on.
Why is the book important today? The stories of fake news do seem similar to what happens in the Oceana of the novel. People are manipulated in to believing what the government wants them to believe. These same people may see their physical comforts diminish as they are cheering on the war's heroes and "hating" the other side. This parallels the left's view of the right-wing reactionaries. However, the left doesn't get off unscathed. The party regularly rewrites history to conform to the the current views. Disgraced people are "removed" from historical accounts. The current enemy has "always" been the enemy. This parallels sure looks a lot like the right's view of left-wing political correctness and revisionist history. The stratification of society can also be adopted by either side to describe modern day America. We have a wealthy elite that control everything. The party, represented by big borther is the corporate entity that has total power over society. The upper party members are those corporate elite that exercise true power. The others are their minions. The lowest classes are meant to rot as being unimportant. (Or depending on political persuasion, they are kept in a sufficient mass to allow the middle class to be oppressed.)
The moral code (with sex restricted solely to procreation as a duty to the party) and torture (strict physical torture to brainwash nonconformists) occupy a great deal of the text, but reduce the power of the novel. A society that actively spends that much effort physically forcing control seems less powerful than one that uses subtlety to get people to exercise the control themselves.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Children of the Fleet

Children of the Fleet takes place after the conclusion of the formic wars. The world is celebrating a great victory. However, they are still not sure if another onslaught is coming. There is some effort made to colonize other planets as "insurance policy". However, most of the world is more concerned about internal affairs. Dabeet Ochoa is child prodigy in the vein of Ender who wants to finagle his way into the "fleet school". He learns that being the smartest kid around will not get him anywhere. He needs to learn how to work with others, both accepting their instructions and helping them to achieve on their own. He eventually gets to prove himself in a real life situation. Like other Card books, the characters just "know" what needs to be done and have elaborate plans to help get other people to do it. It makes for good entertainment, but sacrifices believability. Perhaps as a payback, we get to know about Dabeet's parentage while he has not yet figured it out. (But if he can figure out everything else, why can't he figure this out?)

Leonardo da Vinci

I had always thought of da Vinci as a scientist who occasionally dabbled in artwork. In Isaacson's biography, however, he is presented primarily as an artist. (I guess that goes better with his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle companions. In the book he is portrayed as a gay eccentric who has sufficient gifts to allow him to run in elite social circles and get away with eccentric behavior. He loved to tinker and dream. However, he often did not finish his work. (That may be how he gets his reputation. In retrospect, it looks like his ideas were the base of modern inventions. However, that assumes he would have continued down what we now see as the obvious path, which was not so obvious back then.