Showing 41 - 50 of 82 annotations tagged with the keyword "Science Fiction"

Cast of Shadows

Guilfoile, Kevin

Last Updated: Aug-11-2005
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Set sometime in the near future, Cast of Shadows has as its protagonist Davis Moore, a successful private practice physician specializing in cloning human babies for infertile couples. Early in the book, Anna Kat, his high school senior daughter, is murdered and raped. (For a while a likely suspect is Mickey the Gerund, a right wing extremist member of the Hands of God with a fascinating grammatical moniker never explained, who shoots cloning physicians, including Dr. Moore, in the abdomen, a short time before his daughter, Anna Kat, is brutally killed. However, Mickey is only a shadow of a suspect and quickly becomes supplanted by another much more likely villain. Mickey goes on to kill, by various methods, dozens of cloning physicians and staff by book's end.)

After a year of unsuccessful detective work, the local police return Anna Kat's belongings, including a plastic vial with the suspected murderer-rapist's semen. In an act never fully explored by Dr. Moore or the author, an otherwise rational and ethical physician surreptitiously uses the suspect's semen to fertilize a married woman patient.

The offspring, a clone of the suspected killer-rapist, is Justin, who becomes a formidable presence in the book. He is very intelligent--at his psychologist's advice, his parents provide him at an early age with advanced reading materials like Plato (hence one of the allusions to shadows, i.e., Plato's cave, in the book's title and referenced directly on page 118 and indirectly on page 208) and other philosophers. By the time he is a senior in high school, Justin has become a dominant player in the affairs of Dr. Moore; Sally Barwick, a private investigator-turned journalist; and the suspected killer-rapist--his origin of the species as it were.

This book has a number of subplots all of which radiate from the initial cloning and the various members of the extended family and professional staff involved in it, some knowingly, most not. There are narrative threads involving the suspected murderer rapist-now-prominent attorney, Sam Coyne; the triangle of Dr. Moore and Jackie, his alcoholic wife, and Joan, his attractive pediatrician associate; Mickey the Gerund's various murderous and obsessional religious activities and reflections; Justin's life in school and involvement with Sally Barwick's investigation of a serial killer called The Wicker Man; and, most especially, the development of Shadow World, a computer game and a virtual replica of the real world--the world as Justin, Sally, Sam Coyne, and Dr. Davis Moore know it.

Since this is a thriller, it would be inappropriate to divulge more of the plot, which is intricate, often a little far-fetched but always engaging, highly readable and more labyrinthine than most medical thrillers.

View full annotation

The Sound Machine

Dahl, Roald

Last Updated: Nov-12-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

I like sound. This declaration by the peculiar protagonist, Klausner, speaks volumes about his character. He builds a device intended to transform inaudible high frequency tones into sounds that can be discerned by the human ear. His invention is a three-foot long black box resembling a small coffin that contains a complex electronic mechanism.

Klausner takes his machine outdoors to test it. At first, all he hears through the earphones connected to the contraption is a humming noise, but soon he perceives a shriek each time his neighbor cuts the stem of a rose in her garden. He decides to experiment further. Klausner strikes a large beech tree with an axe and immediately hears an unsettling noise similar to a scream. He apologizes to the tree.

Klausner telephones his personal physician and implores him to come immediately. When Dr. Scott arrives, Klausner asks him to don the earphones. The inventor smacks the tree once more with the axe. Only this time, a large branch comes crashing down smashing the sound machine to pieces and barely missing Klausner. He asks Dr. Scott what he heard, but the physician is not sure. Klausner insists that the gash in the tree trunk be sutured, but the doctor explains he cannot suture through wood. Still holding his axe, Klausner commands the physician to paint the cut with iodine and check on the tree tomorrow.

View full annotation

The Surgeon

Csáth, Géza

Last Updated: Nov-12-2004
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The unnamed narrator, a physician, notices a surgeon in a "seedy cafe on the edge of town." (73) He learns from the waiter that the shabby man with the "aristocratic demeanor" is "a doctor: Surgeon once" (73). The surgeon hears the narrator call for medical papers and makes his acquaintance. One night soon thereafter the narrator notices that the surgeon, sitting and drinking alone, drains the green syrup of his absinthe "so slowly and pleasurably" (74) that he must be, in fact is, an alcoholic.

