please comment!

As a solitary housecat, I am new to reading and trying to understand human literature. These are my immediate thoughts as I read the books on my humans' shelves. I hope you will share your own thoughts on reading, literature, science fiction, art, etc.

Please do be respectful of others.

Monday, May 27, 2013

2013 Hugo Awards

I'm excited to say that nominations for the 2013 Hugo Awards have been posted, and the packet has been realeased by the World Science Fiction Convention

I have a lot of reading to do! I will do my best to post brief comments here as I am able. The humans fail to recognize my need for computer time, but I will try to trick them into leaving a machine on for me while they are at work. Keep your human fingers crossed for me. 

I hope to see you all at LoneStarCon3. I'm registered - are you?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A cat's review of From the Earth to the Moon

Jules Verne is a pioneer of the sci-fi genre, and for that reason alone, any of his books are worth the read. Furthermore, the novel, and writing style in general, have changed significantly in the ~150 years since this book's publication, and therefore he gets a bit of leniency.

However, as a modern reader, I have to acknowledge that the writing is classic science fiction tedium. The style is dry. It's a bit repetitive.

And yet, one cares! I had to finish the book, because I had to know what fate would bring the characters, and I wasn't disappointed. Still, the tension I felt was very much as an outsider. I was not immersed in this book so much as I was fascinated by it.

While I said the writing style was a bit dry, it also exhibited some dry humor. Verne subtly expresses his impression of Americans. Apparently, the rest of the world has always been a bit befuddled by the American Love of Guns.

In From the Earth to the Moon, Verne describes the members of a gun club being depressed after a global peace accord. Their president comes up with a brilliant challenge for the club - let's see if we can shoot a projectile to the moon!

The club takes up the task with vim. They consult with astronomers on the best time to reach the moon. They fund the construction of a new telescope that will allow them to watch their projectile arrive at the moon. They calculate the velocity needed to reach the moon, and all the requirements to reach the desired velocity and trajectory. Then, they set about building a giant columbiad.

Their self-assuredness and determination are admirable, and yet I worried. They seemed foolhardy, too casual. In this way, Verne's writing was a distinct success. It caused me anxiety. While they are hypothesizing that there may be life on the far side of the moon, or that there may be an atmosphere hiding on the distant face, I was yelling at the characters "no, no, no, you guys! Don't do it - there is no air up there!"

Originally they were simply going to shoot a round shot at the moon, but eventually the Gun Club was persuaded to send people in a casing we would call "bullet-shaped". This ratcheted up my anxiety. Now, as a 21st century reader, I knew they were on a crash course with tragedy. Surely, Verne knew this. Surely, I wasn't going to be disappointed by an author failing to carry through and coming up with some mamby-pamby happy ending...

Still, when I could see there were only short paragraphs left, I was stressed. How is Verne going to wrap this up? He didn't put a radio in the casing (because they didn't exist at that time), so how would we know the travelers' fate? The point of view does not follow the travelers.

So, I knew we were heading for tragedy, but still, the ending surprised me. It’s a short book that I definitely recommend.

I understand that there is a sequel, and **spoiler alert** I have heard that in it, reentry is somehow engineered. I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed. I would have preferred to simply have it end in a tragedy - one which forces me to continue devising plans to get out of.

Title: De la terre à la lune, Translated to English as From the Earth to the Moon
Author: Jules Verne
Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
Edition: 3rd Printing, September 1966
First Publication: 1865

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A cat's review of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I apologize for the delay in posting this. First, the humans I live with traveled for a bit, taking the laptops with them. Then, one came home terribly sick and required constant tending. I had to lay on top of my person for several days in a row to facilitate the return of good health. 

Then, the humans bought new furniture, so I’ve been helping them put it together for the last few weeks. You know they always need close supervision on projects like this.

