Hospital Station – James White

220px-hospitalstation1962paperbackSector General 01 Hospital Station 

(Recommend)

Hospital Station is a little gem I stumbled upon by accident. It’s one of the most imaginative representations of alien life I’ve read about. The action is set in a space hospital, which treats life forms from all over the galaxy. It feels a little bit like a procedural medical TV show (House MD).

It is an easy read and a very entertaining one.

Quotes

 

Maybe he really was a despicable person and that was why the role had come so easy to him. Perhaps the constant frustration of never having the chance to really use the brain which was buried in his ugly, muscle-bound body had gradually soured him, and the part he thought he was playing was the real O’Mara.

 

A protected species,” he repeated. “Shielded from the crudities of present-day life. From your social strata-on all the worlds of the Union, not only on Earth—come practically all the great artists, musicians and professional men. Most of you live out your lives in ignorance of the fact that you are protected, that you are insulated from childhood against the grosser realities of our interstellar socalled civilization, and that your ideas of pacifism and ethical behavior are a luxury which a great many of us simply cannot afford. You are allowed this luxury in the hope that from it may come a philosophy which may one day make every being in the Galaxy truly civilized, truly good.”

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Kafka on The Shore – Haruki Murakami

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Kafka on The Shore

(I want my time back)

Goodreads Wikipedia

Franz Kafka is one of my favorite authors, but also, in my opinion, a bit difficult to read. After finishing the Metamorphosis I deeply regretted the time I spent reading such a boring book. Until a few days later when it suddenly hit me how amazing the book and Franz Kafka really are. I proceeded reading all of his books and they all had that same ‘delayed gratification’ effect.

I read a few short stories and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running  by Haruki Murakami, before I decided to give Kafka on The Shore a try. The famous author, the positive reviews and the fact that the title of the book has the name of my favorite author increased my expectations of the book. However, I ended up deeply disappointed. Kafka on The Shore was incredibly boring and annoying to read and it had the opposite of a ‘delayed gratification’ effect. As time goes by my hate towards this book only grows…

Kafka on The Shore was so boring that it took me about an year to finish. It left a lingering feeling of pain, emptiness and dullness, which made me quit Murakami forever. To start with, all the characters in the book have a two-dimensional feeling to them. I never cared about any of the characters, not even the kind, crazy, old, cat man. Moreover, at times the book feels absurd just for the sake of being absurd. The author tries really hard to give us the feeling of “dream-logic” but comes no near to the brilliant way that Kafka does it…

Many of you have probably experienced waking up after a dream only to realize that you were following some weird “dream laws” in your sleep? And these laws were all incredibly absurd, yet you felt the urge to abide by them. Then you wake up and wonder how come you never realized that you were dreaming… And how come you didn’t have the will to break free from the grip of that dream and shape your dream world the way you want it to be==> Reading Franz Kafka feels the same way. You become more aware of the absurd rules and laws that you follow in your real, waking life, which are often a product of social expectations, fear and upbringing. Franz Kafka made me more aware of who I am and freed me in many ways…

We then take a look at the ‘dream-logic’ in ‘Kafka on the shore’. I can best describe it as being aware that you are asleep and fully conscious of the absurdity of your dreams but still stuck in them until you wake up. Or to put it another way, fully aware of how boring the book is but stuck reading it…

If anyone found meaning and derived value from this book please share in the comments below. I am curious about the way you see it.

Quotes

“You have to look!” Johnnie Walker commanded. “That’s another one of our rules. Closing your eyes isn’t going to change anything. Nothing’s going to disappear just because you can’t see what’s going on. In fact, things will be even worse the next time you open your eyes. That’s the kind of world we live in, Mr. Nakata. Keep your eyes wide open. Only a coward closes his eyes. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won’t make time stand still.”

“Narrow minds devoid of imagination. Intolerance, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear and loathe.”

“That’s fine. Look—what I’m getting at is no matter who or what you’re dealing with, people build up meaning between themselves and the things around them. The important thing is whether this comes about naturally or not. Being bright has nothing to do with it. What matters is that you see things with your own eyes.”

“”That’s why I gave myself the name Kafka. That’s what Kafka means in Czech, you know—crow.” “Hmm,” she says, mildly impressed. “So you’re Crow.” “That’s right,” I say. That’s right, the boy named Crow says. “There must be a limit to that kind of lifestyle, though,” she says. “You can’t use that strength as a protective wall around you. There’s always going to be something stronger that can overcome your fortress. At least in principle.” “Strength itself becomes your morality.” Miss Saeki smiles. “You catch on quickly.” “The strength I’m looking for isn’t the kind where you win or lose. I’m not after a wall that’ll repel power coming from outside. What I want is the kind of strength to be able to absorb that outside power, to stand up to it. The strength to quietly endure things—unfairness, misfortune, sadness, mistakes, misunderstandings.” “That’s got to be the most difficult strength of all to make your own.””

