Category Archives: Books

notes from the field: The Clans of the Alphane Moon

Clans of the Alphane Moon

I finished The Clans of the Alphane Moon by Philip K. Dick on the flight over to Las Vegas. Dick sets up an intriguing scenario for the novel, involving a society made up of former patients of a mental asylum on the eponymous moon whose peaceful if fractious existence is threatened by the plans of the authorities of the planet Terra to restore their claims to the territory.

A bitter struggle between Chuck Rittersdorf, a CIA agent husband who hits on a plan to carry out the perfect murder of Mary, his marriage counselor ex-wife, while she is serving as the Terra representative on the moon provides the central narrative thrust of the fast-paced and thought-provoking plot. It’s just a pity that the conflict between them ends like a schmaltzy love story. Or does it? Continue reading notes from the field: The Clans of the Alphane Moon

notes from the field: you can’t squeeze any more juice from the pulp

squeezing juice from the pulp

Unfortunately, the flavor in the caffeine-free latte served up in the second half of Agency was no stronger than in the first half. It singularly failed to give enough of a jolt to get me to care about the fates any of the characters – not even those facing the threat of a nuclear war in their stub.

I see that the novel has attracted a distinct duality of reviews on Amazon. There are those who love it for the elegance and cleverness of the prose and the insights it allegedly sheds on our own tumultuous times. Then there are others who, as one disappointed fan so aptly put it, “suppose there comes a time when you can’t squeeze any more juice from the pulp.” I am in the latter camp – but don’t just take my word for it. Go over to Amazon and see for yourself. Continue reading notes from the field: you can’t squeeze any more juice from the pulp

Notes from the field: gentrified Cyberpunk in Agency?

gentrified cyberpunk

As a huge fan of William Gibson I feel a little guilty in confessing that I’m having a hard time working my way through his latest novel, Agency. Although the writing is of the usual high quality, it lacks the sharp edge and raw energy of the prose in his earlier works. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh here, but I can’t help feeling as if it’s a gentrified Cyberpunk. Sure, in places the book is clever and witty, but it tastes more like a cup of caffeine-free latte than a mug of freshly-roasted coffee.

Or, to borrow from 6.18 of the Analects of Confucius, it has a little too much cultural refinement (文/wén) and not enough native substance (質/zhì). For all his love of ritual and propriety, even the great sage himself believed that it was better to err on the side of the latter rather than the former lest you become too fake and foppish. Continue reading Notes from the field: gentrified Cyberpunk in Agency?