Tag Archives: Books

Radio Free Ambibath

I’ve just had a rather strange and awakening experience.

I’m currently reading The Divine Invasion, more of my ongoing obsession with Dick you see.

Anyway, I’m astonished by how much of a rollercoaster ride it’s been already. Normally when I read something by Dick I start of fascinated, and become increasingly so until I reach a point of complete bafflement that barely eases up.

Well…I’m starting to get used to it, the recurring motifs are easy enough to pick out, and I have read a lot now (coming soon is my dissertation essay on Dick and the Uncanny by the way…but first I need to proof it…which I probably should have done before I handed it in to be graded…but what the heck).

But this is the second in the mental breakdown/divine revelation trilogy, and it’s bat fucking insane.

I mean…it’s incredible. I feel like I need to read the Torah just to have a clue what’s going on.

But it’s deeper than just religion. There’s something grand here about a basic understanding of the universe. It really is a bit like taking your feet off the ground and realising that the ground isn’t there any more.

It is surprisingly coherent if you pay attention and remember to step back…but there’s a strange rhythm to the madness, and occasionally it’s terrifying.

My own experiences of mental breakdown start to flit into my mind as I read.

Brilliant and terrifying. Wonderful.

Anyway, so I’m stepping into the bath, tuning in my clockwork radio. I couldn’t find the French Jazz I normally listen to, and so fiddle around until I think I can hear something interesting.

I hear something interesting, but with the water running I can’t tell if it’s static or not. There’s some kind of irregular pulsing noise, a cat screaming and all manner of fuzz and lack of definition. I finally tune it in properly and get rid of the fuzz, only to find that the cat and the pulse are really there. The cat fades after a while and I realise that I’m sinking into the water to the sound of echoing abstract noise. Little bursts of strange eerie sound bubble around me. (Also I’m farting a bit…but you don’t need to know that).

Anyway, it slowly becomes clear that I’m listening to a new local community radio station, which is doing a programme full of ambient soundscapes and ‘sonic sculptures’. There was some great stuff there…including a really bizarre vocal harmony loop that was almost terrifying in its beauty. Then as it builds you start to get sound processing on the top end…little mechanical bubbles in the tone of her voice (mechanical bubbles…how in the hell does that work?). Really really amazing. (Brightoners check out Radio Reverb, apparently it starts broadcasting live tomorrow, though they’ve got recorded preview stuff playing already).

So I’m here, listening to frighteningly bizarre music and reading horrifically wonderful prose, realising that I’m a massive pretentious cock.

Either that or I just really love strange experiences. That noise was amazing, really makes you re-evaluate the way you hear. The book  to is so different to anything else. There’s a narrative and people and happenings, but there’s another level of wonder. A fear that you might learn something you can’t unlearn.

Okay…So I definitely am pretentious…but it doesn’t mean it isn’t wonderful that this kind of stuff is going on. It’s great to stumble on that kind of weird and wonderful thing…especially when you’re in the right state to absorb it.

Live for the Weird Experience.

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Hopes and Schemes – The Promise of Fiction

So, I have this problem.

I love reading, I really love reading. I’ve got huge stacks of books left to read and I’ve read huge stacks of book. The one problem is that bigger than either of these stack, is the stacks of books I’ve started but not finished.

I’m terrible at it.

I’ve started two books in the last week. One of them I only got two pages in before deciding I wanted to read something else first. (It’s the second in a series, I decided I wanted a break before continuing).

So instead I read something else. A book I bought on a whim last year because I thought the central idea sounded amazing.

Now here’s the problem.

I am enjoying this book thoroughly. But I’m pretty sure it’s not turning out to be the book I originally intended on reading.

It couldn’t be…that book doesn’t exist.

Yet.

But let me explain further.

The book I just finished reading is the first book in the Riverworld Saga ‘To Your Scattered Bodies Go’. I enjoyed it, despite it lapsing into sexist and old fashioned views quite regularly, it’s definitely a little dated now, though part of that is because the main character is a Victorian Explorer.

Now, the basic premise of this series is incredible. Everybody in the history of Earth has been resurrected. Absolutely everybody. By some mysterious force. On a strange and vaguely Paradisical world. With no idea what’s going on.

Just think about that for a while….think of all the possible stories you can have in a world where everybody in history, from the cruellest dictator to the humblest peasant. From the most modern to the prehistoric. Every person ever.

There’s a lot of fun to be had in that setting.

The book picks a good path and makes for an entertaining yarn. But as the book continues, the options and possibility narrow. A narrative path is chosen and the adventures you imagined become, well…part of what you imagined but no longer part of the world that you’re reading.

I enjoyed the book, but I enjoyed my imagination more.

I guess this ain’t that bad, but it is frustrating.

Now, the book I’ve just started reading is called ‘Dying Inside‘ by Robert Silverberg. So far it’s actually been great, and quite unexpected it it’s route. But I still can’t help but think that the central idea is so fascinating, that I’m missing out on a million other stories that I want to read.

The central premise is that an aging telepath, as he grows old, is losing his power to read minds.

Really simple, but give space to have the whole raft of fears and worries about growing old and fading in a totally new way. It’s even got that Epilogue to The Tempest thing going on for it.

The emotional depth of the book, even just a few chapters in is incredible. It’s winding mid life crisis, with being a bit of a moody bastard, with the touching beauty (and horror) of being able to experience another person’s mind, with losing that, and hating it even more than you hated the power itself.

It’s powerful reading.

But it’s not the story my mind was imagining.

But then, that’s actually the joy of books really isn’t it. Seeing how someone elses mind works. It really is a joy; surprises come from that.

Now, us writers (ha) we know what that’s like from the inside, we’ve been surprised by ourselves, but its still not the same.

You can get so angry at an author when the characters don’t do what makes sense to you. But you remember, the characters aren’t you. The author isn’t you. You’re finding out things that don’t come from you.

Seeing into another persons mind.

Books are great.

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I’ve kind of rushed this because I have to go to work, but still, what do you think?