Dan Sandman

Archive for March, 2017|Monthly archive page

#14 The Invisible Man

In Books, Fiction, Science Fiction on 31/03/2017 at 12:00 pm

#14 The Invisible ManA stranger walks into a bar wrapped in bandages and wearing dark spectacles. So begins H. G. Wells’ classic novel about scientific discovery; the obsessive character of an inventor and the potential for hubris given to those who wield the power of science. In our age of advanced technology–emerging at the time when H. G. Wells was writing–the intellectual and moral questions raised by The Invisible Man (1897) are still relevant. Even before he discovers the means to become invisible, the invisible man steals money from his father in order to feed his obsession. From the moment he quits his work at the university, Wells’ invisible man is a rogue scientist, working as an individual outside of the law. This raises the question, should the state should control areas of technological research? The history of twentieth century conflict, beginning with the Maxim gun and ending with the Manhattan Project, challenges the assumption that technological advances benefit humanity. Technology without morality is set loose to become the tool of those who wish wield power over their fellow man. Humanity will always need stories to remind us of our potential, for both compassionate love and unyielding hatred.

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#13 Sapiens

In Books, History, Non-Fiction, Science on 24/03/2017 at 12:00 pm

#13 SapiensWilliam Golding said that courteous historians will generally concede that written history is a branch of fiction. If one believes this to be the case, than one is freed to enjoy history books as pastimes, or judge them by the quality of the writing. Most history books fail to tap into the best seller market because they are stuffy and academic texts written by stuffy and academic historians. Sapiens, on the other hand, is bubbly, antagonistic and–to use that most twenty-first century of words–cool. As fiction, it attempts the impossible and arrogant task of pigeonholing the whole history of humankind into five hundred pages. This is all achieved with clean prose, alongside pictures and diagrams, organized into twenty chapters. As a set of essays, it forms an intertwined series of convincing arguments, questioning the pillars of civilization: money, science, religion, culture and history itself. Yuval Noah Harari is perhaps the Montaigne of our day, condensing a great deal of reading into popular arguments aimed at the layman. His final chapters on the scientific revolution, like the book of Revelations, argue that humanity is heading towards its own destruction. This idea is pure science fiction, and hardly anymore visionary than an episode of Star Trek, but entertaining nonetheless.

#12 Master & Commander

In Adventure, Books, Fiction on 17/03/2017 at 12:00 pm

Master & Commander.jpgPatirck O’ Brian wrote twenty Aubrey-Maturin novels, of which Master and Commander is the first. With great respect for maritime history, this exciting sea story depicts life aboard a Nelsonic man-of-war. As the adventure unfolds, readers are asked to enjoy history from a fictional viewpoint: the life of the crew, the workings of the ship and the language of the seaman. With style, O’ Brian offers a tour de force of historical fiction, recreating the exciting but dangerous world of the Napoleonic period with an incredible eye for detail.

#11 The Schooldays of Jesus

In Books, Fiction on 10/03/2017 at 12:00 pm

#11 The Schooldays of JesusPreviously, in The Childhood of Jesus, we left Simón and Inés fleeing the education authorities to protect the curiously talented young child Davíd. In part two, they find work on a farm, where three kindly sisters agree to fund the boy’s schooling at the Academy of Dance. At the new school, Davíd learns to dance the numbers two, three, five and seven; but when events transpire to upset the running of the school, various competing philosophies are placed in conflict. Does evil sprout from passion? What binds men and woman together? Should the universe be measured in rational terms? Why is justice enforced and what happens to institutionalized criminals?

#10 Tsotsi by Athol Fugard

In Books, Crime, Fiction on 03/03/2017 at 12:00 pm

10-tsotsiIn the fifties, the black township Sophiatown was destroyed by the authorities to make way for homes for whites. This is the setting for South African dramatist Athol Fugard’s only novel; an affecting piece about a young gangster who has forgotten his name and his past. Written using the stream of consciousness, a style which gives eloquence to the thoughts and actions of the protagonist, Tsotsi can be sporadic and long winded; often a disadvantage when writing sprawling prose. Long before its publication in 1980, and the subsequent Oscar winning film in 2005, Tsotsi was hidden in a suitcase for almost twenty years. Certain passages exist almost as first drafts, drifting in-concisely from scene to scene. Its success as a novel lies in its subject material, which must be seen in terms of South African history and politics, rather than the quality of the prose itself.