Showing 61 - 70 of 82 annotations tagged with the keyword "Science Fiction"

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third of a planned series of seven books (see annotation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for an introductory summary). Harry, forced to suffer another summer with the Dursleys, has just turned thirteen. When Uncle Vernon's sister arrives and proceeds to abuse Harry, he rebels, runs away with his heavy school trunk and is picked up by the Knight Bus, a wizard transportation vehicle. Meanwhile, the nine-member Weasley family, usually short of money, have won a wizard lottery and are using the money to visit the eldest son, Bill, in Egypt.

Sirius Black, whose motorcycle was featured in the first chapter of the first book, has escaped Azkaban and the prison guards known as Dementors. Sirius was imprisoned just after the death of Harry's parents when he was caught at the scene of another horrendous crime. Special precautions for Harry's safety are arranged by Dumbledore and the Ministry of Magic, led by Cornelius Fudge. When Harry meets a Dementor on the train to Hogwarts, he blacks out as he feels a rush of coldness, a complete lack of happiness or future, and relives his worst memories. Remus Lupin, the mysterious, gentle and periodically ill Defense of the Dark Arts Professor, provides the antidote: chocolate.

Thus begins Harry's third year at Hogwarts. Hermione signs up for an especially busy, seemingly impossible, schedule of classes. Ron's old pet rat, Scabbers, takes a turn for the worse, despite Ron's attention and care. The invisibility cloak again proves useful, as does a magical map. Hagrid, cleared of the cloud that had been hanging over him since his school days, is promoted to teacher: Care of Magical Creatures. However, an injury to Draco Malfoy by Buckbeak the hippogriff (a flying bird-horse) during the first class leads to another investigation.

Bizarre characters, such as the doom-predicting Divination teacher, Sibyll Trelawney, exciting Quidditch matches with a new broomstick for Harry, more run-ins with Snape, and a peek at Hogsmeade, an all magic village, round out the story. Ron, Hermione, and Harry's dangerous adventure leads to the exposure of Sirius Black, the truth of his connection to Harry's parents, and new discoveries for Harry about his father. Our heroes also discover who is the servant to Voldemort, the Dark Lord.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In 371 E. C. (Efican Calendar) a woman named Felicity Smith gives birth to Tristan, a child with such severe congenital defects that the doctors advise her to let him die. Felicity is an actress and the head of a theater troupe in Chemin Rouge, the capital of a small fictional country called Efica. Instead of getting rid of her son, Felicity takes him to live in the tower of her theater.

The boy actually has three fathers (Bill, Wally, and Vincent), each of whom in his own way accepts responsibility for the horribly deformed child. The boy grows up with the ambition to become an actor, even though he is only three and a half feet tall, his speech is almost unintelligible, and he inspires revulsion in almost everyone that he meets for the first time. Nonetheless, he thrives in the close-knit theatrical community.

When Tristan is eleven, agents from Voorstand murder his mother, who has entered politics and become a "persona non grata" in Voorstand. Tristan also fears for his life, but nonetheless avenges his mother's death by writing subversive pamphlets. Many years later, at the ripe old age of 23, Tristan and Wally (one of his fathers) travel illegally to Voorstand where they encounter many adventures before the novel comes to a satisfactory conclusion.

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The Little Black Bag

Kornbluth, Cyril

Last Updated: Dec-21-1999
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A medical instrument kit from the year 2450 is transported back in time and falls into the possession of old Dr. Full, a retired physician and drunkard who had been expelled from the medical association for milking patients. The futuristic instruments are awe-inspiring and virtually operate themselves. The discovery of the black bag restores Dr. Full's self-worth and dedication to healing.

A street-wise woman, Angie, realizes the value of the medical instruments and their origin. She forces Dr. Full to accept her as a partner. The two of them soon establish a successful medical practice. When Dr. Full decides to donate the instrument kit to the College of Surgeons, Angie murders him.

While demonstrating the safety of the medical bag to a patient, Angie plunges the futuristic surgical scalpel into her own neck, confident it will do no harm. Meanwhile, authorities in the future learn that the medical bag is missing and deactivate it just prior to Angie's demonstration. She slits her own throat. By the time the police arrive, the contents of the black bag had already rusted and are decomposing.

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Vanishing Lung Syndrome

Holub, Miroslav

Last Updated: Oct-27-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Once in a while someone fights for breath. The crowd around him continues with its business, not realizing that inside the man there might be something drastic going on. There might be a sea monster growing, or a raven named Nevermore, or "a huge muteness of fairy tales," or "the wood-block baby that gobbles up everything." Medical tests show that the lung is vanishing and becoming "an abandoned room" in a queer world where "only surgeons / write poems." [34 lines]

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

To escape accusations of plagiarism, Swedish neurosurgeon Stig Helmer (Ernst Hugo Jaregard) has come to work at The Kingdom, a large Copenhagen hospital. He is a surgical butcher with lamentable bedside manners and utter contempt for Denmark, but he resembles his colleagues in his medical positivism and abhorrence of spiritualism. His inadequacies are easily perceived by the hospital staff and resident Dr. Hook (Soren Pilmark), but his fellow consultants celebrate his arrival and make him a member of their lodge.

The malingering spiritualist Mrs. Drusse (Kirsten Rolffes), admitted for a variety of fictitious ailments, discovers The Kingdom is haunted by a little girl murdered there a century ago by her scientist stepfather. Drusse engages the help of her son, who is an orderly, to trace the child's secret.

