Sunday, September 02, 2007

11. Frankenstein

by Mary Shelley

I’ve read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at least twice – once for 11th grade British Literature and once since then, possibly twice. It’s been a while, though, so I was quite excited when I looked up the book list for my first class and saw it there. (Gothic Novels was the class…intriguing, no? Actually, it was the only one I could take that met my requirements and was at a time available to me. But I was intrigued, nonetheless.) What surprised me is that I remembered none of it. Nothing! How do you read a book twice and not remember a thing? All I knew going in this time around was that I had liked it before and there was one part where the monster goes off and spies on some villagers. Aside from that it was like coming upon the novel with completely new eyes.

If you’ve never read the story, there are a few things you first need to know. One: Frankenstein is the scientist, not the monster. Two: The story is not scary, as the horror movie re-imaginings would lead us to believe; it’s social commentary, not guts and gore. Three: It’s really quite good and accessible. A self-taught scientist, Victor Frankenstein doggedly pursues the one thing he believes will lead him to fame – the ability to reanimate the dead. In his quest to do so he skulks around cemeteries, stealing limbs and flesh which he sews together to fashion a creature of gigantic stature. After he gives it the spark of life, Victor is so appalled by his creation that he runs away from it, hoping to never see it again. Meanwhile, the creature must fend for himself, running into the forest and feeding on berries. He comes into contact with some villagers who shriek at him and throw stones, causing him to retreat back into hiding. Upon finding a cottage housing a man and a woman and their blind father, the creature is so touched by their willingness to take equal part in the upkeep of their home that he quietly aides them by chopping firewood and clearing snow. He remains in hiding, but increases his knowledge by reading Paradise Lost and listening to the son read history aloud. He works up the courage to reveal himself to the blind father, but when the children return to the house he is, again, violently cast out from the company of humans. The creature’s ensuing resentment leads him to seek out Victor, killing a few of his loved ones in the process.

Did you know that Frankenstein could be read as a feminist work? Neither did I (I don’t believe I’d even heard the word in my high school), but I found that interesting when my professor noted that it had been given extensive study as such, so much so that I wrote my final paper on the topic. Well, the topic was “allegory” to be exact, but in the sense that the monster represents the repressed female who is judged solely on her physicality instead of her potential mental faculties or ability to contribute to society. Okay, that may sound like a stretch, but if you go back and read the story, it’s really all laid out for you. In fact, I was pretty shocked I had never read it that way on my own. I guess that’s what this whole “school” thing is for, huh? But the beauty of this novel is that you don’t need a class to get much of the story out of it. Whether you read it as a commentary on social stratification or a warning of the dangers of self-taught education or the duality of man (there’s apparently much discussion on this topic as well) or just a story about a man and the hideous monster he creates, it’s entirely enjoyable and worth the read.

(By the way, I did do quite decently in the class, my paper having gone over well, and my teacher had not at all suspected that I was neither an English major nor that I hadn’t taken an English class in nearly ten years. How’s that for the worth of reading literature on one’s own?)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

10. Lamb

by Christopher Moore

First of all, let me say that this book was so much more than I expected.

Christopher Moore is a much lauded author over at Chicklit and Lamb is the book most often mentioned, so I always wanted to get my hands on the fictional gospel covering thirty-some years of Jesus’ life not detailed by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Told by his childhood friend Levi, whose nickname Biff comes from the practice of being whacked upside one’s head, Lamb offers the events and travels that influenced Jesus’ teachings. Now, this isn’t just fictional speculation – Moore goes way beyond that to include wacky encounters with demons, yeti, monks, and more. He even has Christ learn Judo (“Jew-do” as it’s properly named). And yet, it’s completely inoffensive in every way.

The story really begins on the eve of Maggie’s wedding (Maggie=Mary of Magdelene), when Biff and Joshua (from Yeshua, the Hebrew name for Jesus) sneak off in the night to explore the idea of Joshua being the Messiah. At this point Joshua feels within himself that he’s the Messiah and has had some experience healing small animals and even bringing a Roman soldier back from the dead for a few minutes. But it’s not exactly the easiest thing to go around claiming you’re the son of God, so when the love of their lives is married off to someone else, Biff and Joshua go off in search of the Three Wise Men to learn more about what drew them to Joshua’s birth.

