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, September 15, 2014

The Karma Machine - A Critical Analysis

I really wanted to love this book, 

The concept/premise of this novel is really cool! A society has figured out how to wipe personal memories while leaving the "technical" memories so that a person can be "reincarnated". They feel they are born a new person, yet retain knowledge of language, art, science, etc., so that they grow through each new life. 

There is a distinct caste system, and you know there is something wrong going on in the society, so there is some tension and plot. 

I mean, "A tale of cybernetic buddhism!" and "The most mind-shattering experience since 2001!" and "You will never be the same after you read it!" How can a book with all those quotes on it's cover be boring? 

...instead I want to rewrite it. 

Unfortunately, the style of writing ruins the book. It reads like one of Plato's dialogues. A newly reborn person is being shown around the world, and everything is explained to him. It's the endless explanations infodumps that ruin the book. Any tension that the reader feels, quickly dissipates. 

A book that I easily could have read in one sitting took me four nights. I literally switched to Youtube in the middle of this book several times because I just couldn't take it any more. It's unfortunate, because it's a great story. It's strange, unique. It deals with one of the classic questions of sci-fi:

Can humans reason their way to immortality - and what happens if we do? 

Where the book fails is in not giving the reader the benefit of the doubt. There are no gaps for us to fill in. It opens with a great scene, and just when I was excitedly figuring things out, it explains everything to us like we are toddlers. And not just toddlers, but stoopid toddlers. It's frustrating. 

There are times when action is used to show us how the world of the story came to be, but again, infodumps abound. It's like all of the author's worldbuilding notes are used in the book. 

So note to self: Don't do this! A little information goes a long way. Chuck Wendig says on his blog, Terrible Minds,  "Exposition is sand in the story's panties." Nobody likes sand in her panties, and it is possible to make your reader want to put down your book and take a shower. 

I know it's unethical to steal another author's ideas, so I won't rewrite this story, but I really wanted it to be a book that I raved about. Bummer. 

I have plenty of ideas to turn into stories, and hopefully I have learned this lesson. Trust the reader. 

Note to Feminists: The book does explore the nature of gender-based discrimination. By the end of the book it is clear that the author is arguing for equality, but it's kinda weak. No GLBTQ. 

Title: THe Karma Machine
Author: Michael Davidson
Publisher: Popular Library
Edition: April, 1977

First Publication: 1975

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