Showing 31 - 40 of 82 annotations tagged with the keyword "Science Fiction"

Joshua, Son of None

Freedman, Nancy

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A surgical resident named Thor Bitterbaum happens to be in attendance when the fatally wounded President John Kennedy arrives at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. He immediately remembers the work of a scientist who had performed some successful cloning experiments. In the twinkling of an eye, he locates a liquid nitrogen container and freezes a sample of the President’s tissue. He then locates G. K. Kellogg, a multimillionaire who is willing to foot the bill to clone President Kennedy. Kellogg’s plan is to reproduce the major events of Kennedy’s life so that his "son" has essentially the same experience as JFK and grows up to be elected President of the United States.

Not surprisingly, some things go wrong with the plan, but, in general, the whole bizarre scheme works out as G. K. and "Uncle" Thor intend it to. Joshua Francis Kellogg, the cloned child, eventually learns his origin, rebels against his "father’s" plan, blows his cover by writing a book about his experience, but ultimately becomes a successful politician just as G. K. had envisioned.

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Into the No Zone

Metcalf, Tim

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Metcalf explores relationships between the worlds of science and experience in the three parts of this collection: devolve, involute, and evolutional. He makes it clear at the beginning: "the radiant truth is not alive / it is a sin to call consciousness dead" (10). At the same time, though, "Nobody needs YOU. Complete this form" (14). If consciousness devolves on matter, then the soul--where presumably consciousness used to live before it devolved--may be permitted to involute without consequence. "Yes, yes, / the dawn," our Bard writes, "it is beautiful. I try to miss it" (25). "Never mind who my parents were. / They dropped me off down here / on their way to somewhere else." ("Stork’s Kid," 41)

The final section, "Evolutional," suggests the direction in which our species might be moving: "Maybe I can live to one hundred and eight . . . by transplantation." ("Last to Go," 49) Perhaps the poet has already found his niche in this process, "It took me many years to find a market--niche / in speculative contemporary Australian social evolution . . . " (67) And yet, beneath all this (or above it), the poet comments, "I promised myself to speak in love only . . . You push me / for that poem I have not written yet." ("Our Poem," 43)

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The Handmaid's Tale

Atwood, Margaret

Last Updated: Aug-23-2006
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the futuristic Republic of Gilead. Sometime in the future, conservative Christians take control of the United States and establish a dictatorship. Most women in Gilead are infertile after repeated exposure to pesticides, nuclear waste, or leakages from chemical weapons. The few fertile women are taken to camps and trained to be handmaidens, birth-mothers for the upper-class. Infertile lower-class women are sent either to clean up toxic waste or to become "Marthas," house servants. No women in the Republic are permitted to be openly sexual; sex is for reproduction only. The government declares this a feminist improvement on the sexual politics of today when women are seen as sex objects.

The novel focuses on one handmaid, Offred (she is given the name of the man whose children she is expected to bear--she is of Fred). Offred became a handmaid after an attempt to escape with her daughter and husband from Gilead. They fail; her daughter is given away to a needy woman in the upper circles, and Offred does not know whether her husband is alive or dead, whether he escaped or was captured. Offred is in the service of the General and his wife, Serena Joy. Serena Joy hates that she is unable to bear children and hates Offred for taking her husband seed. If Offred does not become pregnant promptly, Serena Joy will undoubtedly take revenge by sending her away, possibily to the toxic colonies.

Offred does not become pregnant, but she does develop an unexpected relationship with the General. He plays games of Scrabble with her (all forms of writing are officially denied handmaids) and gives her gifts of cosmetics and old fashion magazines. One night he dresses her in a cocktail dress and takes her to an illegal nightclub where Offred runs into an old female friend, now a prostitute in the club.

Serena Joy, desperate for children, finally arranges for Offred to sleep with the chauffeur. The two are happy together; she thinks she is pregnant. Soon after, Serena Joy finds the cocktail dress the General gave to Offred. She knows her husband is to blame, but accuses Offred anyway and sends for the police to take her away to certain death. When the van arrives to take her away, however, it is driven by rebels who carry Offred to safety.

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Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

As the story opens, Raphael enters a gaming house and loses the last of his money. He decides to drown himself in the Seine. As he waits for the crowds to leave the evening streets, he wanders into an antique shop, where he tells the shop keeper that he is going to kill himself and the man shows him a mysterious-looking skin hanging on a wall. It is inscribed with a message in "Sanskrit" that one who owns the skin will have any wish granted, but that each wish will cause the skin to shrink. When the skin disappears, its owner dies.

