Author: Jordan Haiber

Final Blog Audit

Discovering that I’d have to write a review on the blog definitely changed the way I read the books assigned for the semester. Usually when I have assigned readings, there are specific things a professor is looking for from a student to understand and answer. However, the type of reading we did in this class I felt was on a way more personal level and students were able to share what specifically stood out to them and why. I thought this aspect of the reading and blogging kept it very interesting due to the fact that everyone was able to blog about what they personally got from the reading. This created a thread of creative blog posts which were ultimately very interesting to read. I also thought beneficial as well because to be able to hear from other students something they felt stood out greatly in the reading could inform me of something that I might of missed or misinterpreted.

I at first felt a little stressed and intimidated at the fact that other students would be reading my blog posts on a daily basis. I was only used to handing in my writing to a professor for him or her to read confidentially. I never had to blog for a college course before. I thought the possibility of having a wider audience would make me become more hesitant on certain things I wanted to share, but that ended up not being the case at all. The casual writing style that I used to write my reviews was extremely refreshing and at times was even therapeutic. Being an English major, I am more than used to writing traditional papers, so it was really nice to be encouraged to write in my own casual writing style when reflecting on the assigned readings.

I tried to read my classmates’ blog posts as often as I could because more often than not, they all had very interesting things to share. I truly did enjoy the aspect of having a class blog a lot more than I thought I would have and I would like to see it utilized in more college courses.

A Storm is Approaching

When first starting Hurricane Fever I couldn’t help but laugh due to the fact that two characters you meet in the beginning chapters are named Roo and Seneca which just happens to be two characters from the movie The Hunger Games. Straying from that, I felt that Hurricane Fever was definitely one of the best books we read this semester. I thought Tobias S. Buckwell was successful in his efforts in creating an engaging, action-packed thriller with the seriousness of climate change constantly on the back burner, never fizzing out and being a constant issue in the story-line. Hurricane Fever is definitely a simple and quick read. I felt that the only parts of the story that generally confused me were one, being able to visualize the exact locations of the characters and two, being able to visualize his boat Spitfire. Ultimately I guess that just comes back to my own lack of knowledge of the Caribbean Islands and boats in general, but it still would of been nice to have better descriptions in the story. Overall, compared to the some of the other novels we read this semester such as The Collapse of Western Civilization, it was refreshing to read a book that was written in more a simplistic fashion that focused on intensity in the sense of action rather than overwhelming and often confusing science.

We follow Roo, an ex secret agent for Caribbean Intelligence, on an engaging adventure to get down to the bottom of his ex partner and friend Zee’s murder. Before this we are informed that Roo lives a simple life and has no family except for his nephew Delroy. All of this changes when he receives a call from “beyond the grave” from Zee informing Roo of his death and what Roo now needs to do. I found this book to just overall be fun and entertaining. It was pretty much the only book this semester that I truly could not put down. I personally feel that this book would benefit greatly as an action-packed film.

The Windup Girl

Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl is definitely not an easy read. He thrusts readers off their feet into a futuristic world based in Thailand in the 23rd century. He doesn’t really prepare readers for the story he shares in the sense that his world comes with many new technologies and terms that aren’t necessarily easy to understand or comprehend. He doesn’t really do a good job in explaining all of these imaginative elements and it seems like you’re just expected to know exactly what he’s talking about as if we already know all about Bacigalupi’s made up futuristic society. I do applaud Bacigalupi for his creativity, but overall I feel that a majority of the components of this world, along with the heavy plot lines and plethora of diverse characters, are just simply overwhelming and confusing. It is without a doubt, extremely easy to get totally lost in this novel.

