Repost of Dark Knight Review (originally published July 2008) If you haven’t yet seen the film, Dark Knight, please do that first before reading this post, because you will definitely spoil the “tens
Pleasantly surprised to discover Indoctrinaire, the first novel by Christopher Priest, a tale of strange foreboding and paranoia, wrapped up in altered states of consciousness and alternate realities. The protagonist, Dr. Wentik, finds himself forcibly recruited from his scientific research post beneath the South Pole, and whisked away to the Planalto District of Mato Grosso in Brazil. Both of these places are so far off the beaten track and outside of the ordinary world of human affairs that the novel begins with an eerie sense of dislocation, which is only accelerated into total disorientation as soon as Wentik begins to trek into the strangely deforested zone of Planalto. His guide, a tight-lipped man named Musgrove, shows signs of mental illness as the story progresses and Wentik finds himself an occupant of “the jail,” under interrogation by an equally opaque antagonist named Astourde.
At first, the survey of political systems in Mack Reynolds‘ interstellar spy novel, Planetary Agent X, seems quite whimisical and superficial. There are planets full of anarchists, and planets crawling with feudalism, nihilism, socialism, and what have you. There are some playful jabs at democracy, individualism, and even the tyranny of the uninformed voters (a la John Stuart Mill). The tone is not as playful as Ron Goulart, but definitely not very serious either. So it came as a pleasant surprise when the protagonist, Ronny Bronston, is given a sarcastic lecture by his handler, the mysterious Tog Lee Chang Chu, on the disasters brought about by “industrial feudalism.” How strangely familiar!
Reading Famous Long Ago, My Life and Hard Times with Liberation News Service brings to mind the fact that struggle is never finished. Yes, we need to have some hope, we need to stand up and cheer every day when another decent, humanizing, and reasonable executive order is delivered by the Obama White House… and yet, we also have to remember that there is a reason why we still need change in the first place. The memoir by the unlikely hero, Raymond Mungo, and the ghost of his alter-ego, Marshall Bloom, is riddled with the brazen and ridiculous posturing of green college grads and their acid-dropping cohorts who are hell-bent on saving the world. And yet, it is also true to itself, to its own ingenuity, self-deceptions, and aspirations. In a way, their self-determination to create the alternate news service, the non-lapdog, non-suckup, non-yesMan, non-corporate shill news service; where independent bylines gathered together under a loose umbrella called freedom of speech and freedom of the press, was noble indeed.
Haven’t you sometimes said to yourself, I’ll bet other people can see me! And you’re puzzled as to what to do about this serious, baffling problem of being conspicuous… At once overly self-conscious, and at the same time paranoid and internalized, it is no wonder that the previous statement was written by our favorite paranoid schizo SF writer, Philip K. Dick. However, it is worth taking a closer look at the tendency for humans to worry about their own self-consciousness and appearance, since it is obvious that our right to privacy is under serious attack. Although the government is wrestling with the issue, it is by no means certain that the harsh surveillance tactics brought to us in recent years are coming to an end. Indeed, the inquisitorial big-brother milieu extends beyond the concept of mere observation…as Dick implies, there is an active attempt to instigate our own self-doubts and keep us trapped in a spiral of confusion. Everywhere we go, we are bombarded now by advertisements for drugs. These often take the form of overt manipulation. For those who are having a bad day, or have low self-esteem, these could trigger a whole chain of thoughts, a sort of self-reinforcing trap for which, SURPRISE! Drug companies have an ANSWER! And with the relaxation of restrictions on Direct to Consumer Drug advertising, this predatory form of brainwashing is reaching epidemic proportions.