Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle Review

The Man in the High Castle is an alternative history book written in 1962 by PKD. It envisions a world where the allies lost WWII and in the aftermath, the U.S. has been divided with the west coast states belonging to the Japanese and the East Coast/Central U.S. for the Germans.

I love history and often wonder about alternative history, myself. I just came off of reading the graphic novel East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta which tells a more fantastical story about how the Civil War never ended. I also love the mini-series 11/22/63, though I have not read the book.

This all made me pretty excited to read this book, but I have to be honest and say I was a little letdown. I think that is mostly because a lot of the storylines did not really seem to further the plot dealing with the titular Man in the High Castle. I thought that was kind of strange, but I’m sure that was PKD’s intent and giving us just an incite into this world and the politics.

The book is divided into about 4 or 5 different storylines. I much preferred the Julianna storyline, which I will call the High Castle plot, and the Robert Childan storyline. The Childan one did not really tie into the High Castle plot. I mainly liked the dialogue and the inner dialogue that his character had as he is a white man inferior to his Japanese customers coming into his antique shop.

There were two storylines mainly focused on the politics between the J.S.A. (Japanese States of America) and the German states. I didn’t really understand all of the innerworkings of these plots and therefore didn’t really enjoy them all that much.

The last storyline deals with Frank Frink who is fired from his job and starts his own business making jewelry. I still do not understand the importance of this plot other than it symbolizing American’s creating something for themselves in this alternate world. Later in the story, a Japanese man acquires one of the pieces of jewelry and is seemingly transported to a world where the Americans won the war, but minutes later is back in his own world. Maybe he was seeing glimpses of American grit? I’m not sure.

A sub-plot that ties heavily into the High Castle plot is the titular Man in the High Castle has written a book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which tells a story about the Allies winning WWII. It is a popular book throughout the U.S. but is banned in the German states, for obvious reasons. Julianna then goes on a trip to meet the author of the book.

I still think this was the most engaging plot for me, but I’m not quite sure what the resolution of it means. I will leave out spoilers.

The Final Thought:

Score: 6/10

There were times in this book when the politics just dragged it out for me. And, for not being a difficult read it is a difficult book to really wrap my head around what it is actually trying to say. I guess that is PKD for you. I will definitely be revisiting him in the future.

Thanks for reading!

My Top 15 Favorite Sci-Fi Movies of All Time

I want to preface this by saying that this is a list of my favorite science fiction movies. There will be some classics left off of hear, which while I do realize are classics, they just aren’t my favorite or aren’t as rewatchable in my opinion.

Bonus (aka My Guilty Pleasure Sci-Fi movie): Pandorum

Released: 2009
Directed by Christian Alvart
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet

Pandorum is one of those movies that I realize isn’t that great, critically speaking, of a movie. But I love it.

Pandorum takes place on a generational ship when a couple of passengers wake up early. They have amnesia and suffer from pandorum (space psychosis) and are unable to enter the bridge.

There’s some pretty cool twists and some horror elements. I really need to watch this again!

15. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Released: 1968
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood

Now, I know what you’re thinking. 2001 is usually top 2 or 3 of most lists on the internet. While I do recognize the monumental value of the film and how important it is for the genre, if I’m being honest it’s just not my favorite.

I think the rewatchability for 2001 is pretty low, at least for me. Mostly because I have to get past the cavemen/ape sequence at the beginning to get to the stuff that interests me the most: HAL and the astronauts.

14. Moon

Released: 2009
Directed by Duncan Jones
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey

Moon is a movie about a man tasked with serving a 3-year stint at a mining base on the moon. The base is mostly automated so for those 3 years Sam is running the operation by himself accompanied only by his robot AI GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey).

As time goes on, Sam begins to have some sort of a mental breakdown from being alone all this time and madness ensues from there.

Moon is a great movie with some good twists and great acting from a solo Sam Rockwell.

13. Looper

Released: 2012
Directed by Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Wills, Emily Blunt

Looper is about an intricate mob system to get rid of bodies, basically. In the future, the mob wants to get rid of a body. So, what do they do? They send that person back in time where a looper awaits their arrival. The looper then kills them and gets paid for the job. An untraceable crime. But, what happens when the person that gets sent back for you to kill is your future self?

That’s the question that Looper asks and this film is one of the films, to me, that gets time travel right. It’s not a world where time travel is used freely, but only for these special circumstances.

Highly recommend!

