Monday, January 9, 2017

Is This The End?

Warning: This post contains spoilers. If you haven't read the books mentioned in the previous posts, I encourage you to read them before proceeding.


Through this "Journey of Reading," I have made deeper connections and conceptualizations with books than I have ever done before, and I have enjoyed it every time. One of the things I realized about these books, whether it is a lengthy but immersive science-fiction like Gravity Dreams, or a more down-to-Earth adventure such as Huck Finn: is the end really the end?

Gravity Dreams

In Gravity Dreams, the last chapter is mainly Tyndel returning to Earth after meeting the god-like nanite complex and receiving it's gift of enhancement. When he returns, he returns as a changed man. This change wasn't just from his meeting with the god, but from the moment he contracted the nanite infection in the first few chapters, to the moment he reunited with Cerrelle, his new love. How has he changed? Tyndel is a master of Dzin, a practice that teaches to accept anything as it is and not to question it. However, his practice moves against him almost instantly when he becomes infected, and he is forced to escape from his home, and move to a land where nanites are embraced rather than exiled. This land is very different, as it teaches the practice of learning and advancing with research and technology. Over the span of this book, Tyndel will be shown this practice, and will be forced (not by another man, but by natural causes) to follow it. That, on a basic level, is how Tyndel changed. But is that the end of him? He is changed, but is he still changing even after the book? The reason this is a concern is a simple question: what happens if you stop changing? The answer that I've come up with is nothing. If you stop changing, you would do nothing. If you are ever at the point of doing truly nothing, and learning truly nothing more, you would die. With that said, is that the end of Tyndel's story? Yes it is. But, is it the end of his life? No it is not, because as soon as Gravity Dreams ends, a new, different story will take it's place.

Real Life

In reality, most of us readers don't have crazy interstellar adventures, or decide to escape from our home towns and ride a boat on a river through the United States. We do, however, have problems. You, the reader of this blog, most likely have a problem in your life, big or small. But, a tip for you, and something I am still trying to keep in my thinking, is that there is a moment in your timeline where you are looking back to the past on that problem. In other words, where there is a problem, there is a solution. But once you solve that problem, you should know by now that it would be a very boring life if there wasn't another problem to solve. Applying what I stated with Gravity Dreams, it would make sense for another problem to start it's story at the moment you solve the initial one. You probably won't notice it, as it needs to build itself up to be a true problem. The best way I can explain it is that it is like a looping sickness. You first contract the (metaphorical) virus, and it takes time for it to build up to be a threat (this would be the chain of events that lead to this problem), then your body (you) must fight it. Then, at the end, you win, the virus dies, but the cycle happens all over again. However, this is not the same virus, because your body has built an immunity to it (in other words, you've changed and now know how to solve that problem). The point is, this problem you have will be solved, and another will take it's place, but remember that it would be a very boring life without these problems.

Why do I say all of this? That is because this post marks the end of my blog. But is it the end? No, because you the reader, and I, will constantly develop more thoughts and concepts, on more and different books, for as long as we read. This is not the end.

-Jacob Vu

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Constant In Our Universe

A Solid Goal

The Parafaith War has not been an easy read for me since the start of this blog. It's beginning was very tasteless, and overall, dry. However, I did not want to give up on the book, because I remembered my experience with both Gravity Dreams and The Eternity Artifact, both having an unexciting and slow paced introduction, but building up speed as the story progressed. This slow growth left much room for character and setting development, which the author, L. E. Modesitt Jr., definitely took use of. In doing so, Modesitt was able to bring an immersive aspect to the story, making the reader feel as if he or she was actually with the character, providing the emotional depth from what the characters in the story were experiencing to the reader. So, that is my new reading goal: to finish The Parafaith War. After diving further into the book, I began to see the actual story the author was telling. Before that point, I had learned that the main character, Trystin Desoll, was a lieutenant in charge of a perimeter control station made to protect a terraforming project- a venture set by a faction called "The Eco-Tech Coalition," to make the planet Mara habitable for humans- from a faction called "The Revenants of the Prophet," or "revs," for short. (SPOILERS AHEAD) After multiple coordinated attacks on specifically Trystin's perimeter control station, a final attack had been successfully resisted, but simultaneously left Trystin's, and other lieutenants' stations in ruins, with many survivors, including Trystin, but also many casualties. Trystin is then sent back to the city of Kylseen, where he is given medical treatment and examination, and is offered a promotion to go into pilot training. No, this is not the pilot training we know today, this is training for warp translation piloting, which basically means traveling faster than the speed of light. That is where I am in the story so far.

