Showing 71 - 80 of 82 annotations tagged with the keyword "Science Fiction"

Inter Ice Age 4

Abe, Kobo

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Fefferman, Stanley

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The prelude describes a tidal wave approaching Japan. The story is a first-person narrative by Professor Katsumi, inventor of a self-programming computer which can predict the future. Katsumi and his assistant, Tanamogi, plan to predict the future of a private, individual destiny. They choose a subject from the street and follow him. The next day's paper announces his murder.

To solve the case and forestall suspicion, Katsumi downloads the contents of the man's brain, reconstructs his existence, and questions him/it. The victim did not see his murderer, but he tells the team his mistress had sold her aborted foetus for 7000 yen. Then the mistress is murdered. Katsumi's wife has a forced abortion and receives 7000 yen. Katsumi suspects an organization. His assistant Tanamogi volunteers the name of an organization experimenting with extra-utero development of foetuses, and arranges for Katsumi to visit their lab. Gradually Katsumi learns of a vast conspiracy to create an underwater nation, complete with genetically altered water-oxygenating humans and animals, bred in anticipation of the predicted destruction of Japan by a tidal wave.

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The Cobra Event

Preston, Richard

Last Updated: Feb-19-1998
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The threat of biotechnological warfare and/or terrorism is the focus of this carefully researched and riveting novel by the author of The Hot Zone. The term "science fiction" doesn't quite do justice to this tale which lies just to the other side of Preston's usual domain of literary nonfiction. Though the particulars of this story of a genetic engineer who designs lethal virus bombs to thin the population and the counterterrorist group of scientists who attempt to stop him are fictional, the possibilities of such threats are real.

The counterterrorists are a motley and sometimes contentious group of recruits from the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the U.S. military. Their agendas and methods differ, but the immediate death threat to the unsuspecting inhabitants of New York and Washington D.C. unifies them into an effective if not always efficient team. They discover the virus when five cases appear of what seems to be an acute and horrifying permutation of a rare neurological dysfunction that induces violent seizures and compulsive self-destruction by chewing on one's own flesh. The virus turns out to be a graft that could only have been produced by artificial means.

The search for the "mad scientist" with equipment capable of this sophisticated work takes weeks during which a handful of people have to live with the secret that a potential pandemic could literally explode in a local subway. The resolution, while in some ways satisfying, hardly dispels the uneasy implications which invite readers not only to serious reflection on our collective attitudes toward weapons research and development, but to activism.

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Brave New World

Huxley, Aldous

Last Updated: Jan-24-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the "brave new world" of 632 A. F. (After Ford), universal human happiness has been achieved. (Well, almost.) Control of reproduction, genetic engineering, conditioning--especially via repetitive messages delivered during sleep--and a perfect pleasure drug called "Soma" are the cornerstones of the new society. Reproduction has been removed from the womb and placed on the conveyor belt, where reproductive workers tinker with the embryos to produce various grades of human beings, ranging from the super-intelligent Alpha Pluses down to the dwarfed semi-moron Epsilons.

Each class is conditioned to love its type of work and its place in society; for example, Epsilons are supremely happy running elevators. Outside of their work, people spend their lives in constant pleasure. This involves consuming (continually buying new things, whether they need them or not), participating in elaborate sports, and free-floating sex. While uninhibited sex is universal and considered socially constructive, love, marriage, and parenthood are viewed as obscene.

The story concerns Bernard, an alpha whose programming is a bit off--he is discontented and desires to spend time alone just thinking or looking at the stars. At one point he takes Lenina on a vacation to the savage reservation in New Mexico. There he discovers John (the Savage), son of Linda who had visited the reservation more than 20 years previously and was accidentally left behind. When she discovered she was pregnant (the ultimate humiliation!), she had to remain among the savages. John returns to the Brave New World where he is feted as the Visiting Savage. However, he cannot adapt to this totally alien society and, ultimately, he takes his own life.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Chris Cooper (Kevin McDonald) is a shy researcher working for a huge pharmaceutical firm with a team of sympathetic, but unusual personalities. He discovers a substance that makes people (and the company executives) very happy. Promoted as "Gleemonex," the new "brain candy" rapidly begins to make money, and Chris becomes a hero; however, the team soon realize that their wonder drug can render its users comatose.

Their "good" efforts to stop their own creation are opposed by their employer, especially the "bad" chief executive (Mark McKinney) and his cloying "yes-man" (Dave Foley), who relentlessly pursue sales to a craving market. After many tragicomic and slapstick escapades, good mostly prevails in the end.

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Pursuit of Excellence

Yount, Rena

Last Updated: Jan-28-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

It is sometime in the future of genetic engineering, at the point at which, for a high enough price, one can buy physical and intellectual characteristics for one's fetus. This is the story of a young American couple of average means who have one "normal" son and are negotiating a supernorm status for their female fetus. The action centers around the stresses placed on the young family by the financial sacrifices required to engineer a daughter who would be able to compete in the growing population of engineered people. Husband and wife disagree increasingly, and ultimately the family breaks up over the wife's obsession with having a perfectly engineered child.