12. Max Max Fury Road

Released: 2015
Directed by George Miller
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron

Fury Road is a continuation of Miller’s Mad Max trilogy from the ’70s and ’80s. It’s just about a 2 hour long high speed chase through the desert with all of the cool cars and weird characters that you could expect out of a Mad Max movie.

Fast-paced action greatness!

11. The Empire Strikes Back

Released: 1980
Directed by Irvin Kirshner
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

Hoth, “I am your father”, Boba Fett, Dagobah. What else is there to say?

I’m only 30 years old, but I remember playing with all of the Star Wars toys and watching the movies over and over again when the series made its resurgence (if it was ever gone) back to the top of pop culture with the prequel trilogy.

Empire has always been my favorite Star Wars movie. I think it has the best set pieces and the best action out of the original trilogy.

10. Prospect

Released: 2018
Directed by Zeek Earl & Chris Caldwell
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Sophie Thatcher, Jay Duplass

Prospect seems to be one of the movies that has flown under the radar and it’s quite a shame. I love the feel of this movie and how it is sort of a western tale in a future world.

Prospect is about a father and daughter who venture down onto a toxic moon to mine for a precious gemstone. They run into bandits and madness ensues.

The real special thing about this movie is the world building. I have never seen anything quite like it. There are things and people presented that are given no explanation, but you just get that feeling that there is so much more to this world. Hell, there’s even a guide you can find online with step-by-step instructions on how to mine the gemstone in the movie.

9. Possessor

Released: 2020
Directed by Brandon Cronenberg
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Sean Bean, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Possessor was a happy accident for me. I don’t remember how I found out about this movie, but I’m glad I did. This is my favorite type of sci-fi. Weird, a little scary, and bloody.

Possessor is what you would get if The Matrix and Inception had a kid. It is about a company that puts their consciousness into other people’s bodies in order to pull off a hit/murder. You walk around in the person’s body, control their actions, kill the target, then kill yourself (the body your possess) and you’re out free.

Highly recommend, though it is pretty gory.

8. Under The Skin

Released: 2013
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Starring: Scarlett Johansson

Ever wished Scarlett Johansson would just drive up next to you and offer you a ride to wherever you’re going? You won’t after watching this movie.

Weird, ominous, a little scary. Yep, checks all of the boxes for me.

Under the Skin is basically Scarlett Johansson bringing back men to her house to feast on them. That’s all you need to know.

7. Blade Runner 2049

Released: 2017
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto

No, I’m not that big of a fan of the original Blade Runner (gasp!), but I do love 2049. The tone, the colors, I love everything about it.

2049 picks up some decades after the original. A replicant blade runner called K discovers that replicants are able to reproduce and is sent on a mission to destroy the first birthed replicant.

Great movie and Villeneuve once again proves that he is a top tier film maker.

6. Planet of the Apes Trilogy

Released: 2001, 2014, 2017
Directed by Rupert Wyatt and Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, James Franco, Woody Harrelson, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Steve Zahn

Okay, I know I’m kind of cheating here, but this is one of the best trilogies to come out of any genre let alone sci-fi. Planet of the Apes was rebooted in 2011 with Andy Serkis providing the voice and motion capture to Caesar.

It starts with Caesar’s rise to power in the ape enclosure in Rise, to forming a civilization in Dawn, to fighting the Alpha Omega military group in War.

I can’t recommend this trilogy enough.

5. Ex Machina

Released: 2015
Directed by Alex Garland
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander

Top 5! Getting to the nitty gritty.

Ex Machina is one of those films that is right up my alley. It takes place in Isaac’s character’s wooded mansion/lab. He invites Gleeson’s character out to get a glimpse of the project he’s been working on.

The Turing Test: a human and machine communicate while someone observes. If the observer cannot tell which is the computer and which is human then the machine passes the test. Usually, when this happens the human and machine are separated.

In Ex Machina, the quesiton is asked, can this AI make you believe she is human even though you are conversing face to face?

4. Interstellar

Released: 2014
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain

This film blew my mind when I saw it in theaters. I will never forget watching this and walking out with my friends. I had/have never seen anything quite as mind blowing as this since then (almost).

Interstellar takes places when a group of astronauts leave Earth to find a new home for humanity. The questions that I love to ask are asked in this film: what happens when you go through a black hole, time-dialation, etc.

This film has some great concepts and while the ending may be polarizing to some, I was blown away.