A Thought Raised from the Story

Although this is a Science-Fiction book, I have found some truths in it, and while reading this book, I began to realize something very interesting. Humans are the most distinct species on Earth, but why? There are, of course, plenty of factors that distinguish humans from all other species on Earth, the first being memory. Memory is the key to human nature, because memory allows every one of us to grow as individuals; memory allows us to learn from our mistakes. Yet, while almost every factor that makes us extremely different from all species on Earth, we still have one factor in our nature that relates to all species on Earth, as well as basically everything our Universe holds, from subatomic particles to galaxy clusters: conflict. Conflict is everlasting, whether it may be a feud between two religious groups, or a physical conflict, such as the relationships between subatomic particles, such as protons and electrons. The question is, with such a special species like the human race which has the capability of learning from mistakes, why does conflict still exist? Recently we as an English class had studied a speech regarding Nuclear Weaponry by Carl Sagan, and one of his key phrases was "We make mistakes, we kill our own." He stated this phrase while he presented historical events where humans have failed to maintain peace, even when we were trying to. In The Parafaith War, a story taking place far into the future, there are still human factions, or teams, rivaling and fighting, only with bigger weapons. It appears that when we humans learn from the mistake of conflict, such as World War, we don't steer to the path of dropping our weapons altogether to truly maintain peace as Sagan had said, but instead build bigger weapons, to scare away the pests. While this "solution" does bring about a peaceful life, that life is very temporary. It is hard, however, to let go of the weapon. War between countries is practically the same as a fight between robber and homeowner. After the resisted or successful robbery, the homeowner will naturally arm his or herself, in the event it happens again. Holding a gun brings protection to the wielder, because the person knows he or she is in control. Control is the true cause of conflict. The Revs want control over the territory that Eco-Tech has current control over. The homeowner wants control of his or her house. A country wants control of itself, or other countries. Humans have a hunger for something more than food, humans have a hunger for control; control over his or her life, his or her home, his or her people, et cetera. That is why conflict is eternal. We can achieve "World Peace," but it is only temporary. Here's a final thought on this, and it may sound insensitive: Stories without conflict are boring. That is the truth. Bob crossing the road is not as intriguing as Bob crossing the road and almost getting hit by a car, but surviving. If there was no conflict in life, or in the universe, stars would not collide, attracting and repelling would not occur, and humans would just plain, robotic beings, standing still on a practically inactive Earth. We would not go anywhere, because there is nowhere we need to go to. As bad as it may sound, we need conflict to continue our lives of failure and success, destruction and peace. 


Well that's a daily dose of deep thoughts for you! I am going to continue reading The Parafaith War now, because it is really getting interesting, so see you in the next post!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Immersion

im·mer·sion
iˈmərZHən,iˈmərSHən/
noun
    • deep mental involvement.


Immersion, to me, is the idea of taking one's mind somewhere else, whether that may be with a book, movie, game, or story, where the concepts take your mind to "another world," a world where the piece creates a new environment that you are in, and normally, a world where you are a different person. My idea of immersion can also apply to academics, when one focuses on a worksheet, and ultimately is so engulfed in the work that he or she loses the awareness of self and surroundings. I'm not saying the dictionary definition is wrong, by the way. This definition I have is what I apply to my judgement of a great story. The Lord of the Flies and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by William Golding and Mark Twain, respectively, achieved this immersion aspect. 

The Lord of the Flies

Golding's powerful use of figurative language (especially imagery) is so excellent, that some people were able to create models of the island that the boys were stranded on. What was the most immersive to me was the point of view that Golding chose for certain scenes. Following each of these characters as they embark on their own, different journeys (while all being on the island), lets the reader grow an almost personal connection with at least one of the characters, as they all seem to have different personalities. Being able to see and visualize the island while following the characters allows for myself to create a mental map, like a student would to navigate the school he or she goes to. The greatest part is that this figurative language tends to all of the senses, from the smell of blood to the feeling of the sand and water. 