Somewhere around Kabul, the two find Balthasar living in a stone fortress with eight concubines, each named for a different…well…talent. Joy (full name: Tiny Feet of the Divine Dance of Joyous Orgasm) features most prominently, as she befriends Biff and teaches him all about elixirs and poisons. While Joshua and Balthasar are off studying and training, Biff keeps himself entertained with the concubines, trying to gain entrance to the locked iron door Balthasar has forbidden them to enter. Of course, source of comic relief that he is, Biff unlocks the door and lets out a demon with whom Balthasar has made a pact for immortality. Once the demon is banished Balthasar ages his two-hundred-some years and dies, but not without leaving Joshua with knowledge about kindness coming before justice.

After Balthasar’s death, the two seek out Gaspar, another of the Wise Men who is now living in a Chinese monastery. Here they learn to conduct their own heat, are trained to jump nimbly and move quickly, and find out what it’s like to shave a yak (Joshua does this far more adroitly than Biff who ends up with three of his four limbs in splints). After Joshua learns to leave his physical self behind and become invisible, Gaspar takes them on a special meditation pilgrimage into the mountains. They gather food along the way and meditate to keep themselves warm, except for Biff who merely falls asleep and awakens to find himself face to face with a large, white, furry monster – a yeti that the monks have been bringing food to each year. After the yeti dies and Joshua takes with him the lessons of compassion and unconditional love that the monks displayed for the creature, he and Biff travel to India to find Melchior, the third Wise Man. Here they find an extreme caste system, with some men so far down on the social ladder that they literally live in pits and have their children sacrificed to the god Kali. After a little switcheroo wherein Biff dresses up as Kali and the two save some children from certain death, they finally find Melchior practicing yoga on a cliff. Not only does he teach Joshua how to multiply food, he also introduces him to the idea of the Divine Spark, a certain special power that is in everyone (meanwhile Biff busies himself with the intense study of the Kama Sutra).

What I really liked about this book is that while it was pretty funny – Biff is much more than slapstick comic relief and some of the things he says are hilarious in that great sarcastic, witty way – it also melded together really well. When the two return to Nazareth, Joshua begins his teachings and men interested in hearing his word join the group. These become the apostles and we start to see events familiar to all Christians. There’s the turning of water into wine, the multiplication of fishes and loaves, the forty days and nights in desert and the devil’s temptation. Christopher Moore is very respectful of the Biblical writings this way, but he’s also genius in how he’s set up these events in earlier parts. We can see how the three Wise Men’s teachings have influenced Joshua’s own and in doing this Moore is suggesting that the world’s major religions – Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity – don’t exist in a vacuum, but are drawn from each other and could very well coexist in harmony. I’m not saying Moore set out to write a political document on the need for peace between religions, but he does seem to suggest that these religions aren’t as different as we make them out to be. It’s a profound statement for what could be interpreted solely as comedy. (Actually, I’m kind of surprised that there haven’t been any protests against this book.)

The only thing I would have liked to see is more interaction between Biff and the angel Raziel after he’s raised from the dead to compose his gospel – the two of them talking about TV and pizza and modern conveniences was hilarious – and I would have liked to read Biff’s perspective of the Resurrection. Biff’s gospel ends just after Joshua is crucified and dies and, in his anger, Biff seeks out Judas and hangs him. The curtain closes on that point. I suppose we have Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to go to if we want to find out more, there’s nothing like a little humor infusing the seriousness of religion. In this book, Moore’s teachings would be that it’s okay to laugh a little…and to wonder, “What if Christ knew Judo?”

Saturday, August 18, 2007

9. The Bible: Exodus

[Editor's Note: It's been several months since the last time I posted and while I haven't quit buying books during that time, nor have I read them any less fervently, I did struggle with whether I wanted to continue to post about them. Things like the job and school (Yes! I started school!) and the book club and, you know, my love of TV were getting in the way and the blog got pushed to the side. I even contemplated quitting it. But, like all good things that require some amount of effort, a nice break seems to have helped. As I awoke this Saturday morning, I knew I was ready to come back. So here I am. The next couple of posts are the last ones I wrote, but never posted, before I went on hiatus. And I'll do my best to put down my thoughts on all the books I've consumed in the intervening time, provided I remember all of them (I swear...these days I forget almost as fast as I read). So let me just say: Hello, again. It's nice to see you. Won't you stay a while?]

