Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Comic Book Hiatus

Been taking a break from reading comics lately. Honestly nothing has been grabbing my imagination/attention. Don’t know why, but buying individual issues of comics has become more difficult to do. I feel like I’m buying a chapter of a story instead of the whole thing. Plus, I’m not able to stick with it if the first chapter isn’t very eventful. I guess I’m old fashioned when it comes to my comics. My favorite comic storyline is the Death of Gwen Stacy. I have the "trade" on my shelf and its like 2 issues long, if that. But in that span, Spider-Man was not only changed forever but his reason for doing what he did was reestablished and given even deeper meaning. Why now every story needs to be 6-8 issues is beyond me.

I have shelves full of trade paperbacks and I enjoy reading them because I’m getting the whole story without ads. Seems like a better deal to me. So I guess I’m turning into one of those “waiting for the trade” people.

Anyway, upon Ereisa’s request I’ve started reading more fiction novels. I’m a huge history fan and I’ve read a lot of World War 2 novels, (anything by Peter Ambrose), as well as any true crime book dealing with the mafia. Although I’m a bit burned out on Mafia books right now. Ereisa suggested I start reading some fiction, which I honestly haven’t done a lot of. She bought me a copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon and am I glad she did. If you’re a comic fan, do yourself a favor and read it.

Right after Kavalier and Clay I started reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Phillip K. Dick. A few blog entries back I mentioned that while visiting my parents upstate, my Mom dragged a box out of the closet full of old stuff. I found a sketchbook and a bunch of news clippings from my High School Sports days. Among the stuff was Androids. My good friend who I’ve known since I was about 13, Drew gave me the book to read. He’s a big fan of PKD and he thought I’d enjoy it. Mainly because he knew I really liked the movie Bladerunner, which is based on the book. Wow. What an incredible read. I finished it in about 3 days (a record for me) and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I’ve never read a book that made me think about not only the story itself, but the world in general. PKD is just an amazing writer. I still can’t get over how incredible that book was. I want to run out to a used bookstore and pick up some more of his writing because I’m that blown away by Androids. Bladerunner was a great movie, but it doesn’t even come close to doing the book justice.

So hey, enough babbling on about my seminal book reading experience, if anyone is reading this is a fan of PKD. Feel free to shoot me a message about what novel of his I should read next.



Anonymous said...

Science Fiction reminds me a lot of comic books, hip hop and heavy metal music. Everyone gets so focused on the bad that mass media throws in our face, they miss the fact that there is a whole lot of good in each genre.

Sure, there are thousands of space stories with no apparent point except to pit standard plot lines in outer space. This is not science fiction. SF, as defined by PKD, introduces a philosophical idea, and places it into a created reality, based in large part on the known world. Usually, this means the future.

In my mind, Kurt Vonnegutt and Philip K. Dick exemplify the finest SF has to offer. Be it KV's Player Piano, which contemplates a world post WWII in which human tasks can be performed by machines, or PKD's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which posits: What if humans destroy the earth and in their efforts to make life easier, create a robotic replacement world on earth, while escaping to the moon? Can robotics have feelings, or a soul? (On a deeper level, are we robotic? What is real?)

PKD's themes often relate to questioning reality. The author of more than 40 novels and many more short stories, the quality of PKD's work varies.

His best books include Androids, UBIK, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, A Scanner Darkly (which is coming out as a semi-animated movie in the Spring, unfortunately with Keanu Reeves in the lead), The Man in the High Castle, Flow My Tears the Policeman Said, VALIS, Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (The last three were a trilogy written to help Dick cope with a "religious experience" in February/March 1974).

The Man in the High Castle is probably his most innovative, in that he wrote it with the aid of the I Ching, about a world post WWII in which the Germans and Japanese won. Quite intense.

My favorite is The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, though it is hard to pick a favorite, since they're all so great. This one involves the colonization of the moon, where life on earth is remembered through a drug and Barbie (Perky Pat) dolls. The philosophical question involves the identity of God as either all knowing and good, or perhaps just all controlling and imperfect like us. Can immortality be gained by becoming a god to some group, any group, a moon colonie?

Wilber Montgomery VII

RandyG said...

Wilber, that was a hell of a post. Thanks so much for taking the time to write that. I can tell that PKD's writing has had an effect on you as well. I'm still kind of stunned as to how that book made me think. Its amazing to think that an author can not only write an amazing thought provoking story, but also use that story as a springboard that allows his reader to think far beyond what he/she just read.

I read the back flap summary of Androids and it just dealt with Deckard's fight with the androids, the bounty hunting, etc. Basically the action/sci-fi aspect of the story. Meanwhile the book itself was far more than that; the "action" scenes weren't nearly as entertaining or as thought provoking as the philosophical aspects of story itself. (although the laser tubes were pretty cool)

As for your recommendations, I brought this up over at the Bendis Message Board, asking people to recommend me a PKD novel. What’s great is that I got different recommendations from almost everyone that posted. Man in the High Castle, Scanner Darkly, Ubik, Stigmata, and a bunch of folks mentioned picking up a collection of his short stories. Your other suggestions came up a lot as well. I think I’m going to go with High Castle. The WW2 aspect just seems to darn neat to pass up. I wish I had a copy right now. I’ll probably follow that up with Stigmata. I have to make it out to the used bookstore ASAP.

I’ve never read any KV, either. I’ll have to pick up some of his stuff as well. Drew, (the friend mentioned in the Blog entry) is a huge KV fan. I think he’s read darn near everything he’ written. So the connection you made was one he made as well. Pretty neat.

Thanks for a great post, Wilber. Stay in touch or feel free to keep on talking PKD, I’m really enjoying it.