Side note, what's interesting about the model I linked to is that there are other existing models of the island, but they all follow almost the same shape and almost the same procedures.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Huck Finn had it's own specialty, which were the characters. These characters' appearances are explained with a very basic textual explanation, but the real description of these characters lay in the dialect. The characters' dialect! For example, the character Jim, who is seen as a simple-living person. This is shown when Jim talks to Huckleberry Finn about Finn's fake death. Jim's slang is so heavy that his words speak for his physical appearance and his personality. A better example would be Huck's father, who's dialect and tone shows his dumb-brute aggression:

"Don't you give me none o' your lip," says he... I'll take you down a peg before I get done with you. You're educated, too, they say—can read and write. You think you're better'n your father, now, don't you, because he can't? I'LL take it out of you."

In my opinion, appearances reflects from personality, and personality to appearance. With Huck's father, the concept established that he is a dumb-brute, along with the basic description of his extreme alcoholism, we can assume his physique is not very balanced, nor fit, due to his alcoholism, making him a bony character, with not much care to what he wears. At this point, the alcoholism trait is what can best describe his appearance, using background knowledge. His personality is reckless and is completely insensitive to people around him, especially his son.

All of these statements seem lengthy, but to a reader reading the actual book, these concepts of immersion synthesize in the reader's mind within seconds.

Friday, September 30, 2016

An Anything-But-Regular Earth

It's September 30th, meaning it's that time again! That's right, it's time for Jacob to talk about a book!

What if the Earth Had Two Moons?

This book is special. I have only gotten through an 1/8 of the book and I'm impressed. What if the Earth Had Two Moons? is about "what if," questions, to put it briefly. The book addresses how our Earth, in identical universes every time, would be different if there was on change in our solar system. What makes it so great, is the way the author delivers the concept dissection: Neil F. Comins dissects the situation by first showing a small segment of history and how different historical figures, say, a famous explorer, would discover or learn more about Earth, and through the eyes of this historical figure we learn from the character's surroundings how things are different from our Earth. (Spoilers!) For example, how Galileo would discover the orbit rates of the two moons surrounding the Earth, which is named Dimaan due to the change in history. I just realized Dimaan sounded like "di-moon," perhaps that's what the name intends to symbolize. The second thing Comins introduces is the science of the scenario using the most updated scientific research, which, to me, is a great addition and has an amazing amount of detail- I personally love it because I can connect the historical scenario with the science behind it, and it makes sense! Finally, Comins adds a concept of how the scenario came to be; an example of this being (Spoilers!) the Dimaan scenario, where Comins explains how the second moon, Lluna, is captured by Earth's gravity well and is put into orbit (the explanation is fascinating, but quite long, and I really don't know how to summarize it, so you'll just have to read it for yourself).

Jacob, is this even Non-Fiction?

Yes; you can check Goodreads for the genre list on the book. Most people see Non-Fiction and think "oh, that's historical stuff isn't it?" In fact I saw multiple of my fellow peers doing historical event-based books (not that there is anything wrong with that). This book uses fictional planets, universes, moons, and characters... OR ARE THEY? These scenarios could be justified with the theory of infinite probability (the name speaks for itself). The book's history scenarios are probably 15% of the entire book, and the rest of that 85% is scientific explanation, which utilizes the same laws, theories, facts, and mathematics as regular Earth science. 

The Message

When I read books, I like to find a message or a theme that the book is trying to convey. Whether I am right or wrong, there normally is a message that speaks to me. So what about a Non-Fiction book about "what if" questions? Although I haven't completed the book, I will say that this is the message so far (as we have all read books, we know that themes and messages can plot twist and convey a totally different message later on in the book, we'll just have to see): All it takes is one change to our Earth to completely rewrite everything. But, on a deeper view, I also believe the book shows just how perfectly formed the Earth we live on is. Just think: (Spoilers!) In the book, Dimaan, or alternate-Earth, has two moons orbiting it. In the scenario, Galileo (the same one we know) discovers that the moons, Kuu and Lluna, are actually being sucked into their own gravity wells, slowly attracting until they collide and become one moon... as we know today.... So even with Comins' scientific explanations for Lluna to get into Earth's orbit, it still eventually would revert back to good ol' Earth (but still called Dimaan in that universe)! So what's the idea? Even if Comins made such a great scenario that seemed like it could work, he even stated that the moons would still eventually collide due to the imbalance of orbit that Comins had stated in his explanation. So doesn't it just seem like Earth was meant to be? Now think: Religion always talked about how Earth was too perfect, and with this book, it makes me think that science is thinking the same thing!

To wrap this up, the book is great so far, and I'm eager to continue reading about other scenarios and the effects, and further develop the message of the book!