When I first started thinking about reading the Bible, I checked out a thread on the Chicklit forums where people posted their experiences trying to get through the Great Book. Several people were bogged down in the sheer boredom of the thing and it was suggested that they A) not read it in the presented order and B) pick some of the more interesting, adventure type books to read to get their interest going. I remember one entry in particular that described the person hitting a wall because they could only read about the steps being such and such measure, and the curtains being such and such measure, and the windows being such and such measure so many times. After reading this I dreaded coming upon this section, but little did I know that it would be coming so soon. It’s in Exodus. And it’s as boring as she describes it.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that everyone knows the general Exodus story, mostly because there was a huge movie about it, but if you don’t, here’s the two minute version. When we last left the twelve tribes of Israel, Joseph was right-hand man to the Pharaoh. Being the fruitful man that he is, Joseph thoroughly propagates his seed and, along with his brothers’ children, the “children of Israel” become greater than those of Egypt and the Pharaoh rules that all sons of Israel will be killed and all daughters of Israel will be spared. Levi’s wife bares a son and leaves him by the riverbank where he’s found by the Pharaoh’s daughter. This, of course, is Moses. In time, Moses pleads with the Pharaoh to release his people from enslavement, but the Pharaoh refuses and yada, yada, yada, Moses parts the Red Sea, they make it to the “land of milk and honey” and they build the ark of the covenant, which is only the most ridiculously meticulous recording there is in all of architectural history.

First, I have to take a moment to talk about what happens when the Pharaoh refuses Moses’s request. I yada, yada’d because it wouldn’t fit in the two minute version. I know the Bible’s not supposed to be funny, but it was kind of hilarious how God kept smiting the Egyptians when His request was not met. He’s like, “Not let the people go? How’d you like a river of blood? Bam! Will you let them go now? No? How about some locusts? Bam! Take a rain of frogs, an infestation of lice, a swarm of flies, and fire and hail while you’re at it!” It was a little over the top, but the Pharaoh did keep saying no after all. Me, personally, I’d have run the other way after my first refusal caused all the water in the land to turn to blood. I’m just sayin’.

And now it’s time for Things That Are Actually in the Bible:

- The burning bush. This is how God first appears to Moses to tell him that he must lead the people of Israel out of Egypt.

- Passover. That’s another one of God’s smitings upon the Eygptians, to send a plague to kill all their first-born sons. Moses’s people were “passed over” because they smeared lamb’s blood over their doors as God had instructed them to do.

- The eye for an eye thing. “And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (21:23-25)

- The Ten Commandments. Okay, I know they came from the Bible, but the commandments as we know them are pretty much the same as they’re described here. I scared myself a while back because, upon hearing Jon Stewart chide some evangelical type person for knowing only four commandments, I realized I could only remember nine of them myself (although, come on…nine out of ten ain’t bad and it turns out I was combining two of them).

- Old school God’s kind of intense. He suggests that if the people come across inhabitants of a land who observe another god, “ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Now, if I were into taking the Bible literally, I’d be out smiting all my heathen friends.

If I were into taking the Bible literally, I’d also be concerned with my master’s servants and the correct amount of time they are to serve, depending on whether or not they’re Hebrew. And I’d be measuring the pillars for my tabernacle in cubits, seven times over, but I’m not doing that either. And that is why you can’t take the Bible literally. More on that to come in Leviticus.

Friday, March 30, 2007

8. Adverbs

by Daniel Handler

If you’re a fan of the Lemony Snicket series and think that anything Daniel Handler, Snicket’s alter ego, would write would be similarly weird (writing a children’s series all about death and dismay is, you know, kind of weird), well…you’d be right. I haven’t really decided whether or not I liked Adverbs. I haven’t read anything other than the Series of Unfortunate Events, but have always wanted to read something by Handler, so when I saw the bright shiny Daniel Clowes designed dust jacket in Unabridged’s window I snatched it up. But I don’t know if I liked it.