Tangents to the main plot involve a pathologist, who is so obsessed with obtaining research tissue that he has a cancerous liver transplanted into himself, and the psychopathic medical student son of the hospital director, whose sick sense of humor leads him to mutilate corpses in the hospital morgue. The ending is pure horror.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

The book begins with a "Twenty Question Multiple Choice Self-Help Quiz." Each question is actually a short chapter. For example, the first chapter deals with the "amnesic self" and asks why amnesia is a favorite device in fiction and especially soap operas. Other chapters deal with the nowhere self, the fearful self, the promiscuous self, and so forth.

The second part of the book is an essay on the nature of the self, complete with numerous diagrams and arrows. The third section presents discussions of various manifestations of the self as transcendent, orbiting, exempted, lonely, and demoniac. The last part is called "A Space Odyssey" and is captioned "What to do if there is no man Friday out there and we really are alone?"

Obviously, this summary says virtually nothing about what the book is about. Suffice it to say that Percy brings his playful humor to the central existential question of human meaning and he presents it in the form of a self-help manual.

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Flowers for Algernon

Keyes, Daniel

Last Updated: Jan-12-1999
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Charlie Gordon is a young man with an IQ of 68 who has a job at a box factory and attends night classes in an effort to improve himself. A (very fictional) experimental brain operation becomes available that promises to triple intelligence (it has already done so for a mouse named Algernon), and Charlie excitedly decides that he wants to give it a try. The story consists solely of Charlie's diary entries from the time he hears about the operation through the operation and his dramatic increase, and subsequent decrease, of IQ.

Charlie's increased intelligence opens up to him the understanding of everyday things that had been beyond his grasp, and at his peak he soars to the level of genius, ironically identifying the flaw in the scientific work of the two scientists who developed the operation he has undergone, and thus destroying their careers as their shallow research destroys the life that had been his.

Among the everyday things Charlie understands for the first time is the fact that two of his male co-workers have regularly taken advantage of his retarded state to make fun of him, sometimes roughly. Charlie also becomes self-conscious more generally, which makes it impossible for him to stay in the place where he has been so degraded, even after his formerly misbehaving pals become sympathetic.

At the end of the story he has fallen back to his original level of intelligence--and may continue to decline, if we take the suggestion from the fate of his fellow subject, Algernon, who rises, falls, and then dies. Charlie has only a dim memory of having done something important. His self-esteem is strong, however, and he decides to leave his familiar world and find a place where people won't know about his embarrassment.

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The Children of Men

James, P. D.

Last Updated: Jan-11-1999
Annotated by:
Taylor, Nancy

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

It is the year 2021. The last birth recorded on earth occurred in 1995 (Year Omega). In England, Xan Lyppiatt is Warden; he promises security, comfort, and pleasure to his people. Xan's cousin, Theo Faron, Ph.D., retired professor of history at Merton College, Oxford, becomes involved with 5 people who oppose Xan's worst policies: the Quietus ("voluntary" mass suicides of the elderly), the sending of all criminals to the Man Penal Colony where there is no one to control cruelty, the rules forbidding Brits from traveling abroad and allowing only Sojourners (slave/workers) to emigrate, the compulsory testing of sperm and routine examinations of healthy women, and state-run porn shops. Theo and the 5, one of whom is pregnant, flee to avoid capture by Xan's men.

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Dawn

Butler, Octavia

Last Updated: Nov-25-1998
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Earth has been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust and a group of unconscious survivors have been taken by the alien Oankalis to the mother ship and placed in "sleeping" pods for some 250 years. One of the humans, Lilith Iyapo, is awakened and slowly trained by the Oankali not to be afraid of their horrifying (to humans) appearance. She comes to an uneasy truce and trust in the Oankali's explanation of where she is and her role: she has been chosen to awaken a select group (based on her reading of detailed personal resumes).

As she awakens them, one by one, she confronts their anger and confusion and, eventually, their resistance to the notion of gene trading proposed by the Oankali. Lilith becomes a mediator between the humans and the Oankalis, giving birth to a son interbred by her and an Oankali.

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Woman on the Edge of Time

Piercy, Marge

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Consuelo Camacho Ramos (Connie) was placed in Bellevue Hospital because she abused drugs and alcohol after the police killed her blind, African-American lover. She was accused of child abuse and her daughter was put up for adoption. When the novel opens, Connie has been released and is living in New York with little money and no hope of a job.

She begins to be visited by an individual from the year 2137 who calls "himself" Luciente. He communicates with Connie mentally and she visits his world in the same way, experiencing everything without moving her body. Luciente’s community is not divided along gender lines. Indeed, "he" turns out to be what Connie calls "female," though the name means nothing in this future world.

Reproduction takes place in an artificial environment in which fetuses are delivered at ten months to improve their strength. Every child has three "mothers," but is raised by the entire community. Luciente’s community is fighting a war against forces that want people to live in a hierarchical system in which women all become prostitutes, victims of a larger, manipulating force, a battle Connie also fights in her world.

When Connie breaks the nose of her niece’s pimp, he takes her back to Bellevue. No one believes that she did not provoke the attack. They assume she is mad. In an exemplary moment, the nurses who attend to Connie talk over her head about how dirty these mad people are. Left tied to a bed for many hours, Connie has urinated on herself and has been unable to wipe her nose. The nurses ignore every word she says.

Connie learns to manipulate the system, not swallowing her pills and telling her counselor that indeed she was sick but now feels much better. She draws the line, however, when she is chosen to be a subject in an experiment. The doctors plan to implant electrodes into the patients’ brains to control the patients’ emotions. Connie kills the doctors by slipping poison into their coffee.

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