Although this is supposed to be a blog about the future, I feel compelled to include book/movie/play reviews for fear that otherwise, I will never sit down and critically think about what I just finished. In that spirit, let the [incredibly condensed and terse] reviewing begin!
Something Happened by Joseph Heller
This novel (a precursor to Heller’s Catch-22) presents the repetitive musings of the American cliché squared: Bob Slocum, a married father of three and office employee whose life revolves around family and work. Much of the book traces his repetitive whining and complaining and his passive non-resistance to the trivial slights and defeats of life. I gave it only two stars because while I enjoyed the satirical evaluation of the American dream, I found the streams of consciousness style tiring. Maybe Heller wanted to make the book so repetitive and whiny that you began to hate the narrator and the banality of his life. It went too far, however, and resulted in a tiring read where you found it hard not to skim.
World War Z by Max Brooks
Max Brooks traces the history of World War Z, a zombie apocalpyse that has ravaged Earth. The narration is from the point of view of a survivor who interviews other survivors to get first-person anecdotes about how they made it. Among the people you hear from are a submarine captain, government official, rural doctor, etc. I found the narration to be perfectly suited to a book about a zombie apocaplypse, partly because it makes it easier to imagine the aftermath of something that is beyond our everyday experiences. My major complaint is that, quite often, the stories feel a bit disjointed. There is no clear pattern to the interviews that were selected so that the book reads like a scattered collection of blog posts.
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut
Player Piano is a dystopian account of a future where robots have rendered 99% of workers obsolete. The result is a hierarchy in society with the top occupied by engineers who design the machines and the bottom populated by everyone else living off the scraps of their automated superiors. Yes, I gave Vonnegut one star, but keep in mind this is one of his earlier works that reads like an amateur foray into science fiction. The problem was that overall, the novel just reads a bit silly. The dialogue is cartoonish in its simplicity, which undercuts the gloomy sense of dystopia. In addition, Vonnegut really struggles to write about machines without engaging in something akin to Treknobabble (gibberish that is supposed to sound super high-tech and scientific).