>Science Fiction – "A Scanner Darkly"

>”A Scanner Darkly” is another Philip K. Dick book. It is a book about drug culture in Dick’s future. Since he wrote the book in the 70s, the action was supposed to take place in the 90s. In this future the drug that is most common is called “Substance D” – where “D” is short for “Death”. The main character of the book a drug dealer named Bob Arctor, who also happens to be an undercover drug agent named Fred.

In order to maintain their cover, the agents wears a “scramble suit” that disguises his identity when the visits the police station to file their reports. In a typical Dick-sian twist Fred is assigned to track the doings of Bob Arctor. Part of this survaillance involves installation of holographic scanners in Arctor’s house and then recording and reviewing what happens.

At some point in all this Arctor/Fred takes a large dose of Substance D. This has the effect of similar to having a split brain – where the two halves of the brain do not communicate (as in epilepsy patients whose corpus collossum has been cut).

Ultimately, Bob/Fred is unable to deal with the drug addition/survaillance and is sent to rehab place where the source of Substance D is finally exposed.

I had trouble finishing this book. Although it was at times funny and had interesting descriptions of what having a split brain may feel like, it did not hold my interest. I could not figure out where the story was going and I didn’t really care. On the other hand I hear the movie was pretty good and I’m planning to see it.

>Non-Fiction – "On Silver Wing"

>The author of thei book, Carol Ann Garratt, flew her Mooney around the world and this book is a travelogue of her trip. Carol Ann came to our airport (Old Brige, NJ) and gave us a talk about her trip. That’s how I got copy of the book.

There is a website you can visit to see pictures and see pictures of her, her airplane and the map of her trip.

Part of the reason for the trip was to participate in the re-union of her father and his sister in New Zeland, after her mother died of Lou Gehrig’s (ALS) disease. In fact she has donated all the proceeds from sales of the book to the ALS foundation.

The descriptions of the flights include lots of details of interest to pilots. For example, her Mooney was reffitted with addition fuel tanks so she could make the over-water flights across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Or that when you are flying across oceans communications can be accomplishe only via HF radios, which require a long antena that has to be reeled out after takeoff and reeled in before landing.

But perhaps the nicest message I took from the book that aviation people all over the world are the same. Always happy to take in and help a fellow pilot. In fact, comparing the author’s experiences with what we see on the news you’d be led to think she flew around some other planet.

>Science Fiction – "Remake"

>This was another book by Connie Willis. It is about near future world in which no more movies with live actors are made. All movies are produced digitally and most are simply digital remakes of old films. The main character is a guy who works on custom remakes or some more extensive studio projects – like removing all A.S. (addictive substances) from the movies. This can be difficult at times – just think about removing all cigarettes and alcohol from “Casablanca”.

Our hero meets a girl, named Alis, who is obsessed with musicals and dancing. She dreams of dancing in the movies, even though no one makes “live actions” anymore. With a bit of time warping and some computer magic she eventually gets her wish.

There were two things I liked about this book. One was that the author invented a lot of new words for the future world (things like chooch, paste-ups and others) and you had to figure out what they were from the context, like you would if you were transported into that culture. The other thing I like about the book is that I had no idea where it was going. The ending wasn’t quite like I expected.

On the other hand the plot was not as engrosing as “The Bellwether” was. I also found it somewhat funny that in this future Hollywood the only movies that were available were ones from 1980s and before. The author did not invent any future movies.

I read this book for our SF discussion group meeting. It was a quick read, although when I skipped few days between chapters I had hard time remembering the jargon from the future.