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Rappaccini's Daughter

Hawthorne, Nathaniel

Last Updated: Jan-28-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Set in Padua "very long ago," this is the story of a "mad scientist" working in isolation on a completely unethical (at least by modern research standards) experiment involving poisonous plants. A young student of medicine observes from his quarters the scientist's beautiful daughter who is confined to the lush and locked gardens in which the experiment is taking place.

Having fallen in love with the lovely Beatrice, Giovanni ignores the warning of his mentor, Professor Baglioni, that Rappaccini is up to no good and he and his work should be shunned. Eventually, Giovanni sneaks into the forbidden garden to meet his lover, and begins to suffer the consequences of encounter with the plants--and with Beatrice, who dwells among them and has been rendered both immune to their effects and poisonous to others.

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Dreamsnake

McIntyre, Vonda

Last Updated: Jan-22-1997
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The initial chapter in this novel, Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand (annotated separately), sets the stage for the quest of the young healer/heroine, "Snake," to find a replacement for the snake she had carelessly allowed to come to harm, in the course of caring for a seriously ill child. The remainder of this coming-of-age novel chronicles Snake's journey during her "proving year" (aka/residency training).

Over the course of this year, Snake continues to minister to the sick and encounters, among others, a patient who demands assistance in suicide, a patient who refuses treatment for a gangrenous leg, and a young girl who has been sexually abused (whom Snake eventually adopts and begins to apprentice). There are, as well, myriad lessons in humility, rigidity of thought, and ethnocentrism.

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Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Mr. Utterson is a London lawyer who is a friend of Dr. Jekyll. Jekyll gave up his regular practice to experiment with non-traditional medicine. Utterson is concerned because Jekyll has written a will that leaves all his money to his new partner Mr. Hyde. Utterson has heard bad things of Hyde and disliked him at first sight. The lawyer thinks his friend is being blackmailed.

One day, the lawyer is asked to identify the body of a murdered man, Sir Danvers Carew, one of Utterson’s clients. Hyde is suspected of the murder, but he has disappeared. Jekyll swears that he has not seen Hyde and has broken with him forever. The case remains unsolved and Jekyll becomes more sociable than he had been.

Suddenly, though, he locks himself into his laboratory, yelling to the servants through the door, directing them to gather chemicals for him. The servants recognize a change in his voice and think that their master has been murdered; another man has taken his place in the lab. They call Utterson who breaks down the door. On the floor lies Hyde, who has killed himself with poison. Sadly, Utterson assumes Hyde returned and killed Jekyll, but the doctor’s body is nowhere to be found.

He does find, however, a letter in which Jekyll explains his relationship to Hyde. Jekyll had sometimes indulged in debauches which, if discovered, could have ruined his reputation and of which he is ashamed. Pondering this split in his personality, he decides to find a way to separate his two beings. Jekyll creates a potion that releases his evil side, Mr. Hyde. Hyde is shorter and smaller than Jekyll, having not had as much exercise.

For a while Jekyll enjoys his two bodies; he can do whatever he likes without fear of discovery. His pleasure is stunted when Hyde kills Carew in a nonsensical fit, and he resolves never to take the potion again. Hyde is now strong, however, and emerges whether Jekyll will have him or not. Indeed, Jekyll must use the potion to be rid of him if only for a moment. Jekyll knows that it is only by killing his body that Hyde’s body, too, will die.

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In this story, Earth's inhabitants have moved below terra firma where their every need is met and every act controlled by "the machine." A young rebel protesting against the loss of authenticity and the reverence for abstraction seeks to communicate with his mother about his need to go to the surface of the earth. This act of direct experience terrifies his mother who is sure that her son will be sentenced to "homelessness." The son does experience the beauty of the earth and returns to prophesize the end of the machine and the "civilization" it created.

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The Scarlet Plague

London, Jack

Last Updated: Oct-17-1996

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

It is the year 2073. A boy and his grandfather, clad in animal skins, are walking through deep woods. Having fought off a bear, they come to a fire on the beach, where several other boys sit watching their sheep. Their grandfather asks for a crab and they tease him with empty shells until he cries. Finally, they relent and ask him to tell his story about the past and the scarlet plague.

The grandfather had been a literature professor at The University of California-San Francisco. In the summer of 2013, rumors began that a new plague was killing people in New York. Those infected developed a scarlet rash, had a few convulsions, then settled into a sleep-like state in which they became numb and died, their bodies decomposing almost immediately. The entire process took at most an hour, but sometimes as little as ten minutes. Bacteriologists died even as they tried to find a vaccine. People began dying by the millions. The plague finally reached San Francisco and mayhem broke out. The wealthy tried to flee the city and the poor murdered them and looted in revenge for their long oppression.

The professor survived. He lived alone in the Grand Canyon for three years, then set out to see if anyone else was alive, finding a workingman and his woman slave. He met others and began a family which included the boys to whom he is telling his story. There is no means of communicating across the country or to other nations, since the fires set by looters consumed nearly every structure. Society has been set back to a nomad existence. The boys do not believe most of their grandfather’s story. They fight amongst one another and with him in a language that is only partly English. Finally, they rise, leaving the grandfather to straggle along behind into the wilderness.

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