“”Myoga, you’re not very bright, so you don’t have to learn any sutras. Instead, I’d like you to sit at the entrance and polish everybody’s shoes.” Myoga was an obedient guy, so he didn’t tell his master to go screw himself. So for ten years, twenty years, he diligently polished everybody’s shoes. Then one day he achieved enlightenment and became one of the greatest of all the Buddha’s followers. That’s a story Hoshino always remembered, because he’d thought that had to be the crappiest kind of life, polishing shoes for decades. You gotta be kidding, he thought. But when he considered it now, the story started to take on a different undertone. Life’s crappy, no matter how you cut it. He just hadn’t understood that when he was little.”

 

Factotum – Charles Bukowski

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Factotum

(This book was painful to read)

A guy in the USA going through shitty jobs, drinking, sex and complaining that women are sluts. His dream is to become a writer, when in reality he can’t hold the easiest job for more than a few months.

I did not enjoy reading this book. It was the first book I’ve read written by Bukowski and will probably be the last. His writing style is just too painful…

The main character is a weak man. A man without a backbone. A man full of desires and ambitions and no will power to achieve anything. Instead, he chooses a life of whining and binge drinking. He reminds me of a dumber version of the protagonist from the Catcher in The Rye.

This book paints a picture of the person you should never become.

Quotes

“I was a man who thrived on solitude; without it I was like another man without food or water. Each day without solitude weakened me. I took no pride in my solitude; but I was dependent on it. The darkness of the room was like sunlight to me.”

“Yes, your attitude. You think we didn’t notice it?” That’s when I first learned that it wasn’t enough to just do your job, you had to have an interest in it, even a passion for it.

“I wasn’t all that clever. It was more instinct than anything else. I always started a job with the feeling that I’d soon quit or be fired, and this gave me a relaxed manner that was mistaken for intelligence or some secret power.”

“When I went to the Yellow Cab Company I passed the Cancer Building and I remembered that there were worse things than looking for a job you didn’t want. I went in and it seemed easy enough, the same old forms, questions, etc.”

“I didn’t like parties. I didn’t know how to dance and people frightened me, especially people at parties. They attempted to be sexy and gay and witty and although they hoped they were good at it, they weren’t. They were bad at it. Their trying so hard only made it worse.”

Atlass Shrugged – Ayn Rand

Atlass Shrugged – Ayn Rand

662Atlass Shrugged

(Must Read)

Atlass Shrugged is a dangerous book. I read it 6 years ago and it is one of the books that changed my life. Both for better and worse. This book has as much potential to be misinterpreted  as The Bible.

Before you read it, however, make sure you get to know a little bit more about its author, Ayn Rand. Born in Russia, she was very much against the communist ideas and she pretty much makes sure that everyone in the world knows how much communism in Russia sucked. She successfully predicts how the Soviet Union will collapse in her book by describing the way poor incentives can lead to economic decline.

There are a lot of ideas in this book and I am not up for the task to analyze or even summarize. I will simply state how it made me feel and what it made me believe in.

It made me believe in a world where my own strength and will-power are the only things that matter. In relying on myself rather than seeking help and alms from friends and families. It made me certain that I am my own man and that I will shape my life with my own efforts and no external help. That truth matters more than popular opinion. That I am the only person to blame for my failure.

The book gave me the strength to pursue my own ideas when the people around me went into a totally different direction. It made me respect my own opinions about how things are or should be.

It also alienated me from my friends and family.

A lot of the ideas in this book are dangerous, a lot are simply bullshit, a lot are brilliant. Be critical when reading Ayn Rand. I can empathize with her anger and ways of viewing the world, however, she takes some of her ideas to the extreme.

Atlass Shurgged is a must read book. Don’t be scared of its length, as it is quite an easy read. Just, just read it… I will even make it easier for you: PDF Link

Quotes

“If you don’t know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn.”

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

“I started my life with a single absolute: that the world was mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or hard the struggle.”

“If men understand that reality is an absolute not to be faked, that lies do not work, that the unearned cannot be had, that the undeserved cannot be given, that the destruction of a value which is, will not bring value to that which isn’t. The businessman who wishes to gain a market by throttling a superior competitor, the worker who wants a share of his employer’s wealth, the artist who envies a rival’s higher talent—they’re all wishing facts out of existence, and destruction is the only means of their wish. If they pursue it, they will not achieve a market, a fortune or an immortal fame— they will merely destroy production, employment and art. A wish for the irrational is not to be achieved, whether the sacrificial victims are willing or not. But men will not cease to desire the impossible and will not lose their longing to destroy—so long as self-destruction and self-sacrifice are preached to them as the practical means of achieving the happiness of the recipients.”