Raphael brashly decides to take the skin. He wishes for a rich dinner, a fortune, and women. As he leaves the shop, he is stopped by friends who invite him to a dinner. Raphael tells his history. He is the son of a fairly wealthy man, but he squandered his fortune. He has spent the last three years studying in a garret and trying to win the love of Foedora, a cold society woman. His garret was warmed by the friendship of Paulina, his landlady’s daughter.

As the dinner party ends, Raphael receives word that he has inherited a vast fortune. His wishes are coming true and the skin is shrinking. Raphael now clings to life and arranges it so that his servants supply his wants before he even realizes them. One evening, he encounters Paulina; she too has inherited money and he is struck by her maturing beauty. Foedora seems ugly next to Paulina’s purity. Raphael wishes that Paulina will love him. They marry, but the skin continues to shrink.

Doctors are called to treat Raphael as his health fails and they argue over whether his disease is caused by his mind or whether his mental obsession is caused by a physical disturbance. They cannot resolve the dispute, but as their patient is a millionaire they decide to treat him anyway. They suggest applying leeches and traveling to "take the waters."

Raphael does travel and at one point duels with another young man. He warns his enemy to ask his forgiveness for otherwise, Raphael’s bullet is bound to kill him while the others’ bullet will surely miss. The other refuses and Raphael, though he shoots randomly, kills him. He takes refuge in a country cottage, but still has desires which the skin satisfies without Raphael’s conscious intention.

He returns home to Paulina and tells her about the skin. Knowing he is going to die, he indulges in a final burst of passion for her. She sees that such desire will kill him and tries to kill herself to spare him, but fails. Raphael dies.

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Erewhon

Butler, Samuel

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Higgs, a sheep farmer, and Chowbok, an old man, decide one day to visit the forbidden country that lies beyond the mountains. When they find a pass through the mountains, Chowbok gets frightened and runs home, so Higgs goes on alone. After a dangerous journey, he wakes one morning surrounded by beautiful shepherdesses. They take his belongings, give him a medical exam, and throw him in jail.

There he learns that he has come to Erewhon (an anagram for nowhere). In this country, illness is considered a crime. Sick people are thrown in jail; sickness is their own fault. Even sad people are imprisoned, for grief is a sign of misfortune and people are held responsible for actions that made them unfortunate. People who rob or murder, on the other hand, are treated kindly and taken to the hospital to recover. No machines are allowed in Erewhon as one philosopher thought that machines could rapidly evolve and take over the world.

Higgs is invited to dinner with Nosibor, a recovering embezzler. He stays with his family and falls in love with his youngest daughter Arowhena. Nosibor insists that the eldest daughter marry first, so Higgs goes to study at the University of Unreason, where students study anything that has absolutely no practical purpose. Arowhena and Higgs meet there secretly and when Nosibor finds out, he is very angry. Higgs and Arowhena fly away on a balloon. They land in the sea and are taken to England where they marry and plan a missionary trip to Erewhon.

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Fever Dream

Bradbury, Ray

Last Updated: Dec-01-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Thirteen-year-old Charles has been sick with a fever for days. The family doctor makes house calls and diagnoses the problem as scarlet fever and a cold. The boy is unconvinced and questions the physician's certainty since no diagnostic tests have been done. Charles is terrified when first his hands and then his legs change. He senses that his extremities become swollen, warm, throbbing, and twitching. Although the limbs appear normal, Charles is sure that he no longer has control of them. Recalling how the wood of petrified trees transforms into stone, he now fears that his entire body has been irrevocably replaced by a propagating mass of microbes.

The doctor dismisses the boy's fright as the result of fever and imagination. He placates Charles by giving him pills. When Charles begins choking himself, his parents restrain him in bed. Fortunately, the teenager improves dramatically. His fever disappears, and he is suddenly robust. Yet there is something odd (and a bit creepy) about Charles following his recovery.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The Bacteriologist has a visitor to his laboratory, a pale stranger who arrives with a letter of introduction from a good friend of the scientist. The scientist shows his visitor the cholera bacillus under a microscope and they talk about the disease. The visitor is particularly interested in a vial containing living bacteria, and the scientist describes the power of cholera, saying what a terrible epidemic could be caused if a tube such as the one he holds were to be opened into the water supply.

The scientist's wife calls him away for a moment; when the scientist returns, the visitor is ready to leave. As soon as the visitor has gone, however, the scientist realizes the vial of bacteria is missing, that the visitor must have stolen it. He runs out in a panic, sees the visitor's cab leaving, and hails another cab to give chase. The scientist's wife, horrified by his inappropriate dress and hurry, follows in a third cab, with her husband's shoes and coat and hat.

