It’s a Palanhiuk Kind of Summer…

Keeping with the theme as my last post.. I will now discuss another Chuck Palanhiuk novel I read this summer… Lullaby.  I first want to state that I liked this one much better.  Maybe it’s because I’m partial to a story structure that makes sense.  Maybe it’s because I can relate to the narrator’s tragic past.  Maybe it’s because it’s more fictional and it’s less likely this magic crap will happen than a person self-mutilating themselves in the same way Shannon did (I have little faith in humanity).

Whatever the reason, I liked it better.

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This guy meets this girl and this girl gets him into trouble.  End of story.  A tale as old as time.. no, really.

Carl has suffered the fate of (apparently) many parents.  He was a loving father who read a bedtime lullaby to his child.. and a wife within earshot.  The next morning, both the child and the wife are dead.  Upon further investigation, Carl discovers the pattern of this lullaby within all the cases he writes about in his newspaper.  Later down the road he meets Helen, who has also discovered this poem… but she uses it to get what she wants… kill who she wants… and then turns Carl into the same person.  For a little while anyway.  He decides he wants to go around the country destroying these books that  contain the lullaby.  This lands him into a whole bunch of drama with Helen and three others: Nash, Mona, and Oyster (what kind of name is that?).  etc. etc.  You can read the plot on Wikipedia.  I’m not here for that.

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I want to talk about how Palanhiuk has, yet again, masterfully created this really fucked up character with such a complex past.  We only learn just enough to put the pieces together.  I want to know: what is wrong with Palanhiuk that he creates these kinds of characters?  does he absolutely believe that there aren’t any good people in the world?

Yet.. he’s created people in this story such that they’re the result of one tragic event.  Palanhiuk has shown that even the best of people become messed up.. maybe he believes that everyone is so weak that the death of a family will make people villians rather than the heroes like Batman is painted to be.

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It’s sort of refreshing.  The negative view of humans.  So many stories have that moment where things turn out positively… and it can be frustrating because life doesn’t work out that way.  It’s a nightmare.  But, a Palanhiuk novel always (and by always I mean the 3 I’ve read and the 1 movie I’ve watched that was based on one of his novels) has a screwed up “positive” ending.  For Carl, he succeeds in tracking down like 99% of the lullabies and destroying them.  He also removes Nash (who is murdering women with the lullaby to have sex with their dead bodies)

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from the equation.  Carl also finds some sort of relationship with Helen, who seems not be murderous anymore once she’s in someone else’s body.  This… is kind of positive, right?

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Because Science! … Fiction

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Since the completion of the short story collection, the stack of unread books on my shelf has been empty for some time. I, of course, needed to go and find a new stack.  And find a new stack I did XD  In fact, I have three series lined up now… two of which belong to friends and one I bought for myself.  They are all science fiction and/or fantasy novels.  Who doesn’t love a good book about things that’ll never happen in this life time or the next?

Science fiction had this stigma for me personally.  I get bored easily with details about environments and objects…  I don’t read books for that stuff… I read books for the more interesting interactions amongst peoples or the interaction of a person’s thoughts and feelings.. because humans are complicated and so much more interesting than there-are-pretty-flowers-in-the-garden-filled-with-dew-drops-from-the-cool-night-air kind of shizz.  Most of the time I skim through descriptions, get the gist, and make up my own setting in my head.  So I’ve always avoided Science Fiction novels because worlds we’ve never been to or technologies we’ve never seen require lots of description.

When my roommate suggested The Foundation by Isaac Asimov, I was reluctant to pick it up.  I was more willing to reread a book on my shelf than read this story.  But I am glad I broke out of my comfort zone…  I read the story in a week.  I admit, I skipped over any description that bored me… and I didn’t follow any of the military-ish strategies they were describing.. because none of that really mattered for the end game of this novel.  I’ll give a brief description of the story

WARNING:  semi-Spoilers begin here.

The world is ending!  It’s very original, I swear.  There is a “mathematician” called Hari Seldon.  He uses the psychology of mass movements and statistics to predict the future.  We meet Hari Seldon at the beginning of the book.  There he informs people the universe is going into dark ages and will remain there for 30,000 years… unless he sets up a community of scientists at the far reaches of the galaxy…  called The Encyclopedia Foundation.  How will this help?  They will collect all information as a cover… but really, they are the most brilliant minds, staying as safe as possible and breeding, for 1000 years to shorten the dark ages.  And by as safe as possible, I mean following Seldon’s advice on how to avoid conflicts with more powerful people.  The remainder of the story navigates us from Seldon crises (as they are called) to Seldon crises.  I expect the entire series will do the same until the Second Empire is set up 1000 years after the dark ages begins.

What I like the most about this story is that no one person matters.  The science is about the masses, so it is not the individuals that matter in the books, but the events that happen because of actions by large amounts of people.  What matters in the story is the survival of The Foundation from one crises to the next so the Second Empire might begin sooner.  What matters in the story is how a Seldon crises comes into being and how it is extinguished.  It is an interesting concept…

Now I am reading the second book in the series Foundation and the Empire.  I expect it to be as great as the first, and I will move on to as many as my roommate owns.

This series is known as one of the greatest Science Fiction series of our time…  so you should definitely go out and read it if you haven’t already.  I promise you won’t be bored at all, and the books are quick to read.