Adverbs is kind of a collection of short stories that are all somewhat connected to each other, but it’s not a novel. Not really, because while you recognize some of the names from previous stories, it’s never revealed how these people know each other or even if these are the same people and not just people with the same names. We start out with a man leaving his girlfriend, named Andrea, by lying to her about his father’s death. We meet another Andrea in Helena’s story, in which she uses up of all her money and her husband David convinces her to take a job under his ex-girlfriend, named Andrea, at a school in San Francisco. As a teenager Lila works at a movie theater and dates the unscrupulous Keith while her quiet and chivalry-obsessed coworker pines for her. Another Lila – or perhaps the same one a few years older – sits in a bar with her friend Allison, unable to drink or eat as the result of a rare stomach disorder, with her only hope lying in the possibility of an organ transplant. It’s here that they meet a woman named Gladys who seems to have the ability to make anything they ask for happen. We later catch up with an Andrea at a diner who’s questioned by the police in their search for the “Snow Queen,” also known as Gladys.

You get the idea. It was definitely interesting coming across these familiar names and trying to figure out how they were connected, but there’s no resolution for that. We never know if these people are the same we’ve encountered before, or if the author is just reusing names. And we don’t know if the similarities have any meaning either, as they’re presented without any hint of forethought or determination. It’s almost as if the author thought, “Hey…I can use the same names and won’t that confuse people?” I have a difficult time remembering what I’ve read, sometimes even when I’m reading it, so for me it was like, “Did we talk about this person before? What did they do? Does that have any bearing on what’s happening now? Hold on…let me flip back twenty pages and try to find it again.” It was actually a little jarring.

Maybe that’s what Handler intended. Maybe the peripheral character recurrences are meant to mimic how these things happen in life. You’re standing there, the same character you’ve always been, and out on the street you see someone who could be that girl you met at a party and shared a cab with or that guy you almost dated years ago. Someone who never really had a place in your life, but seeing them again jars you just a bit. Maybe that’s what Daniel Handler meant when he wrote his story this way. After all, Adverbs, and adverbs, is/are not about what is done, but how it’s done. But somehow I suspect that’s just me trying to impart some reason on a scattered narrative that works less well than I’d like it to.

I did like the stories, but I didn’t love them like I expected to. Although judging by the Series of Unfortunate Events finale, I shouldn’t be so surprised. It seems that while Handler has a gift for creating a compelling story, he lags a bit when it comes to pulling it all together. I really would have liked to know what happened to some of the characters after the snippet we’re given, if they met unfortunate ends, made marriages work, or lived to overcome their odds. Instead, there are no answers. While that may also mimic the ambiguity of real life, that’s not what I want from my fiction.

Oh, and there may have been some sort of volcanic disaster in the middle of California. Not that we’re told what the deal with that is, either.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

7. The Superman Chronicles

by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

I am in love with the idea of the DC Archives. Glossy, hard-backed editions of classic DC comics. I am not, however, in love with the price. Even if I slum it and buy them from Amazon, they’re still $35, down from their $50 retail price, and even that would be okay if there were, say, one volume that had all the Superman comics or all the Green Lantern comics. But that’s not the case. How can I commit to upwards of five volumes, $35 each, for all of the superheroes I want to know and love. Now, DC has started doing these “Showcase” books where they reprint a gabillion issues of a particular comic for the low, low price of $10 each, but do you know why they’re so cheap? They’re in black and white! The art, including the coloring, of a comic is at least half of the beauty and meaning and reason for the comic so how can you possibly alter it to state of rendering it devoid of all its original color? How, I ask you? I mean, I’m cheap, but I’m not that cheap.

It looks like DC may have gotten hip to this conundrum with their new “Chronicles” series. So far I’ve only seen one volume of The Superman Chronicles, with one supposedly to be released soon, and two volumes of The Batman Chronicles. What makes these great is that they’re only about $15 full price and they’re in vivid, glorious color. I really hope they start publishing other series…and all of them, too.

What’s interesting about old-school Superman is how mundane his exploits are. So far there’s no Lex Luthor and no other worldly villains to speak of. Instead we see him battling the owner of a dangerous mine, a banker who threatens to do in a local circus, a prison owner who abuses and whips his chain gang, and a crime lord who exploits the stupidity of young boys, among other terrestrial scoundrels. There’s nothing like Brainiac or the Parasite, like in the Animated Series I’m Netflixing. And Superman’s powers are much less super than the mythos has built them up to be. He can still run really fast and his skin is impenetrable and he has super strength, but he can’t fly. He can only jump really high. There’s talk of a distant planet that was destroyed, but Krypton isn’t mentioned nor does Superman come into contact with kryptonite. As far as we know he’s completely invulnerable.