World War Z – Max Brooks

world_war_z_book_coverWorld War Z
(
Shit)

Max Brooks is simply not a good writer. The book is supposed to be a collection of the stories of various survivors spread across the world. And no matter what nationality, gender or personality the survivors have, they all sound like the same person.

I have no idea how this book made it so far… it’s plain stupid.

Can someone please recommend a good zombie book?

Quotes

Do you understand economics? I mean big-time, prewar, global capitalism. Do you get how it worked? I don’t, and anyone who says they do is full of shit. There are no rules, no scientific absolutes. You win, you lose, it’s a total crapshoot. The only rule that ever made sense to me I learned from a history, not an economics, professor at Wharton. “Fear,” he used to say, “fear is the most valuable commodity in the universe.” That blew me away. “Turn on the TV,” he’d say. “What are you seeing? People selling their products? No. People selling the fear of you having to live without their products.” Fuckin’ A, was he right. Fear of aging, fear of loneliness, fear of poverty, fear of failure. Fear is the most basic emotion we have. Fear is primal. Fear sells. That was my mantra. “Fear sells.”

 

Now, I am a good soldier, but I am also a West German. You understand the difference? In the East, they were told that they were not responsible for the atrocities of the Second World War, that as good communists, they were just as much victims of Hitler as anyone else. You understand why the skinheads and proto-fascists were mainly in the East? They did not feel the responsibility of the past, not like we did in the West. We were taught since birth to bear the burden of our grandfathers’ shame. We were taught that, even if we wore a uniform, that our first sworn duty was to our conscience, no matter what the consequences.

The Demolished Man – Alfred Bester

51-u4osakvl-_sx341_bo1204203200_The Demolished Man

(Would not read again)

However, taking into considerations the year this book was published 1953 (A few years after WW2) , and the message it tries to convey, I am not surprised it won the first Hugo Award.

 

Wikipedia Goodreads

I read this book ages ago, so I don’t have much notes about it. What I have instead are parts of the book I’ve underlined on my Kindle and my interpretation of what the book’s main message is.

Man is ultimately good. Murder is against man’s nature.

We are all blind and crazy, driven by lust for power, greed and desire. The cursing of the peepers is that they see the craziness of the situation. That men are essentially good but circumstances and weakness force them to perform atrocities.

(Peepers/Espers are telepaths. For me, they represent people with incredibly good empathy, people reading skills and understanding of human psychology.)

Cool Quotes

“That’s where we live… All of us. In the psychiatric ward. Without escape… without refuge. Be grateful you’re not a peeper, sir. Be grateful that you only see the outward man. Be grateful that you never see the passions, the hatreds, the jealousies, the malice, the sicknesses… Be grateful you rarely see the frightening truth in people. The world will be a wonderful place when everyone’s a peeper and everyone’s adjusted… But until then, be grateful you’re blind.”

“Listen,” he cried in exaltation. “Listen, normals! You must learn what it is. You must learn how it is. You must tear the barriers down. You must tear the veils away. We see the truth you cannot see… That there is nothing in man but love and faith, courage and kindness, generosity and sacrifice. All else is only the barrier of your blindness. One day we’ll all be mind to mind and heart to heart…” In the endless universe there has been nothing new, nothing different. What has appeared exceptional to the minute mind of man has been inevitable to the infinite Eye of God. This strange second in a life, that unusual event, those remarkable coincidences of environment, opportunity, and encounter… all of them have been reproduced over and over on the planet of a sun whose galaxy revolves once in two hundred million years and has revolved nine times already. There has been joy. There will be joy again.

Reich arose from the bed and toweled himself before the cheval mirror, practicing the smile. “Make your enemies by choice,” he muttered, “not by accident.”

“What game? What Cosmic Game?” “The maze… the labyrinth… all the universe, created as a puzzle for us to solve. The galaxies, the stars, the sun, the planets… the world as we knew it. We were the only reality. All the rest was make-believe… dolls, puppets, stage-settings… pretended passions. It was a make-believe reality for us to solve.” “I conquered it. I owned if.” “And you failed to solve it. We’ll never know what the solution is, but it’s not theft, terror, hatred, lust, murder, rapine. You failed, and it’s all been abolished, disbanded…” “But what’s to become of us?” “We are abolished too. I tried to warn you. I tried to stop you. But we failed the test.” “But why? Why? Who are we? What are we?” “Who knows? Did the seed know who or what it was when it failed to find fertile soil? Does it matter who or what we are? We have failed. Our test is ended. We are ended.” “No!” “Perhaps if we had solved it, Ben, it might have remained real. But it is ended. Reality has turned into might-have-been, and you have awakened at last… to nothing.” “We’ll go back! We’ll try it again!” “There is no going back. It is ended.” “We’ll find a way. There must be a way…” “There is none. It is ended.” It was ended. Now… Demolition.