3. Annihilation

Released: 2018
Directed by Alex Garland
Starring: Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez

This is the only other film in recent memory that has blown me away similarly in the way Interstellar did. But where Interstellar blew me away with unthinkable scenarios within space and time – Annihilation blows me away with its ominous and dark 3rd act.

Annihilation takes place when a weird capsule, called the shimmer, is enveloping part of the west coast. Everything inside of the shimmer reacts oddly and changes. Animals, plants, and even the people that go in aren’t who they were when they come out.

The first half of the movie reminds me of something like Predator or Jurassic Park, but the last half…well, no spoilers.

2. Arrival

Released: 2016
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Arrival seems like a typical first contact story on the surface, but boy you could not be further from the truth.

I can’t discuss what makes this movie so great due to spoilers, but the basics of the story follow Adams’ character as she tries to decipher the alien language to figure out why they have come to Earth.

Go watch it!

  1. Inception

Released: 2010
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy

My number 1 is Inception. Not only is it my favorite sci-fi movie, but I think it is my favorite movie period. Before this, nothing like it had ever been done on screen. The story is so intricate, but so well done. This movie (and The Dark Knight) really got me into movies and really got me started on following certain directors to find out when their new movies released.

If you don’t know what Inception is by now, it is a mind-heist movie. The CEO of a company wants to take down another company. So what do they do? They pay a team to go inside the company’s heir’s dreams to plant the thought that he no longer wants to take over the company from his father. (It was difficult just to type up that synopsis.) It’s amazing.

Jeff Vandermeer’s Dead Astronauts Review

If there is one thing I know for sure about Jeff Vandermeer it’s salamanders. He loves salamanders.

Jeff Vandermeer’s Dead Astronauts is a follow up to his novel Borne. It takes places in the same universe and at times even the same set pieces as Borne. I wouldn’t classify Dead Astronauts as a sequel though. Some characters are mentioned or seen, but mostly in a passing way. With that being said it is, in my opinion, a must that you read Borne first so that you have a good foothold on what is going on in this world.

I will try to avoid spoilers as best I can, but with a book like this it will be difficult.

Dead Astronauts is told in a series of, what I will call, entries. We experience this journey through the stories of a blue fox, three astronauts (though I’m not entirely sure they are actually astronauts), a figure called Charlie X, a Behemoth sea creature, and a dark bird.

It is with these points of view that we are to put together what is happening in this world, I believe. I don’t think it was Vandermeer’s intent to tell a story in the traditional way. There is not a clear overarching plot. I think the clearest arch of the story is through the three astronauts as that is the story that we spend the most time in. Slight spoilers ahead: It is in this story that we interact with a blue fox that pops in and out of existence at will, it seems. We also encounter other versions of the three astronauts that fight themselves within the Balcony Cliffs where Rachel, Wick, and Borne lived in Borne. They also interact with the strange wall that Rachel encounters with The Magician. In Dead Astronauts, this wall is called the wall of globes and seems to be the way that The Company transports the creatures to inhabit The City where Rachel and Wick live. The wall of globes seems to be a portal to other worlds though it’s not known how many or who comes from what world.

We also go into the mind of Charlie X who is the son of the head of research for The Company. Charlie seems to be the source of a lot of creatures that come from The Company, if not all of them. He is also routinely beaten by his father and force fed the dead creatures if they are not up to his father’s standards.

End of Spoilers

The creative decisions made throughout the book really added to its mysteriousness for me. Things like version numbers (ex. v 6.3) labeling certain paragraphs, recurring numbers (10, 7, 3, 0) throughout the different sections, and some paragraphs being displayed with grayed out text give the book another level of mystery.

The Final Thought:

Score: 7/10

I think that many authors, or any artist working in the abstract, risks the chance of falling victim to their own abstract thoughts. I don’t think Vandermeer is one of those authors here. Everything he writes seems to be there for a reason, though I may not always have known what the reason was. It was clear to me that he really knows what he is trying to convey and not just doing things to be weird or mysterious. However, for someone like Vandermeer who seems to be concerned with how humans treat the earth to then have chapters in his book contain nothing but a singular paragraph or sometimes a single sentence is a little strange, but that’s a totally different topic.

If I had to compare Dead Astronauts to anything it would be Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I think both of these works work on the same plain of abstract where sometimes you are just shown things and then shown something else that may or may not have anything to do with the previous thing shown. I got a lot of the same feelings while reading Dead Astronauts that I had when I saw 2001 for the first time. Mystery, intrigue, confusion, awe, but I think in the end when you turn that last page you will feel like the read was worth your time.