I was also surprised to learn that Lois Lane really hates Clark Kent. No…she really hates him. In fact, she comes straight out and says, “I hate you, Clark Kent.” Whenever they’re on reporting ventures she tries to lose him and scoop the story herself. She’s not even interested in being his friend, let alone anything else, and Clark does little to change her mind. What she hates most is the meek, mild-mannerness we’ve come to associate with Superman’s alter-ego, but really, if you knew Clark, you’d probably think he’s a bit of a pussy, too. He lets people shove him in the face and doesn’t so much as shoot a fighting word back. Even in this day and age, when masculinity can mean knowing which facial moisturizer works best after a shave, an uncontested face shove is a bit suspect.

I liked that these stories were short and succinct, definitely a forebear to the serials that are compiled into graphic novels today. They were clearly meant for an undeveloped attention, but they were simply just fun to read. The art isn’t as sophisticated as the later Superman books, but there’s something quite nice about that. It’s nice to think of a simpler time when all a superhero needed was to don some red panties and a cape and he could fix a bridge, save a circus strongman, or pull a banker out of bed to fly around town and show him his wrongs. And still he had to spurn the advances of the woman he loves.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

6. A Long Way Down

by Nick Hornby

It seems that there’s kind of an anti-Nick Hornby trend, especially after the publication of How to Be Good, the criticism there generally being that he doesn’t know how to write women (if you haven’t read the book, the protagonist is female). I disagree and contend that many women didn’t like his portrayal of the main character because he didn’t write as a typical female, but instead as a thinking, feeling individual. I, for one, identified with that. Which doesn’t mean I really liked that book either, but my problem was more that the story fell apart in the last two pages and that was kind of unfortunate.

Anyhoo – my point is that it’s somewhat “cool” to dislike Nick Hornby these days, most likely because he’s gained a certain amount of popularity, but I still love him and I’ll continue reading everything he publishes (except, maybe, Fever Pitch, but that’s because it’s about sports). I wouldn’t say that his latest, A Long Way Down, knocked it out of the park, but it was still an enjoyable, entertaining read with characters that you sympathized and commiserated with while somewhat despising at the same time. And that’s quite a skill to master.

A Long Way Down is about four people who come together for the purpose of committing suicide. It’s New Year’s Eve and Maureen, Martin, Jess, and JJ have all decided that life’s not worth living and come to the roof of Toppers’ House to do themselves in. Little do they expect to run into each other there – after all, who expects company at your own suicide – but after meeting and hearing everyone’s stories, they delay their deaths to go in search of Jess’s ex-boyfriend. No, the deterrent isn’t all that special or exciting, but it shows that these four aren’t entirely convinced that suicide is right for them. Of the four, Maureen possesses the most understandable reason for despair. Martin is a washed-up daytime talk show host who’s recently been released from jail after being convicted of sexual relations with a minor. He’s lost his wife, his children, and his credibility and is quite a sad sap, indeed. JJ’s come to England with his band and girlfriend and, now that the band has broken up and his girlfriend has left him, he’s realizing that he’ll never be musically successful and, now working in a pizza joint, is doomed to a life of monotony. Jess, just a teenager, is clearly a mess and is sort of person who has no internal filter and spits out whatever she’s thinking, no matter how pig-headed and ridiculous it is and, to that end, she’s easily the least sympathetic character, but when the dynamics of her family life are revealed, her reasons for coming to Toppers’ House are a little bit more evident. Maureen, however, is the mother of a nineteen-year-old boy who’s been confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak or care for himself for his entire life. Maureen’s had sex exactly one time and her singular lover, the father of her son, has never been in her life after that one night. Living in solitude and despair for nineteen years, one can see exactly why Maureen was on that roof. The fact that she’s also the most humble and optimistic of the four makes her the character you’re, surprisingly, drawn to most.