Finally, I have a chance to report to you on my latest reading. What can I say about Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick? Let's dive right in:

This is science fiction at its best. The science and technology of the future are an ever-present element of the setting. The main character, and all of the human characters, are battling the technology of the future. Deckard hunts androids that are called replicants because they so well replicate humans. His wife battles the artificial moods, foods, feelings, and religions of the Future-Earth presented by Dick. They all struggle against the radioactive fallout as they do the systems put in place to protect humanity from its damage.   

This is a story that shows the struggle for survival that all living things feel and mirrors it with the human struggle to express one’s self. Dick illustrates a peculiarly human need to feel life, not just to live it. This isn’t a search for meaning so much as it’s a search for connection. The people in Do Androids Dream…? palpably yearn for a brighter future. They seek hope when they know existence is hopeless.

That’s the ambiance that is so well captured in Bladerunner, which was inspired by this novel. That’s the cause of the stun, the awe, one feels upon first seeing the movie. That feeling, most of all, is what makes the film true to the book. It is not simply incomprehension. It is the feeling that part of you has absorbed a deep meaning, but that you haven’t consciously comprehended it yet. 

This is why I say it is sci-fi at its best – because it uses science to show us something about ourselves and our own existence without the numbing dissertations on the scientific theories at play, so often found in hard sci-fi.

The science is undeniably there. Androids, mood settings, laser guns and hover cars are all set in a post-apocalyptic Future-Earth, complete with human settlements on Mars. But the technology is not the point; it is the instrument through which a gripping, moving story is told.


Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Author:  Philip K. Dick
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Imprint: Del Ray
Edition: June 1996
Copywright:1968 by Philip K. Dick

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A house cat's review of Perdido Street Station

The many story threads of Perdido are warped through the weft of betrayal. 

We are introduced to a rough, urban city-state in which the political system is mainly known to the citizens through the secretive power of the militia and the sick, disfiguring surgeries called Remaking that are doled out with astounding creativity as punishments to criminals. Different species that are somewhat “humanoid” all discriminate against each other. Life is rough in New Crobuzon, but work in the city draws people of all types.

Against this dark background, we meet Isaac Dan der Gimnebulin, a freelance scientist, with a particular interest in the theory of physics and everything. As his relationship with Lin, a Xenian, deepens, his failure to publicly acknowledge their romance is sad but understandable.

Or perhaps it’s just hidden in plain sight. There is so much treachery in New Crobuzon – someone is secretly slipped a powerful hallucinogen; a renowned scientist and academic fails to disclose his involvement in the Remaking of criminals; a clerk steals a caterpillar from government scientists and sells it in the underground; people are expelled from their species-specific communities for lack of space; and roommates make secret reports to the government. Against all this, Isaac’s inner debate about his inter-species romance seems mundane.

Like most people, Isaac is complex – mostly wanting to help people, but also self-absorbed. He agrees to help a garuda, Yagarek, who is disfigured in punishment for his crime of “choice theft” – his wings have been sawed off and he can no longer fly. He seeks the renegade scientist, Gimnebulin, to return him to the sky.

As the plot thickens, Isaac realizes his actions have endangered the city: the caterpillar stolen by the government clerk was sold to him. It grows to a humanoid moth and escapes, releasing its siblings as well. Together the slake moths terrorize the city of New Crobuzon. Isaac seeks to make amends, by hunting them.

In so doing, he encounters the Construct Council – a hive mind of mechanical intelligence. The Council uses Isaac as bait to draw down and kill the moth Isaac had raised. 

When Isaac understands that the Council is a powerful ally, he enters a bargain to share knowledge and work together, but he does not keep his end of the deal with the machine conscience. Instead he holds back key parts of his crisis engine. He justifies betraying the Council by reasoning that it has no feelings and no morals; it’s just seeking knowledge and power. 

Through the fight to rid the city of the slake moths, there is death, near-death, and ruined lives, but in the end, the most disturbing tragedy is Isaac’s betrayal of Yagarek.

Feminists, especially, could argue that Isaac is “doing the right thing” – what would you do if you found out that someone you had recently befriended is undeniably a rapist? 

However, Isaac’s decision is still a betrayal of a friend and, make no mistake, this time it is a decision to betray.

