jueves, 25 de agosto de 2022

R.U.R. by Karel Čapek


On summer holidays I take the opportunity to dedicate myself to some science fiction classics that I have pending to read. I had heard so much about this theatrical play written in 1920 but this has not prevented me from being surprised in some aspects.

The first part of the book is fascinating, I think it is the most worthwhile for today's reader, the creation of robots and their function to serve humanity. This part shows a clear influence of the current of economic thought of Taylorism and in turn it can be glimpsed a criticism of the unbridled production of consumer goods that ultimately, although it would not lead to a robots revolt, would be one of the triggering factors of the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Also noteworthy, following the aforementioned industrialist ideas of the time -for example, Taylorism had great influence on the development of the Soviet State-, the dehumanized thoughts by the managers of Rossum Universal Robots and, in contrast, the most humanitarian and secondary role, absolutely sentimental, by the only woman in the cast; although in the end these feelings become more important as a path to a future redemption... I think this female role would clearly influence the woman/robot in the novel and film Metropolis (Thea Von Harbow, Fritz Lang, 1925/1927).

About the second and third parts of the book one must accept them as they are: some dialogues seem absurd to me, or at least incomprehensible in today stardards; it looks like an acid sitcom in which humanity ends up extinguished by its own creations.

In short, a worthwhile reading, a work of great influence on science fiction, inaugurating the subgenre of robots. For example, to take into account -with the permission of Mr. Isaac Asimov and his Laws of Robotics- the magnificent development of some of the issues dealt in this book in The Humanoids (1948) by Jack Williamson.

miércoles, 24 de agosto de 2022

The Universe Between by Alan E. Nourse

I love retrofuturism, so I love classic science fiction that is based on ideas that today may be considered outdated, partially or totally, or in concepts that have evolved to a different vision. A typical example is telepathy, with masterpieces like Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg or The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. 

In the case that concerns us, the novel deals with… the fourth dimension! Well, as far as I know -I'm not a scientist- today the concept has evolved into a slightly (?) different thing, what we would call alternate realities due to quantum physics, and today -again as far as I know- the fourth dimension it is considered to be time itself. On the other hand, the idea of ​​a multiverse is still very much in vogue today, for example in superhero comics and movies/series.

About the novel itself, it is very entertaining and even with some moments of sense of wonder, and I must warn the reader about certain apparent anachronisms that are not such. So for me, this is one of the "good" classics, that is, worth reading even after seventy years (it was first published in 1951!). It should be noted that the great novel The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, also about alternative universes and the possibility of exploiting their resources, was written twenty years later than this one.

sábado, 6 de agosto de 2022

Crash by J.G. Ballard

"I wanted to write a book in which there was nowhere to hide",’he told David Pringle in 1975. ‘I wanted the reader, once I’d got him inside the book, never to lose sight of the subject matter. As long as he continued reading he was face to face with the subject matter. It would have been easy to write a conventional book about car crashes in which it was quite clear that the author was on the side of sanity, justice and against injuring small children, deaths on the road, bad driving, etc. What could be easier? I chose to completely accept the demands of the subject matter, which was to provoke the reader by saying that car crashes are good for you, you thoroughly enjoy them, they make your sex life richer, they represent part of the marriage between sex, the human organism, and technology’." (from "Crash (English Edition)" by J. G. Ballard, Zadie Smith)

I agree with this and Crash is a great novel. The problem is that now I have changed my driving style.