But the story’s not really about who’s worthy of suicide and who isn’t. After they leave the roof to go look for Jess’s boyfriend, because Martin thinks Jess is too young to want to die, they all decide to hang on for a little longer and meet up again after Valentine’s Day. If they still want to commit suicide at that time, then they can. What goes on in that time is a little, well, you can see how it would easily translate to the movie screen. The four meet up for regular coffee chats, except that Martin always has the attitude that he’s above all this and Jess flies off that handle at any moment. The press gets wind of the suicide pact and come after them, putting pictures of Jess and Martin in the paper and hounding them about the supposed Matt-Damon-looking angel that Jess contends provided the impetus to go on living their lives (and you can imagine that when this movie comes out, Matt Damon will indeed play this character). They go on a vacation together, which, predictably, does not go quite as planned.

I’ll admit that A Long Way Down is not Hornby’s best effort. It’s always a little disappointing when it feels like a book is written with the expectation that it will be translated to film, but it’s still an entertaining read and I liked it. Hornby has a knack for accurately capturing both dialogue and inner monologue and reading his words is akin to inhabiting his characters minds. Or maybe it’s more like his characters inhabiting yours. You have to give him his props - there are few contemporary authors who are able to do that.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

5. I, Robot

by Isaac Asimov

I’ll admit that when I, Robot the movie came out, I really wanted to see it. But I didn’t because I thought that at some point I might want to read the book. I read some Isaac Asimov in middle school, but I don’t remember what it was and I haven’t read anything of his since. Essentially, I didn’t know anything about the great sci-fi master’s writing style, but considering my love for Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick, it seemed inevitable that I’d get around to Asimov at some point. Which I have. And…I’m not sure what to make of it.

First of all, let me say that I don’t even know how they made the movie version of this book because I don’t see any character for Will Smith to play. There’s Dr. Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist whose work features greatly throughout the decades the story covers, but there’s no central male lead. I’m guessing they either created a character out of thin air or severely altered a minor character from the book. The book is also not concerned with a robot uprising, like the movie previews lead me to believe, but with the idea of robots taking over the world and assuming complete control over humanity. I mean, not in a violent way, like the previews suggest. More in a subtle, incremental way that’s actually scary when you consider our complete dependence on computers (DSL cuts out at work and all hell breaks loose!).

The book goes through several periods in history during which robots gain more and more power. In the beginning robots are these clunky, non-verbal beings that humans distrust. One of the firsts, whose name was, fittingly, Robbie, was sold to a family as a nanny to their young daughter. When the girl becomes too emotionally attached to Robbie, the parents’ attempts to lose him are done in by the powerful Laws of Robotics. If you’ve been living under rock in regards to the book and movie like I have, these laws are that a robot must not harm a human being or allow a human to come to harm by inaction, they must obey humans, and they must protect their own existence, but only as long as it doesn’t interfere with the previous two laws. Robbie gets to stay with the family because he saves the daughter from a fatal accident. It’s that cut and dry.

However, as robot technology progresses, the laws become a little fuzzy. The ensuing robots – Speedy, Cutie, Dave, Herbie – are more advanced and perform more complicated tasks, but they’re also required to reinterpret the laws. Herbie, for example, can read minds and blatantly lies to humans, not out of malice, but because he believes that telling humans anything other than what they want to hear will cause them harm and directly violate the first law. What we come to at the end of the story is a man who may actually be a highly developed robot with no one able to determine the difference, and the entirety of humanity run by “the Machine.” The paradox here is that the Machine can’t allow humanity to harm itself and destroying the Machine would harm humanity, thus we come to a point where humans are governed by robots and have no hope of breaking free.

While I enjoyed the story and found it to be far more intricate than I had expected, I was a little disappointed with the writing style. Whereas Bradbury handles his words with precision and depth and investment, Asimov is kind of, well, lead-footed in his word choice. I’d go so far as to say that some of it was cheesy. That may be because the ideas that Asimov dreamed up have become so ingrained into pop culture that I’m already over-exposed to them (even Bender owes his existence to Asimov and his positronic brains), but I was just a little bit surprised that I had any criticisms at all for the revered author. I mean, one of the robots is named Cutie, for Pete’s sake! That just doesn’t fly with me. But Asimov is one of a trio of the most famous science fiction writers ever and there’s got to be a reason for that. I plan to continue reading his works and find out exactly why.