The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.

Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Take on Two Very Strange Stories...

These past few days, I finished reading and watching two very strange and surrealistic stories.  The book I finished was Nicholas Eftimiades Edward of Planet Earth, and I finished my first complete viewing of The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan.  Both are amusing and often disturbing.

Edward of Planet Earth

This is the story about Edward, an extraordinarily and perfectly average person who gets into an outlandish situation of searching for the true nature of God on the behalf of artificially intelligent beings about 200 years in the future.  Edward gets caught up in this quest through no choice of his own.  He is a simple computer repairman who, while on the job, end up with the consciousness of Mega Brain, a very intelligent computer, uploaded into his brain.  This sends Edward, however involuntarily, around the globe and to the Moon on a precarious quest for the truth.  Edward is assisted by an attorney who becomes a close companion, Amanda, and by Mega Brain.

Now, one might expect that artificially intelligent beings of the future would be logical and completely in control of themselves helping humanity in the pursuit of improving themselves and their situation, right?  Sorry, this is not nearly the case in Eftimiades' vision of the future.  Being programmed by humans, the intelligences encountered by Edward and Amanda are all just reflections of humanity itself.  The artificial intelligences all have the same insecurities, hopes, misjudgements, and neuroses that their human counterparts have, but when the author embodies them in a machine, it only adds to the humorous situations.

Nicholas Eftimiades paints a view of the future based on his knowledge of current technology projected 200 years into the future.  The world hasn't been taken over by computers in the future, but many of the mundane tasks now performed by humans are relegated to artificial intelligence.  For instance, Edward is monitored constantly by Clarice, a "Motivational Model Home Management System."  Clarice's job is to monitor all aspects of Edward's life and make sure that he eats right, gets enough rest, and so on.  She does tend to get in the way of Edward's pursuit of pleasure.  In Michio Kaku's book, The Physics of the Future, Dr. Kaku also describes such a system and how it would perform, but Eftimaides' version is far more humorous than Kaku's.

This is a fun read with lots of humor, absurd situations, and unexpected turns and twists much in the same vein as Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide series.  As a matter of fact, in an interview with the Scifi Diner Podcast, Eftimiades discusses how Adams inspired his writing of Edward.  You may access that interview with the author by clicking HERE.  Not only does the author talk about this book, but he discusses other aspects of his life and work in the U.S. Government as well.  So how does the story end?  Well, I'm not going to spoil that here, I will say that I found it to be infuriatingly funny.  It is begging for a sequel, and I am anxiously awaiting the continuing story of Edward's involuntary quest for truth.

Edward of Planet Earth is available in all of the major e-reader formats and is very reasonably priced.  I got my copy from Amazon for $2.99.  Don't let the low price fool you, you'll get a quality product well worth reading.

The Prisoner

This is a 17 episode British television series that is absolutely bizarre and surreal.  The prisoner originally aired in the winter of 1967-68 in Great Britain and later in the U.S., usually very late at night and not at regular times.  I have never really had the chance to see the entire series until I bought the Blue Ray edition a few weeks ago.  The Prisoner stars Patrick McGoohan from Secret Agent fame, and this might be considered a continuation of his story.

We never learn what McGoohan's character's name is, he is only referred to as Number 6.  In the opening sequence we get the setup for what is to follow.  McGoohan charges into the office of some government official and has a rant.  Then he slams a letter of resignation down on the official's desk and charges out.  When he gets home, he is packing for a vacation, but before he can leave, he is knocked out by someone gassing him.  When he awakes, he is in a perfect duplication of his own apartment, but when he peers out of the window, he finds himself in The Village.  Here is the opening sequence and the basis of the entire story...

No. 6 is constantly trying to find ways to escape, and the leader of the government in The Village, No. 2, is tasked with getting information from No.2.  There are many ways that No.2 attempts to gain the information including psychological and physical torture, use of drugs, and extreme deception.  There are several times when No. 2 thinks he finds an ally, but he only finds out that even his most trusted allies are just part of the plot to get No. 2 to reveal his secret, mainly why he resigned from his job.  The reason for his resignation is never revealed during the series.

I think that the main message of the story is mostly allegorical.  As No. 2 says in the opening sequence, "I am not a number, I am a free man" followed by the sinister laugh by No. 2, it begs the question, are any of us truly free?