Thursday, August 09, 2012

July Reading – Part 4


Continued from previous post …


28. The Second Variety by Philip K Dick


This was not exactly a short story but a long story, as compared to the other stories of PKD that I have read till now. The central theme of man versus machine, with a nice little twist in the climax, along the concept of how humans design machines as a reflection of themselves; raises an evolutionary question. A pretty awesome story; I have to see the movie now.

The story is set in a post-world-war-kind of era where the Russians gained an upper hand and destroyed most of Central America forcing people to flee to other countries in South America and Canada while the government and key people have fled to the 'Moon Base'. The war was almost over with the Russians winning when the Americans invented the 'claws' (robotic churning sphere of blades) which turned out to be more devastating than the radiation warheads; wiping out any and every form of human life in the vicinity. The Russians began to lose. The story is based in such a war setting.

It is revealed that there have been newer versions of the robotic weapons which are very efficient killing machines, an enhancement over the claws. As the story proceeds, more 'versions' (each more advanced the previous as a killing machine and more human-like) are discussed and there is a search of a particular unknown variety. The known varieties include a wounded soldier and a child carrying a teddy bear … both involving sympathy amongst soldiers who would allow them into their trenches / camps / hidden places.

Since these robotic killing machines are humanoids, the characters in the story have a constant distrust of each other, killing each other in the process. The ultimate survival strategy for our American hero of the story is to escape from earth and go to the moon base … but the robotic humanoids are planning the same so that they can destroy whatever human life has escaped to Moon. The climax is interesting !!

The movie adaptation (Screamers) closely follows the actual story with little deviation and a slightly different twist in the tail. Would love to watch it …


29. Sherlock Misadventures: The End of Sherlock Holmes by A. E. P.

This story is not about a case but about Sherlock himself. Watson gets a message from his 'long lost friend' Sherlock and is surprised to meet a 3 year old kid who deduces several things about Watson in a single glance. The child has the talents of his father and Sherlock has a problem he can't solve !!

There is indeed a slight mystery about the author of this burlesque identified by initials A.E.P. which the editor conjectures might be Edgar Allan Poe; but confirmation available.


30. The 3 Mistakes of My Life by Chetan Bhagat

The story is interesting though the narrations lucks the punch or the pace. It has an ordinary narration style – merely relaying of storyline – rather than making it interesting. Cricket and Religion are touchy and emotional subjects in India so a story revolving around them would definitely strike a chord with the typical Indian reader.

Chetan made good use of Real Events to weave a story around them. Using the actual cricket matches with their actual dates, events and scores along with cataclysmic events like the Bhuj Earthquake in Gujarat, the 9/11 Terrorist attack and the Godhra Train Burning in Gujarat and the consequential riots; and weaving them into the story (making them integral to the story and critical plot change points) was a good device and made interesting reading.

The so called 'first mistake' of the protagonist was not convincing. How could that be a mistake? It was more of fate. The second mistake though could be considered one in some ways although 'love' is ordinarily not counted as a mistake.  The third mistake was again something that was situational and fear-affected. Not everyone is a hero, getting in the way of danger/death which is about to strike someone else. Thing is … his suicide is NOT triggered by these 3 mistakes. It is triggered by another event a couple of years after the third mistake.  

On the whole, I was not convinced that the protagonist had to commit suicide because of these 3 mistakes or because of the trigger event. It just did not sound convincing. I rather feel that he committed one and only one mistake: Committing Suicide.


31. The Field Bazaar by Canon Doyle

This is yet another example of Sherlock Holmes deducing Watson's chain of thoughts by simply observing him. This story ties in well with the story which I read next (although the stories were actually written several years apart by Canon Doyle; both stories written on special request)


32. How Watson Learned the Trick by Canon Doyle

This one was a humorous take on Watson. Watson has been witness to Sherlock's deductions including Sherlock guessing Watson's chain of thoughts by simply observing him (the previous story was an example of the same). In this particular story, Watson attempts to read Sherlock's mind … and fails miserably.


33. Non-Fiction Reading: Fish Sticks

I had hinted at non-fiction academic reading in an earlier post. Well, as part of my job and role, I will be reading an increasing amount of non-fiction. To begin with, I picked up a light one (as a warming up exercise actually). Next pick will be heavier, if not heavy. I had read 'FISH' a long time ago (maybe almost a decade ago) and when I visited the library at KPMG, I saw Fish Sticks and decided to have a look. I read the summary of FISH before starting Fish Sticks to refresh my memory and keep things in context.

'Fish Sticks' is about sustaining the change. It revolves around the three major principals of continued success: Commit, Be it, and Coach it! It highlights the fact that sustaining change is an equally (if not more) challenging task than making the change happen in the first place.

A manger is faced with a workforce who has been following Fish! Principles BUT is slowly losing interest in work and has begun to get bored and cranky; retreating back to their old ways of working. Instead of the Pike Fish Market, this time the learning and inspiration comes from a Sushi Restaurant where she learns the secrets from the restaurant waiters and owner. Focus is on keeping the work fresh to sustain the change that has been painstakingly brought about!!


Series Completion Score: (as of 31st July 2012)

The Three Investigators          39 out of 43    

Best of Satyajit Ray                 21 out of 21     (Completed)

Sherlock: Exploits                    07 out of 12    

Sherlock: Misadventures        23 out of 33    

Total                                      90 out of 109

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