We shift to the point of view of the visitor in his cab. He has indeed stolen the vial. He is an Anarchist who plans to release the bacteria into London's water supply. His motivation is fame: he feels he has been neglected by the world, and now he will reveal his power and importance. In the speeding cab, however, he accidentally breaks the glass vial.

He decides to become a human vector. He swallows what is left in the vial, and stops the cab, realizing that he no longer needs to flee. When the scientist catches up and confronts him, the Anarchist gleefully announces what he has done. The scientist allows him to walk away, and tells his wife that the man has ingested the stolen bacteria.

There is a twist: the vial, it turns out, did not contain cholera, but a strange new microbe the Bacteriologist had been studying, the only known effect of which is to make the skin of the animals exposed to it turn bright blue. The Bacteriologist reluctantly puts on his coat and returns home with his wife, complaining that he will now have to culture the bacillus all over again.

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator suffers from depression and a pain in the right side beneath his ribs. Surgery will be performed at his home by Dr. Haddon and Dr. Mowbray, but the narrator worries that he might die during the operation. During an afternoon nap on the day before surgery, he dreams of death and resurrection. Chloroform is administered prior to the operation, but the narrator continues to be aware of everything taking place.

He can see into the minds of the surgeons and learns that Dr. Haddon is afraid of inadvertently cutting a vein. Almost on cue, the vein is slashed and hemorrhaging occurs. The narrator has a near-death experience associated with an extraordinary clarity of perception. He senses movement upward - beyond his body, beyond the town, and beyond the world. He believes his soul is streaming through space past the solar system and nearby constellations.

His impression of absolute serenity is eventually replaced by a sensation of loneliness. All matter becomes condensed into a single point of light, then a fuzzy glow, and finally the image of a colossal hand clenching a rod. A faint sound punctures the silence followed by a voice proclaiming, "There will be no more pain" (63). He awakens and sees the surgeon standing next to the rail of the bed. The narrator has not only survived the operation, but his pain and melancholy are vanquished.

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Wish

Goldsworthy, Peter

Last Updated: Aug-15-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

J.J.’s parents are both deaf, so he grew up with Auslan (Australian sign language) as his native "tongue," although he is not deaf and speaks English perfectly. After a disastrous marriage, J.J. returns to live with his parents and to teach sign language at the Deaf Institute. Two students in his beginners’ class befriend him. They are Clive, an elderly man world renowned as a leader of the animal rights movement, and his much younger wife Stella, who is a poet. They soon present J.J. with a mysterious proposition: would he be willing to provide private lessons for their "step-daughter" at their home? We soon learn that their "step-daughter," Wish, is actually a young female gorilla, which they "rescued" from a research laboratory.

At first J.J. is reluctant because he is aware that the purported mastery of signing by non-human primates is not only controversial, but very limited, even if true. However, he discovers that Wish has remarkable cognitive abilities. She learns Auslan quickly and even begins to converse using metaphor and expressing complex topics.

Eventually her story is revealed. She had undergone fetal surgery to remove her adrenal glands, which evidently limit cortical growth in gorillas. Unconstrained by her adrenals (although receiving daily cortisone injections), Wish has developed intelligence far beyond that of other gorillas.

Nonetheless, she is still a sexually mature female gorilla. She falls in "love" with J.J. who, after initially rebuffing her, mates with her. J.J., by the way is quite obese, and so he is much more attractive to Wish than the other human males she encounters, who are all so un-gorilla-like. J.J. and Wish live in connubial bliss for a brief period, until Clive decides to prosecute J.J. for sexually abusing his gorilla, since presumably gorillas cannot give informed consent to sexual activity with humans. (Of course, Wish can and does, because of her super brain, but this concept is a bit too subtle for the frenzied media and the legal system.) After J.J. is arrested and she is removed to a local zoo, Wish becomes depressed and commits suicide. Clive drops the charges, after which the story lumbers to a generally unhappy ending.

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Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions is a delightful experimental novella, a fictional exploration of dimensions and perspectives beginning in a two-dimensional world, Flatland, populated by two-dimensional geometrical shapes. The novella is narrated by one of Flatland's residents, A. Square (when the novella was first published in 1884, it was published under the pseudonym, "A. Square").

The first half of the novella is a description of this two-dimensional world, such as how it looks and how the figures move, spiced up with a clever dissection of Flatland's social hierarchy, which is dictated by the number of sides one has. Square's subsequent explorations lead him to Lineland (a one-dimensional world), Pointland (no dimensions), and then to Spaceland with its three dimensions.

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