I recommend this book to anyone that liked Borne and want to know more about the world. Though, you might end up with more questions than answers.

Thanks for reading!

Jeff Vandermeer’s Borne Review

Jeff Vandermeer is the front runner of a speculative fiction sub-genre which people are calling “New Weird”. Now, this is my first experience with any of Vandermeer’s work other than the film adaption of his book Annihilation, which I loved. (I plan on reading the trilogy soon.)

Borne tells the story of a young woman named Rachel that lives in a ravaged world full of failed experiments in the form of living creatures and sometimes even people. The Company has long since vanished from The City, but evidence of its influence on the area run rampant.

Bio-enhanced children run feral through the streets, drugs in the form of beetles can grant new memories or open a gateway to someone else’s memories, and a gigantic bear named Mord patrols the skies of The City gobbling up anything in his path.

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

One day while Rachel is out scavenging for supplies for her partner Wick, she decides to climb up onto the back of Mord. The sleeping Mord is somewhat of a hot-spot for scavengers in The City due to all of the junk that gets collected throughout his dense fur.

On this day, Rachel finds an interesting life form stuck in the hair of Mord. At first, she describes it as a blob with sea anemone-like features, but he quickly grows and changes. This is Borne.

The rest of the book describes the mother/son relationship between Rachel and Borne as she introduces him to the world around them. While this is happening, Wick grows more and more cautious of Borne due to so many unanswered questions surrounding the organism. Where did it come from? Is it another Company experiment? Is it a weapon?

All the while, Mord roams The City’s skies and another adversary called The Magician controls the streets. Rachel must make the motherly choice of how to approach the situation of Borne and her partner/lover Wick before either Mord or The Magician, or worse, both destroy them and their home.

The Good:

  • I loved this book. For having a premise that is so weird and out there it is an addictive read. It is told in sort of diary-like entries where Rachel starts each “chapter” with questions or statements like “How Borne Let Me Know He Needed Privacy” or “What Happened When I Went Outside Again”.
  • The strong point here for me is the way Rachel and Borne’s relationship is handled. It is very clear she holds a bond for the organism, but must wrestle with the doubt that Wick has and if it is warranted.
  • Another thing I loved about the book is the sense of mystery to what Borne is, what exactly The Company is or does, and who The Magician is. I loved it.

The “Meh”:

  • Now, I don’t necessarily think there was anything bad about this book, but there were some things or resolutions that I expected to hit harder.
  • We don’t really find out who The Magician is, which I’m fine with, but I was a tiny bit let down by her death. The setting was cool, with a weird portal door type thing that seems to be the way that The Company has transported all of these creatures to The City, but the reader never really finds out what it is or what is on the other side.

The Final Thought:

  • 8.5/10
  • With all of that being said, I loved Jeff Vandermeer’s Borne and I have already started reading Dead Astronauts which takes place in the same universe and may give some answers to the above resolutions that I wasn’t exactly crazy about.

I highly recommend this book to any lover of sci-fi or if you just love weird premises in books. It is an easy read in my opinion!

HUGE shoutout to the Media Death Cult!

This is a science fiction Youtube channel and community that has recently gotten me back heavily into reading. I hope to be doing a lot more book reviews soon and hopefully completing work on my own stories!

Thanks for reading!

Things in the works

Hey everyone. Just a quick update.

I took my book, The Drip, off of Amazon. I unpublished it. For numerous reasons, but mainly because I like this format of posting chapters weekly and sort of sending them into the ether in hopes that someone out there enjoys them. I don’t care about making money off of my stories and to be honest they aren’t polished enough to expect to make any money anyways.

So, much like The Shape of Ecstasy, The Drip will now be available on my blog in chapters. You can find it at www.thedrip.blog or under the “Books” section of FiteWrites.

Also, I am getting a hand drawn map commissioned for The Shape of Ecstasy. It was something I was thinking about last night laying in bed and honestly have thought about it for awhile so I decided to do it. I think it would be cool for myself and others to be able to visualize the world that it takes place in since I think that I have came up with a pretty unique world.

So be on the lookout for that!

Anyways, that’s about it. Thanks for reading!

Chapter Six Posted

If anyone is following along with The Shape of Ecstasy, I just posted the 6th chapter here. If you feel inclined, please leave a comment or a like as I don’t really get any feedback on my stories or my writing! It would be greatly appreciated!