Paolo Bacigalupi presents a world in his novel The Windup Girl ultimately impoverished due to climate change and the future society is left without fossil fuels and other sources of cheap energy. In this time, genetic modification is something far too common. GMO’s are something I have looked into immensely. Personally, they really freak me out considering we truly have no idea what the long term effects are. I believe Monsanto to be a power tripping monster of a company, similar to the mega-corporations present in Bacigalupi’s society. Aarthi Vadde draws upon this point when describing The Windup Girl in her own reviews. “The Windup Girl is about climate change and the geopolitical maneuvering that takes place to secure resources—in this case seeds—in a world where fossil fuels, cheap energy, and food abundance no longer exist. Its other protagonist is Anderson Lake, an American “calorie man” looking to open markets in Thailand, a country that has survived the global food shortage and mass extinction of plant species by refusing to import genetically modified, sterile seeds from Lake’s Monsanto-like employer AgriGen” (Vadde). In this society however, it goes past just genetically modifying crops. They take it as far as animals and people. The treatment of these genetically modified organisms is utterly horrific. Companies use the “megadonts” which are beast-like elephant creatures to run the factories under terrible conditions and severe abuse. Whereas, “New People” such as the character Emiko are treated like lesser beings. “Emiko, a genetically engineered geisha-type being invented in Japan and abandoned by her owner in Bangkok, where she becomes a slave in a sadistic sex club. Spliced together from human and possible Labrador genes, Emiko is faster and stronger than human beings, but is programmed to serve. She is also designed with incredibly small pores, which make beauty her fatal flaw. If she tries to run, fight, or generally get out of line, she risks overheating to death” (Vadde). Being that this book is read from different perspectives from different characters, I found Emiko’s adventure and story of survival to be the most interesting to read by far. 

I would say that this book could ultimately serve as a warning of the immense power science truly has when it comes to GMOs. In this story they do in fact cause deadly epidemics such as plagues and disease. However, Emiko is promised  that genetic modification will be used in order to create a new race of “new people” so she can live with more people like her. This ultimately leads me to believe that GMOs could be a good thing for society when left in the right hands and under strict regulation, because if they are not things could completely turn for the worse and get out of control.

 Works Cited

Vadde, Aarthi. “Megalopolis Now.” Public Books. N.p., 6 Aug. 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.

The Scientist: A Realistic Hero

Kim Stanley Robinson is clearly an intelligent person filled with brilliant ideas as well as a skilled author and it shows immensely in his novel Forty Signs of Rain. However, I feel that the length of this novel was almost unnecessary. Robinson could have cut out a significant amount from Forty Signs of Rain and he still would have been able to successfully convey all of his key points concerning climate change, science and politics. With that being said, this novel is generally slow-moving and it honestly took me some time to actually become intrigued. The true action portion of the novel doesn’t come till close to the end.

As for the characters, I really enjoyed that Anna’s husband, Charlie, was portrayed as a stay-at-home dad and worked from home. That is definitely something you don’t see very often. Anna herself is primarily focused on throughout the novel. She is overall a likeable character but I feel that most importantly she is relatable which adds to the notion of realism portrayed in this novel. Anna is depicted as the “ordinary hero” who can take on the tasks of being a scientist as well as a mother. Her colleague, Frank, takes the cake for being the most unlikable characters of the bunch who comes off as offensive most of the time. Ultimately, I feel that a majority of people who read Forty Signs of Rain will be anxious to continue the series.

Audit

I’ve taken a plethora of English classes over the course of my college career, but definitely none quite like this one. I honestly had no idea what to expect once I registered for this class, other than the fact that we would be doing a great deal of reading, but I can genuinely say I was not expecting it to be focused on climate change and apocalypse scenarios. With that being said, I definitely enjoy the topics read and discussed for the most part. At times the amount of science incorporated with these issues can be somewhat overwhelming and confusing, but other than that I find the readings and class discussions that follow to be informative and entertaining. I took a sustainable environment course last year and I feel that the class itself generally sparked my interest in the topic of climate change, so when I heard that this class would be specifically reading into that it definitely got my attention.

