Books read in July 2012

Bengt Ericson: Den nya överklassen.(The New Upper Class)

An interesting and entertaining overview of the rich Swedes of today, how they live, work, are educated and where they have got their money and influence. I am really glad not being one of those who have to participate in hunting elk together with the king, but I cannot help being irritated over the excesses in bonuses and other gratifications that the rich allow themselves, and the increase in economic divides is really surprising.

 

Philip K. Dick: Second Variety.

Second volume of Dick’s collected excellent short stories, mainly scary sf stories where reality is in doubt. The title story about war robots pretending to be teddy bears, kids or soldiers made me pick up Moderan from my collection of unread books.

 

Peter Watts: Blindsight.

This Hugo finalist about a first encounter and attempt of alien invasion was surprisingly uninteresting, in spite of some entertaining discussions regarding communication and the characteristics of intelligence. The crew in the space ship that contacts the alien ship contains an AI, a person with several individual persona in her head, a vampire and the narrator who has had half his brain removed and substituted by a computer. This could have been interesting if, for example, the vampire had been explained. In an appendix attempts are made to explain these oddities, even the presence and special intelligence of vampires, but they are not sufficiently convincing. Still, the story was thrilling and well told.

 

Mats Strandberg & Sara Bergmark Elfgren: Cirkeln.(The Circle)

Entertaining Swedish YA fantasy with a gang of six very different teen-age girls who get involved in a mystery with magic and witches. Well written and gripping, and with a good description both of the teen-age world and the small city in Bergslagen.

 

Ronny Ambjörnsson: Fantasin till makten! (Power to the imagination!)

Subtitled “Utopian ideas in the West during five centuries” this book made me expect a general overview of European utopias, and the short introduction barely served that purpose. Still, the essays converted into chapters were interesting. Thomas More’s Utopia is shown to be a totalitarian socialist state and the story a moral-philosophical treaty, whereas the life and work of the Swedish pacifist Anders Kempe in the 17th century although interesting hardly makes him an author of utopias. The same could be said for Emanuel Swedenborg, for whom heaven was utopia, and perhaps for the Swedes August Nordenskjöld and Carl Bernhard Wadström who described a plan for a free community in Africa, based on Swedenborg’s ideas.  I would also hesitate to use the term utopia for the experiments in social engineering in USA seen by Fredrika Bremer, as shakers, owenites, and followers of Charles Fourier. The two final chapters dealt with “real” utopian authors, William Morris and the really interesting author of Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

 

David R. Bunch: Moderan.

Fascinating collection of essentially plot-less stories from the 60s set in a common world where men are made mainly of metal with just some strips of flesh to remain human, and live in separate strongholds with robots as only companions. Many of the stories can be read as  burlesque descriptions of our own society.

 

 

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