A Maze Of Death - by Philip K. Dick 
Monday, 01 .January, 2007, 17:59 - English Entries, Literature
It's the 32nd century, mankind has spread out all over the galaxy and the existence of God is no longer a question, but a proofed fact. People can radio their prayers to one of the three incarnations of God and some of them get an answer.

"A Maze Of Death" is the story of thirteen people, who prayed to God, as they were unhappy with their jobs and their lives. They get the same answer: to go to the planet Delmak-O, where they will get further instructions. After introducing two of the characters in more detail, the story gets into motion when the group comes together in a small, lonely settlement on Delmak-O.

From the first moment on things go wrong. They cannot receive the instructions, that they were promised and find themselves captured on a strange planet, without a task to do, alone with themselves. One of the two leading characters gets killed on the first evening, strange mechanical insects appear and slowly the defects of the group members become apparent.

The story gets more and more mysterious. It is not clear, why the people are on Delmak-O, whether they are part of a bigger experiment or simply lost. Some group members are confused, others afraid and they drift apart, though they should stick together to find out more about their situation. They find a building, that appears different to each of them and meet a creature, that can answer their questions, but the answers sound like given by an ancient oracle and therefore do not help them any further. And whilst all this happens, more and more group members get killed.

After 150 pages it is hard to believe that Dick will be able to make any sense out of the story. There is too much mystery going on, too many people around and it is not clear, what the role of those group members was, that are already dead. It is the character of Seth Morley who keeps the story going, who has the most developed personality and to whom the reader can easiest connect to. And it is also the doubt about the religious mumbo-jumbo, the so bluntly stolen bits from all kinds of religions, that makes one turn to the next page, hopeing, that at some point their believes get revealed as illusions.

Dick puts the reader in the same state as his protagonists - the story seems hopeless and there is not much sense in going on. And then he lifts the curtain, puts a bit of action into his creation and voila - there is the answer.

"A Maze of Death" is not a common science fiction story. Dick does not care about the technological gadgets, he instead puts a sword and an old gun into the hands of his characters. Space ships and unknown planets are just used to create a scenario that is totally strange but, due to the futuristic setting, still in a way possible.

Philip K. Dick struggled in many of his books with the nature of reality and the idea of imaginative worlds. In "A Maze of Death" he draws a picture of human reality that is so sad, that the escape to a unreal place of uncertainty, fear and confusion seems to be the more desirable option, compared to living in a hopeless world.

The book gets a bit lengthy in the middle, but compensates for this in the end, although the expectations, that the reader might have in the beginning, will not be fulfilled. There are too many characters in the book and most of them stay one-dimensional. And: I read the German translation, which I can only recommend to avoid. I don't know whether the original version is written in a better way, but it is hardly possible to get any worse than what Uwe Anton (the translator) did to the book.

All in all, it is a readable book with a good attack on reality in the end. I give 6 out of 10 points to it.
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Happy in the End 
Sunday, 31 .December, 2006, 14:04 - English Entries, Friends, Online/Blogs
I thought about giving a short review of the last year here. But not today. I cannot be bothered with thoughts about the past today. If I have anything to say about 2006, then that the last six weeks gave me the roughest and most wonderful time I can think of. And the outcome is, that Georg is a happy little Bavarian.

And then - there is one thing that I want to mention and say Thank You for. So I say thank you for the link of the year and hopefully even more. Big big Thanks to Jukka for putting a link to this blog of mine. That link caused everything that I am so happy about now.

No no, I am not drunk. I am not on drugs. Later maybe. I can write confused stuff here, this is my personal arena.

I wish everybody who reads this a happy, healthy and wonderful year 2007. All the best for you.

Georg
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Answering Kirsty's Book Challenge 
Tuesday, 24 .October, 2006, 16:56 - English Entries, Literature, Online/Blogs
Kirsty, now in Amsterdam, has challenged me. Thanks a lot for that and don't believe what she writes about me. It took me too long (as always), but here is my answer:

1. The book that changed my life

Kassandra (Cassandra) by Christa Wolf.

Cassandra is the daughter of king Priamos of Troy and she has the ability to see the future, but she has also the problem that nobody ever believes what she foresees. The god Apollo cursed her with that. The story starts at the very end, when she is brought to the home of Agamemnon, the leader of the Greece army during the Trojan war.

It is the story of a woman, who is forced to get rid of all illusions and to look beyond all the lies around and inside her. This sounds great, as I wrote it here, but it is painful and that pain is expressed on every page.

At least in German the language of the book is simply amazing. Wolf writes cold but never boring. She writes the words of a person, that has left her whole life behind her, who saw the destruction of her home, but had to destroy everything inside her before.