The latter approaches the narrator and begins elaborating a complicated theory of time and how it is an internalized, organically controlled, locus in the brain, no different "from an ordinary brain cell" (77). As such, he, the surgeon, proposes to cut it out, imagining, grandiloquently, vast seas of gratitude washing up on his shore as he frees humanity of the "silent madness of mortality" (78). The surgeon ends with a toast to absinthe, "a drug to be taken orally, and which is useful against time, temporarily. . . . We won’t be needing it much longer, since the surgical method’s both radical and excellent. Cheers, my dear colleague!" (78-79)

View full annotation

After the Plague

Boyle, T. Coraghessan

Last Updated: May-27-2004
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Francis (aka "Jed") tells how he went off into the Sierra mountains for a few weeks of peace in order to write a novel and accidentally left his world behind. Fragmented radio reports hint that a catastrophe is brewing; appeals to avoid panic splutter to a silent stop. A trip to the nearest gas station confirms his impression that an Ebola-like epidemic must have wiped out most of the people of America. He worries about friends and family, but he worries too about himself and decides to stay put with his large cache of food.

Soon, wiry Sarai storms out of the wilderness demanding help. She has lost her hiking companion and refuses to believe in the full extent of the horror. They return to a city trying to build a life, but they dislike each other too much. They and other scattered survivors dwell in whatever house and drive whatever vehicle they choose; they avoid rotting corpses and each other, furtively taking what they need from shops and leaving the aisles undisturbed. Francis finds a compatible companion in Felicia and they engage in a polite, easy courtship. Their peace is disturbed by the rantings of Sarai, until they are saved by a survivor ex machina.

View full annotation

Holy Fire

Sterling, Bruce

Last Updated: Nov-16-2003
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Holy Fire's setting is America at the end of the 21st century. A gerontocracy is firmly in place and in many older persons are reaping the benefits of life-extending technology. Mia Ziemann, the protagonist of this "cybersuspense" novel, is a 94 year-old medical economist who has a life-altering visit with a dying ex-lover. Could she become the person she had wanted to become so many decades ago--someone much more adventuresome?

In order to do so, she needs to undergo an experimental treatment--NTDCD (Neo-telemeric Dissipative Cellular Detoxification)--that does not just halt the aging process, but reverses it. NTDCD involves numerous ordeals including clogging her digestive tract with a sterilizing putty, filling her lungs with a sterilizing oxygenating fluid, replacing her cerebrospinal fluid (producing profound unconsciousness), being fetally submerged in a gelatinous tank of support fluids where the bacteria in her body are removed, and then receiving DNA treatments. If she survives the treatment the question remains whether or not she'll be able to survive as a young person in a world that favors the old.

View full annotation

The Heart of a Dog

Bulgakov, Mikhail

Last Updated: Oct-28-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A bedraggled street dog is about to perish in the cold winter night, after having been scalded by boiling water earlier in the day. Suddenly, an elegant man feeds him and takes him home. The dog's savior is a famous and wealthy medical professor who rejuvenates people by hormonal manipulations.

As soon as the dog becomes accustomed to his new life of plenty, he finds himself the subject of a strange experiment--the professor and his assistant implant the testicles and pituitary gland of a dead criminal into the dog's body. After a rocky post-operative course, the dog gradually begins to change into an animal in human form and names himself Poligraph Poligraphovich Sharik. The half-beast-half-man, who gets along very well in the prevailing proletarian society, turns his creator's life into a nightmare--until the professor manages to reverse the procedure.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Frank Carveth (Art Hindle) has a wife, Nola (Samantha Eggar) who is mentally ill (the exact nature of her "breakdown" is never made clear, but it is implied that she was abused as a child). Nola is an in-patient at the Somafree Institute of Psychoplasmics run by Dr Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed). Raglan treats patients by engaging in intense role play encounters in which he takes the part either of parent or child to the patient.