I am still writing the story, but sometimes I fall off and get out of the groove and lose motivation. For now I am working on it again!

The Shape of Ecstasy update!

Hey everyone! It’s been awhile, but I’m getting back to writing and everything again. Lost motivation for a bit, but I’m back for the time being.

That being said, I’ve posted the prologue and first five chapters of my fantasy story The Shape of Ecstasy here. Also, if you would prefer to read it there, I am also uploading it on my Wattpad profile.

Would love for people to check it out and leave feedback!

New Story

Hey all, it’s been a while.

Just wanted to post and let everyone know that I am going to be posting my current story I am working on chapter by chapter here on WordPress.

You can find it under the “Books” tab of fitewrites.com or go directly to the page here.

I currently have the prologue and the first chapter uploaded there now. Each chapter will be posted on that site.

Make sure you follow the site and let me know what you think!

Waiting For That Spark…

If you would have told me about a month and a half ago that for the foreseeable future I would be having a lot of time off of work (COVID) then I probably would have thought that I would be getting a lot of writing done. How naive I was.

Don’t get me wrong, I have gotten some writing done and even started a new WIP, but I also haven’t written for my other WIP’s in quite a while. So here’s hoping that I haven’t completely dropped them, but I gotta go with what I feel in the moment and write now that’s my current WIP called THE SHAPE OF ECSTACY.

I see posts on Twitter all the time about people writing thousands of words a day or having a word quota. Here I am waiting for that spark. That gut feeling that I get the moment inspiration hits and a scene plays out in my head. Sometimes it will be once a day. Sometimes, once a week. This time it was for my blog, not my story, but writing is writing. As long as I am remaining creative I am happy.

I guess this is just a post about how my quarantine is going. Most of my days are spent waiting for that spark. It’s always in the back of my mind. “I should be writing.” But sometimes I don’t have that gut feeling and if I don’t have it, I think I will only write subpar material (compared to my stuff that isn’t subpar? If that exists).

Like right now. I know where my story is going and what I need to write, but I’m missing that something. That thing that compels me to write in that moment. That writer’s intuition that tells me “this is the time”. I can slowly start to feel it building now even as I write this. I guess it’s time to switch over to my WIP and stare at the page and hope that I start putting some words down.

Happy quarantine to y’all and thanks for reading my thoughts!

Simon Jimenez’s The Vanished Birds Review

“He wanted to warn these children that time was not their friend; that though today might seem special, there would be a tomorrow, and a day after that; that the best case scenario of a well spent life was the slow and steady unraveling of the hearts knot” – The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

The Vanished Birds is the first novel from author Simon Jimenez. It tells the story of a mute boy that is driven by music; more specifically the sound of a flute. It also follows two women: Nia Imani and Fumiko Nakajima. As the story goes on, the three become intertwined in a quest to uncover the truth about the boy and where he came from.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

The Good:

  • Almost everything about this book is great, but the first chapter or part of this book surrounding a character named Kaeda was amazing. When I finished reading that chapter and realized that he most likely wouldn’t be a part of the story anymore I was sad. His and Nia’s interactions on Umbai-V could’ve been a great novel on their own.
  • The way that Jimenez wrote the interactions of characters. Like I said about Nia and Kaeda. He also wrote Fumiko and Dana just as well. Something that, normally I would be bored with, I was fascinated by and even hooked on. I think it’s the way he was able to convey that feeling of relationships that weren’t meant to last. Fantastic.
  • Things go kind of off the rails (in a good way) around the 3/4 mark. I was scared that it would disrupt what the book had going, but I was wrong. The book travels decades it seems and in mere paragraphs makes you feel that time lost and the struggles that characters have endured during that time.

The Okay/The Bad:

  • To find anything in this book that I didn’t like would be nitpicking and I would have to sit here a while to think of something.

The Final Thought:

  • 9/10
  • I was teetering on an 8/10 right up until the last paragraphs of the book where it was just so beautifully written that I just loved it. I think this is the highest rated book that I’ve reviewed so far and it deserves it. I usually love anything where time plays a huge factor and really conveys that in space time is lost in an instant and how heartbreaking that is to think about.

I highly recommend this book to sci-fi lovers and, really, even romance lovers as well if you don’t mind a sci-fi setting. I look forward to reading more from Jimenez in the future!

Thanks for reading!

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