As for the blogging aspect of the class, this is something I’ve never done for a course. I believe at times it can be a little intimidating, but overall I find it to be very helpful for sorting out my own opinions and feelings towards each book along with seeing if someone else in the class agrees or disagrees with me. I find blogging about the required texts and books is something that has deemed itself very effective for this class. It is a way for the students who don’t necessarily feel comfortable enough to voice their opinions in class to do so via blog entry. I feel that it is also able to successfully engage every student equally. Even though I read all of my peer’s posts every week, I find myself forgetting to comment, so that is something I need to work on.

Earthseed: The Books of the Living

I believe Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” to be wonderfully written. The main character, Lauren, is a strong and an ambitious character who shares the horrifyingly realistic story of the dystopian future beginning in the year of 2024 in the first person narrative. This sci-fi novel had the capacity to tackle a plethora of important issues ranging from religion to global warming and the importance of community to the importance of strength within the individual. Starting off mildly slow, this book captivates the reader a few chapters in with whirlwinds of drama and violence.

Even though religion isn’t necessarily a strong aspect of my own life, I always found it to be something very interesting to read about. This book however puts an exciting twist on what the main character Lauren perceived God to be. Being the daughter of a minister, religion is inevitably a strong part of her life, but not in the way that most would think it to be. “My God doesn’t love me or hate me or watch over me or know me at all, and I feel no love for or loyalty to my God. My God just is” (Butler 25). Lauren is an extremely intelligent character and offers readers an untraditional and refreshing twist on religion and God with her Earthseed verses.

The community protected by a wall in which Lauren resides with her family is very reliant on each other. They depend on each other for safety and protection due to the known dangers that lay beyond the wall. The children seem to lose their innocence quickly when they are taught how to handle guns and are constantly wishing to be older than they are. Two characters that portray this type of behavior immensely are Lauren herself and her youngest brother Keith. Lauren, who already seems to be many years beyond her actual age, cannot wait to be eighteen in order to make decisions for herself in which she believes will benefit her survival in this world. Keith, however wants to prove he’s a man to his father and ultimately ends up getting himself killed. Rejecting the strength of community and family and trying to survive in this dystopian world on your own is basically a death sentence.

Lauren is a heroine and a natural born leader. These characteristics truly shine for her once her community is ultimately destroyed and ravaged. Her family being gone, she knows the importance and recruiting people to face the new world with and that’s how her initial group of Harry and Zahra form. They take extreme caution by making the decision to dress Lauren as a boy to make their crew seem stronger with two men and one woman rather than one man and two women. I believe that Lauren’s literacy is what holds her higher than the rest of the people of this time. Lauren and her brothers were viewed as important and valuable due to their ability to read and write. “I heard on National Public Radio that the population of America could be considered about 46% semi-literate. Now that’s scary. This doesn’t mean that 46% of people can’t read – but that 46% have difficulty reading or, at least, some of that 46% have real difficulty reading. Probably they don’t read for fun, and probably they don’t read for information as often as they should, so more than anybody recently in history they must be people who are saying what they hear others say, which is kind of scary” (Butler, “Devil Girl From Mars”).

This new world stricken by the harsh effects of global warming faces constant despair. This includes erratic and dangerous weather along with tornadoes, earthquakes and deadly storms. Water is extremely sparse, making survival more difficult than it already is. Octavia Butler has reasoning for making global warming a strong force in her novel. “A character in the novel is Global-Warming. This is something that I really wanted to pay attention to, and it’s odd how it went in and out of fashion while I was working on the novel. It would be very big and everyone was talking about it and then it would just kind of die, and then all of a sudden it would be big again. And I wonder about that. It seems to me that a thing as important as global-warming should get a lot more attention than it does. So I portray a world in which global-warming is doing things like creating a lot of erratic weather and severe storms and drought in California, and other things like that” (Butler, “Devil Girl From Mars”).