The result of his approach is the somatization of emotional problems, his logic apparently being that allowing psychopathology to manifest in the (medically treatable) body liberates the less accessible psyche from illness or harmful emotions. So, for instance, a man with unresolved anger against his father develops sores all over his body during therapy. Their healing enacts his catharsis.

There are problems, however: another patient attributes his terminal cancer to Raglan's therapy, saying "psychoplasmics . . . encouraged my body to revolt against me and it did." Most terrifying of all is Nola's rage. It expresses itself in the form of strange buds that appear on her abdomen. These develop into external wombs, or amniotic sacs, from which she keeps giving birth to deformed and malevolent children.

These children, "the brood," literally enact her rage, escaping from Somafree to attack and kill anyone who is the object of Nola's anger, including both her parents and, eventually, Dr. Raglan himself. When the brood turns on Candy, Frank and Nola's actual daughter, Frank strangles his wife, and her evil offspring die with her.

View full annotation

The Lifted Veil

Eliot, George (Marian Evans)

Last Updated: Mar-24-2002
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, Latimer, begins the story with a vision of his death, which he attributes to a heart attack. He explains that, always sensitive after a childhood eye affliction and his mother's death, the further shock of a "severe illness" while at school in Geneva enabled him to see the future, and to hear others' thoughts--an experience which he describes as oppressive. He is fascinated by his brother's fiancée, Bertha, the only human whose thoughts are hidden from him, and whom he marries after his brother dies in a fall.

The marriage falters after Latimer eventually discerns Bertha's cold and manipulative nature through a temporary increase in his telepathy. When Latimer's childhood friend, the scientist Charles Meunier, performs an experimental transfusion between himself and Bertha's just-dead maid, the maid briefly revives and accuses Bertha of plotting to poison Latimer. Bertha moves out, and Latimer dies as foretold.

View full annotation

The Fifth Child

Lessing, Doris

Last Updated: Mar-24-2002
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the "free love" context of the nineteen-sixties, Harriet and David Lovatt are throwbacks to a more conservative, traditional, and family-oriented decade. Their life dream is to have a big house in the country filled with children, and it seems that they will succeed. After bearing four young children, however, Harriet is feeling the strain of years of childbearing, sleeplessness, money trouble, and her parents' and in-laws' disapproval of her fecundity.

Her fifth pregnancy is not only unplanned, but also unusually painful and disruptive. Harriet's doctor prescribes sedatives but finds nothing abnormal in her situation. When Ben is born, Harriet jokes that he is like "a troll or a goblin," but no one responds well to this unusually hairy and physically vigorous baby, who in turn does not respond to anything but his own desires and fears.

As he grows older, family pets and other children seem to be in physical danger. Health care professionals do not confirm the couple's conviction that Ben is not normal, but neither do they obstruct the decision to send Ben to a private institution, a removal that leaves the family temporarily happy until Harriet visits Ben and recognizes the institution for what it is, a place where all manner of "different" children are sent to live heavily medicated, physically restrained, and foreshortened lives away from families who do not want them.

Harriet brings Ben home, where he grows up amid what remains of the Lovatts' domestic fantasy, and finds community in a gang of thuggish older boys whom Harriet suspects are involved in various criminal acts. As the story closes, Ben has left home and Harriet imagines him in another country, "searching the faces in the crowd for another of his own kind" (133).

View full annotation

The Immortals

Borges, Jorge Luis

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Chen, Irene

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This short story begins with a summary of the tale of Guillermo Blake, who believed that "the five senses obstruct or deform the apprehension of reality." The narrator then relates the tale to his own experience: upon visiting his gerontologist for a check-up, he is informed of a procedure that confers immortality. The "immortals" are reduced to living brains within wooden cubes, their bodies having been replaced by "formica, steel, plastics." The narrator tries not to show his horror, but moves immediately to a different part of the country under an alias.

View full annotation