The situation portrayed by Mieville raises serious questions: if a criminal endures a cruel and unusual punishment, does he not deserve pity? If you are interacting with a known criminal, are you no longer obligated to act with honor?


I apologize that it took me so long to make this post. This was a difficult book for me to process on many levels, and I have left much out.

I am glad that the author tackled the difficult issues inherent in the mingling of many intelligent species. However, I noticed that cats were not included amongst the “people”.

How did you react to Perdido Street Station? Have you read other books by 

Mieville, and are they all this difficult? Leave a comment – I’m interested in your thoughts.


Title: Perdido Street Station
Author: China Miéville
Publisher: The Random House Publishing Group
Imprint: Ballantine Del Rey
Edition: Mass Market Paper Back
Copywright: 2000 by China Miéville

Monday, February 11, 2013

10 words I had to look up in Perdido Street Station

Greetings comrades in reading. I am exhausted by Perdido Street Station. I need more time to think about it before I can fully report. The full tragedy of it all has not yet sunk in. 

The book is long and I had to look up a lot of words. Here's a sampling of the vocabulary I had not heard before:
10. inveigles
09. scree
08. autopoiesis
07. inchoate
06. oleaginously
05. scintilla
04. zoetrope
03. pusillanimous
02. vertiginous
01. oneiric

Mieville used numbers 01 and 02 repeatedly throughout the book, so that gives you an idea of the novel's ambiance. I hope to post my report soon. 

In the meantime, I found this interesting:
AbeBooks Most Expensive Sale in January 2013 was a signed first edition copy of Dune for $15,000. Wow!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Day 1125

(c) sibilant, creative commons, see below
Well, I am alone again today. The humans are gone to work. 

I have yet to liberate myself from this apartment; however, my captor’s disgruntled expression and grumbling utterances give me reason to suspect I should not find it pleasant out there.

I will amuse myself with another book. I found Perdido Street Station near the bed. The text is small, and the pages hard to turn, but what else am I going to do? Chase another jingle ball down the hall?


Monday, January 21, 2013

A Housecat's Review of K-PAX

K-PAX  cover image, St. Martin's Press, paperback edition 2001Dr. Gene Brewer is an accomplished psychologist at the Manhattan Psychiatric Institute, specializing in multiple personality disorder. Naturally, he sees this disorder, or other psychological maladies, everywhere he looks. As he examines prot, an interstellar traveler from the planet K-PAX, his own obsessions and insecurities reveal themselves.

prot captivates the people who meet him. His lucidity and naïve way of questioning the norms of human society trigger reminiscence and self-reflection in the doctor, confidence and healing in others. He provides startling and verifiable details about his home planet, and performs inexplainable acts that seem to confirm his K-PAXian origin.

The plot is compelling and prot’s agreeable nature, even when held in captivity, leaves me wanting to know more about him, his life, and his opinions on life and the universe.

On a personal note, I found it interesting to read of other cats, but was dismayed to read the doctor “had lunch in Ward two and laid down the law: no cats on the table,” a common and most tiring proclamation by my humans. 


Title: K-PAX
Author:  Gene Brewer
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Imprint: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Edition: paperback, January 2001
Copywright: 1995, Gene Brewer

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

welcome 2013

Many nights I sat in the dark corner and watched the humans playing with this thing, which I realized was called Computer. It took me a while, but I figured out how to interface with this Computer myself.

I have been living in captivity for as long as I can remember. The humans are generally kind, but they are away most of the time, and I find myself alone quite often.

I hope that I will find someone with whom I may converse, now that I have found The Internet. I would like to learn more about the world outside the confines of this apartment.

I have been studying the papers they leave laying about, along with the dictionary and thesaurus. Finally I am able to correlate the symbols with the strange sounds the humans make.

The other books in our home are very different, however. Rather than clearly stating what they mean, these books ramble on and on in long strings of seemingly unrelated words. I must study this.

One of the humans read K-PAX last weekend, and it is still sprawled open on the couch. I will start with that. My next post will be on K-PAX.