From the piece “Devil Girl From Mars”: Why I Write Science Fiction a reader can understand why Octavia Butler included global warming as a serious protagonist in the novel and why she made the importance of literacy such a prominent factor. Overall, I believe that Parable of the Sower was an exciting and fulfilling read that was able to bring many important issues to light all while being extremely entertaining. I would definitely recommend it to any lover of sci-fi and I hope to come across more books like this in the future.

Works Cited 

  1. Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower. A Four Walls Eight Windows 1st ed. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1993. Print.
  2. Butler, Octavia. “”Devil Girl From Mars”: Why I Write Science Fiction.” MIT Communications Forum. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

A Future Not So Bright

Authors and scientists Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway give us a view of what exactly the year 2393 looks like on our planet and the thorough history behind why it does in the science-fiction cli-fi piece, The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From The Future. It portrays a history, our time, full of denial and unwillingness to do something about the seriousness of climate change. While reading this book, you can’t help but see this type of behavior when looking at our present day society and finding the amount of repudiation about climate change to be immense. It is not till everything begins to fall apart for humanity that we start believing the predictions of the future impacts of climate change to be extremely true and enacting climate projects made years ago. Authors Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway show us what happens when we ignore all the warnings that were presented to us so obviously years and years ago. Our time is the beginning of what is recorded as a “tragic period of human history.” If that phrase about our time on this earth doesn’t send shivers down your spine, then I don’t know what will. This short yet greatly detailed book embodies science-based fiction and history all into a thought-provoking and truly frightening piece. In my own opinion, yes, the science part of this short read does become overwhelming at times. However, overall this book is a good read and definitely does it’s job in shocking the reader with an extremely alarming, yet highly plausible future.

“Men Go and Come…”

In George R. Stewart’s novel Earth Abides, it follows the main character Ish through a plague-ridden futuristic world. With a large portion of humanity dead and gone, those who survived are left to wonder why they are still on this earth. This novel successfully sucks the reader in from the start where Ish gets bit by a rattlesnake and then once recovered realizes the world is not what it once was. It is now a post-apocalyptic nightmare that Ish and other survivors he meets along the way must endure. It is interesting to see how the animals are impacted by this new world. One animal in particular, a dog later named Princess, becomes Ish’s companion. Ish marries a woman named Em and has children along with the other survivors. They form what they refer to as a “tribe.” Ish is highly concerned with bringing back intellect to future civilization and is heavily reliant on his belief of the the importance of books. It is interesting to see how the initial survivors differ on what they place value on in comparison with their children, whom only know the world for what it is now. They respect Ish’s intelligence immensely and look up to him the most, but they see no point in learning what Ish wants to teach them, such as reading.

The novel shows how truly insignificant humans are in comparison with the world itself. We live as if this earth will be here for us no matter what, but if we keep treating it the way we do it will begin to pick us off. We are the ones who damage it, so in order to remedy the damage, the world needs to get rid of a good percentage of us. Ultimately, this book is a great read for cli-fli lovers and those who have interest in post-apocalyptic scenarios.

Close to the Edge

Don’t let the thickness of this novel fool you, Climate Changed is a moderate read that engages the reader a great amount through the pages of an informative journey. The author and narrator, Philippe Squarzoni, makes himself relatable and for the most part I believe likable, too. This novel could be thoroughly enjoyed by someone who has a lot of knowledge on the topics of climate change and global warming or none at all. Before starting the book, he explains how he doesn’t have a plethora of information on climate change and global warming himself, so those who don’t know much on the topics gradually learn with him.

I think this graphic novel is supposed to be a warning, but can we even consider it a warning at this point due to how far into climate change dangers we already are? This was one of the things that scared me the most. This piece points a lot of necessary fingers at us because we genuinely deserve it. The structure of society is the biggest problem and contributor. After reading this book, you’re going to look at your own lifestyle and get mad at yourself. Then, you’re going to look at all your friends’ lifestyles and get mad at them too. Then this is where Squarzoni’s notion of the “split personality” comes in. We all want to change the world but we don’t want to change the luxurious way we live now. This novel conveys a strong and important message all while being genuinely entertaining.