Have a good day readers!


Goodreads' statement on Non-Fiction: Click Here

Want to Read Along? Click Here

For those who are curious about Infinite Probability (beware of heavy science): Click Here

Speaking of the Moon, today (9/30/16) is a very special day! Click here to learn what's so special!!






Thursday, September 15, 2016

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. - Winston Churchill

Change

As I've stated before, I would also have to read a Non-Fiction book and The Lord of the Flies by the end of this year. So, to live up to that queue, I'm going to change from my current book, The Parafaith War, to my choice of a Non-Fiction. Now, I love to conceptualize and imagine what life would be like if there was a change in our universe, and What If Earth Had Two Moons? by Neil F. Comins really peaks my interest, as it is a book of ten speculative essays about what the Earth would be like under different astronomical conditions. Honestly I am excited to see what the book tells and maybe see a concept I've never heard of before.

The Parafaith War (Spoilers)

Although I have changed my focus off of The Parafaith War, I still plan to pursue it after I'm finished with my new current book. Where am I in the book so far? Trystin has arrived to Kylseen and just encountered a strange being (definitely alien) that had the power to telecommunicate. The alien, from my understanding, is interviewing a bunch of young officers in the field, to gauge the Eco-Tech Coalition's level of sophistication. The alien apparently was sent from it's race to understand whether the Eco-Tech Coalition is worthy to possess it's race's technology and information, and from the looks of it, they aren't worthy. That's just how I see it. If you have any thoughts, please comment! To understand the story, read it, or read the Wikipedia!

Time to read now, bye!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

An Interstellar War

A war born from territory ownership is nothing new, but a war born from planetary ownership is much different.

L.E Modesitt Jr.'s The Parafaith War takes place on the planet Mara, a Mars-like planet that is being terraformed by a group called The Eco-tech Coalition, a group that is stuck in a war against a religious group called The Revenants. Trystin Desoll, a lieutenant for the Eco-tech Coalition, has his station on Mara attacked by Revenants (Revs) with upgraded technology. He manages to defeat the Rev threat, but with his station too damaged to function, he must go to the capital location on the planet, Kylseen, where his story begins. The Parafaith War is what I am currently reading and it has been a great but slow-progressing story. I believe I have gotten past all of the main character development, and, like the previous Modesitt Jr. books I've read, the story progression most likely will gain speed over time. For those who care about imagery, the attention to detail is amazing in this book; it really creates an environment from the overall design of the area to the objects surrounding the character, whether it be a spacecraft or a coffee mug. The detail, although great for imagery, really can be time-consuming. I've found myself trying to really get a good idea of what Trystin saw so much that I would lose track of the story and what was actually happening in that setting.

The book has only just begun, and I love where it's going and the feeling ofbeing with the character through his endeavors. What I loved so much about the previous books I've read from Modesitt Jr. was the feeling of growing up with the character and seeing that character mature over the time elapsed in the book (normally years go by in one book, ex. The story of Gravity Dreams spanned about 15-17 years, not including flashbacks).

The future of the story is very promising, there is a lot that can happen in the next three hundred pages, and I can't wait to see.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Why, hello.

Who am I? I am Jacob Vu, and I am a student who loves reading. HOWEVER, I enjoy reading books that aren't exactly mainstream. There are some exceptions, but books like the Divergent series or The Hunger Games series aren't really my cup of tea. I enjoy sci-fi novels, especially very intellectual ones. A good example of books like such would be L.E Modesitt Jr.'s science fiction novels: Gravity Dreams, The Eternity Artifact, The Parafaith War, etc. Read them if you'd like, but I will say that they introduce some relatively hard concepts. But to me, I love the stories and the ideas the novels explore.

Enough about me. Now, what is this blog? This is the (maybe, maybe not) anti-climactic story of me and my journey through hardcore science fiction novels, in hopes to find the best novel of them all. For example, right now I am reading The Parafaith War, but my next goals are books like Soldiers of Fortune by Joshua Dalzelle (it is the second book in the series Omega Force). Of course, Soldiers of Fortune and the rest of the books in the series are a little lower caliber compared to the LEMJ books, but after sampling and later completing Omega Rising (Book 1), I just had to finish the series. There will be some books along the way that won't be science fiction (Lord of the Flies, etc.), and that is mandatory for me, since I'm a student in English class.

Well, guess it's time to start my journey. Follow along if you'd like.