“Oh yes, sir. It’s one of the run-of-the-mill escape patterns. When life gets tough, you tend to take refuge in the idea that it’s all make-believe… a giant hoax. Reich had the seeds of that weakness in him already. I simply forced them and let Reich defeat himself. Life was getting tough for him. I persuaded him to believe that the universe was a hoax… a puzzle-box. Then I tore it down, layer by layer. I made him believe that the test was ended. The puzzle was being dismantled. And I left Reich alone with The Man With No Face. He looked into the face and saw himself and his father… and we had everything.”

“If a man’s got talent and guts to buck society, he’s obviously above average. You want to hold on to him. You straighten him out and turn him into a plus value. Why throw him away? Do that enough and all you’ve got left are the sheep”

The Sorrows of Young Werther – Goethe

sorrows-young-werther-johann-wolfgang-von-goethe-paperback-cover-art The Sorrows of Young Werther

(Would recommend, not because I enjoyed it, but because it is one of those books that everyone should read)

It was a difficult book to read, even though it’s quite short it felt like a struggle. However, there are moments of brilliance which are not worth missing. It struck me on a personal level and it felt easy to relate to the main character.

Goodreads Wikipedia PDF File

The suffering of loving someone who does not love you. In retrospect it feels silly. When you are in the middle of it, the word ‘sorrow’ describes it brilliantly.

Werther made the classic mistake of falling in love with an idea, not a person.

Quotes

“Must it ever be thus,—that the source of our happiness must also be the fountain of our misery? The full and ardent sentiment which animated my heart with the love of nature, overwhelming me with a torrent of delight, and which brought all paradise before me, has now become an insupportable torment, a demon which perpetually pursues and harasses me.”

” “Human nature,” I continued, “has its limits. It is able to endure a certain degree of joy, sorrow, and pain, but becomes annihilated as soon as this measure is exceeded. The question, therefore, is, not whether a man is strong or weak, but whether he is able to endure the measure of his sufferings. The suffering may be moral or physical; and in my opinion it is just as absurd to call a man a coward who destroys himself, as to call a man a coward who dies of a malignant fever.” ” (It is thoughts like this one that got the guy dead…)

“It is as if a curtain had been drawn from before my eyes, and, instead of prospects of eternal life, the abyss of an ever open grave yawned before me. Can we say of anything that it exists when all passes away, when time, with the speed of a storm, carries all things onward,—and our transitory existence, hurried along by the torrent, is either swallowed up by the waves or dashed against the rocks? There is not a moment but preys upon you,—and upon all around you, not a moment in which you do not yourself become a destroyer.”

“No: it is not the great and rare calamities of the world, the floods which sweep away whole villages, the earthquakes which swallow up our towns, that affect me. My heart is wasted by the thought of that destructive power which lies concealed in every part of universal nature. Nature has formed nothing that does not consume itself, and every object near it: so that, surrounded by earth and air, and all the active powers, I wander on my way with aching heart; and the universe is to me a fearful monster, for ever devouring its own offspring.”

“In vain do I stretch out my arms toward her when I awaken in the morning from my weary slumbers. In vain do I seek for her at night in my bed, when some innocent dream has happily deceived me, and placed her near me in the fields, when I have seized her hand and covered it with countless kisses. And when I feel for her in the half confusion of sleep, with the happy sense that she is near, tears flow from my oppressed heart; and, bereft of all comfort, I weep over my future woes.”

“Unhappy being that I am! Why do I thus deceive myself? What is to come of all this wild, aimless, endless passion? I cannot pray except to her. My imagination sees nothing but her; all surrounding objects are of no account except as they relate to her. In this dreamy state I enjoy many happy hours, till at length I feel compelled to tear myself away from her. Ah, Wilhelm, to what does not my heart often compel me! When I have spent several hours in her company, till I feel completely absorbed by her figure, her grace, the divine expression of her thoughts, my mind becomes gradually excited to the highest excess, my sight grows dim, my hearing confused, my breathing oppressed as if by the hand of a murderer, and my beating heart seeks to obtain relief for my aching senses. I am sometimes unconscious whether I really exist.”

“I sometimes cannot understand how she can love another, how she dares love another, when I love nothing in this world so completely, so devotedly, as I love her, when I know only her, and have no other possession than her in the world.” – Let her go, dude…