2. The book that I have read more than once

The long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler.

A story about friendship and love.

Ever from reading "The Big Sleep" I was a fan of Philip Marlowe, the great detective, whose ability in solving cases is surpassed only by his bad luck with women (they are either the victim or the perp - sometimes both), his loneliness and his cynical humor about himself and the world. Chandlers language is very poetic without being at any point pretentious or pathetic.

This is the best Marlowe story that exists. It is beautiful and grabbed me from the first sentence to the very last. It is a true work of art, not just a simple detective novel. I think I read it three times and I will for sure read it several times again.

3. The book I would take on a desert island

Also sprach Golem by Stanislaw Lem (original Title: Golem XIV)

A machine that develops higher intelligence than humans and then starts giving lectures to humans. This is not funny, this is amazing - it deconstructs mankind to a mental level that is close to subatomic.

But as this wonderful work is not available in English, I dare to chose another one:

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles – by Haruki Murakami

I will never understand this book. I cannot say anything about it, as I, as said, did not understand it. It is a perfect story, one can follow it from A to Z, but everything in it makes no sense at all and you need to re-invent logic to come to some clues. A fantastic book in the true sense of the meaning - but be careful, it is very dark and depressive. So don't read that during Northern Winters.

4. The book that made me silly

The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea.

If you have never taken drugs and you read that book, you will know how it is on LSD. It is such a big lie, with too much truth in it to not completly confuse you. Since this book I love it when a story plays tricks on me. Oh, it is good to be silly!

5. The book that made me cry

Betty Blue by Philippe Djian

Djian is one of the greatest writers that live on this planet. He makes no fuss, his books are driving you forward without a paragraph of hesitation - there is always something happening, most of the time it is about women and sex, but there are also the normal cruelties of life. It is highly unfortunate that his books are not all translated into English language - in fact Betty Blue, which is without doubt his best novel, is the only one.

In a way, this book tells the perfect late 20th century love story. It is charming, gentle and seductive. And then again it is wild, furious and brutal. And if the reader’s heart does not stop during reading, she or he will cry at one point - that is for sure.

6. The book I would like to see written

...challenges reality.

7. The book I hoped would never have been written

The Fifth Mountain [no link provided for this] by this Pauolo Cohello or however you write this overblown adjective-thrower. This is the book I regret every single movement of my hand, while reading the first third of it - after that I gave up. Every author should be forced to read his or her work at least once again after five years. I hope P.C. does this and suffers like I did.

If somebody gives this to you as a present, treat the person as your enemy.

8. The book I am currently reading

The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster

I read this again, it is great, completely self-contained. From a certain perspective I regard this as the perfect story. I can only recommend to read this, it is good entertainment at first sight, but the longer you think about it, the deeper you will get confused and will be left with nothing.

9. The book I’ve been meaning to read

The Feynman Lectures on Physics by Richard P. Fenyman

Jukka took the Bible (without stating the author of that book), I take the other side of the medal, that explains the Universe. I cannot count how often I tried to read and understand this, it all sounds easy, but it is not possible to follow Richard. When I am old, I will be wise enough to just not care and will read it for fun. For sure I will! And until then, I will try to read it again and again.

10. I challenge the following five bloggers

Andreas Winterer - http://www.senfblog.de
Lewis - http://www.lewism.org
Anja Millen - http://www.corrupted.de
James - http://thefinnishgambit.blogspot.com
Sreehari - to finally establish a blog (it's about time) and to write about his readings
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This and That 
Tuesday, 03 .October, 2006, 01:29 - English Entries, Online/Blogs
There was a long break now and I am not really sure how to go on with this blog.

First of all I want to give a live-sign to all those people who did not recieve anything from me during the last months. I am sorry for being such a bastard when it comes to keeping contacts. There is no real apology to that, I hope that you are able to accept this apology.

During the last weeks I wrote a lot of stuff, that I did not publish here, as I did not see it as fitting to this blog. Some of these texts are posted already under http://www.fragmentspuren.de, some more will follow there. But still I am thinking of putting some of the texts here as well. Let's see.

I see that this blog needs more attention also on the technical side. A new version of the blogging-software came out, the spam comments need to be deleted, the links updated. It will happen, most likely during the next months.

Autumn is hanging around in Helsinki and it is - to my eyes - very beautiful: not too chilly and with a lot of weather that makes me feel ok when staying inside.

There would be a lot more to say, but enough for the moment. I'll be around, maybe somebody reads it. :)

Cheers
Georg
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ungh 
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