Review: Hyperion

I read the prologue and thought that I would be disappointed by the book. The words written and arranged, mostly to describe sceneries, and the acts of the character. Seemed lacking in the presentation of ideas for a sci-fi book. But when I read the awesome sceneries of Templar Treeship and the might of Tesla Tree in Flame Forest, I was convinced that, this Dan Simmons is the real deal. I kept reading, and still somewhat a bit disappointed though for different reasons.

The book itself is about a pilgrimage. A weird one, it involved a mysterious vicious creature and many death and a number of tragic events. Also, it happened when the world was about to be burned in flames of war. The seven pilgrims gathered and traveled together to the Time Tombs. The earlier banters between these people felt a bit cheesy at first, but when The Priest story unfolded, I was, WOAH, mesmerized, pretty much hooked by the book.

Each story of them are memorable. From the wonders of the flame forest, and the horror of the Bikura tribe in The Priest’s story, The Soldier’s nut-busting adventure and his magical time-manipulating mirror armor, The Poet’s bloody goddamn muse, the merlin disease of The Scholar’s daughter, the ala-matrix adventure in AI datumplane with The Detective’s cybrid boyfriend, to the love story of The Consul’s grandparents. They’re definitely rich, varied, and worth reading and rereading. Wonderful.

Even after finished reading the book, I still think about them sometimes. This afternoon, I wondered about The Consul’s grandmother and grandfather. It was almost tragic and sad when I read it at first, but something felt odd. The story of their encounter, was first, a non abnormal passion of youth, then became a myth, then became a part of subtle political machination, then a legend, and eventually a kickstart of rebellion. There were several reunion happened between them; between the shipman who flew among the stars with a time-debt that made him seem to stay young (compared to her) and the beautiful poet who stayed and waited and got old in her home planet. When was the love ended? Perhaps it never ended, perhaps it never started, perhaps it never mattered. Perhaps I need to read the story once again. Yes, this book is begging to be read and reread over again.

This reminds me of what Gene Wolfe once said in a chain letter to George R. R. Martin and Greg Benford:

“My definition of a great story has nothing to do with “a varied and interesting background.” It is: One that can be read with pleasure by a cultivated reader and reread with increasing pleasure. The business about a varied and interesting background belongs to my definition of a good story.

But. It was just that. This whole book, Hyperion, is just that. Six great background stories of the seven pilgrims. Only six? Why? The Templar was mysteriously separated from the group. No, even until the book ended, I failed to find a decent explanation about it. What about the pilgrimage? No, the pilgrimage didn’t even finish. They didn’t even encounter The Shrike yet. The book ended with these guys singing some wizard of oz soundtrack, holding hands, walking to the Time Tombs together. Yeah. Just that.

If I were the author, I would end this book by using The Templar disappearance as a device so that he would reappear at the end, with a revelation of something worthy. Perhaps, that would make the book ended in more pleasing cadence; giving readers more sense of completion though the pilgrimage didn’t actually finish.

Anyway, I admit that I love this book, despite tossing it away in anger after I finished reading it.  As I read the story after story, each added a larger perspective of the setting. About the Web, the AI, the Farcaster, the Ousters, the Shrike. They’re more than the sum of its parts. Great job Dan Simmons. Love your work.

Because of this book, perhaps, I’ll break my own promise not to buy new books until I read all of the book I already bought. But, damn, now I really want to buy and read the sequel. Yes, I’ll break my own promise for the Fall Of Hyperion.

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Preview: Bulletproof -Fortified

Seorang teman menerbitkan buku. Berdasarkan pengalaman membaca tulisan-tulisan teman ini sebelumnya, saya tertarik untuk membaca bukunya. Dia kemudian memberikan saya satu kopi bukunya dalam format digital. Terima kasih!

Kisah ini dibuka dengan kehidupan sehari-hari anak-anak panti asuhan. Mereka tinggal pada sebuah puri di samping pantai. Tak jauh dari situ, ada sebuah desa. Ada pula markas militer. Ada bukit dan hutan. Setting ini menyuguhkan suasana damai nan ramah namun tetap menjanjikan suatu konflik menarik bagi pembaca.

Saya sungguh senyum-senyum sendiri membaca bagian cerita saat Mandy –seorang siswi dari panti asuhan– menyajikan tugas sekolahnya. Untuk mengilustrasikan apa beda reptil dan mamalia, Mandy menceritakan bagaimana nona cicak mengajak nona kucing pergi ke pesta dansa. Nona kucing menolak, karena saat hamil, anaknya harus dibawa-bawa dalam perut, tidak seperti nona cicak yang walau sedang hamil anaknya bisa ditinggal di rumah.

Saat membaca bagian cerita tentang Dimitar dan Strego yang berani berniat menembus hutan dengan bersenjatakan ketapel saja, saya jadi teringat sesuatu pada masa kecil saya sendiri. Saat kecil, saya suka sekali menonton film dokumentasi tentang fauna. Karenanya saya sempat tiba-tiba begitu percaya diri dan gatal ingin menangkap ular lalu memanen bisanya sendiri. Untung saja tidak ada ular liar yang benar-benar saya temui sampai keinginan itu akhirnya pudar sendiri.

Ada bagian cerita tentang bagaimana anak-anak panti sedang bermain bola lalu terlibat masalah dengan tentara. Wes, salah satu bocah panti, kemudian berlarian ke sana ke mari menyelamatkan kawan-kawannya dari tentara. Saat membaca bagian tersebut, simpati saya terbangkitkan. Khususnya terkait rasa tidak suka terhadap orang dewasa dan tentara. Ayo Wes! Lempari mereka dengan batu!

Selain kisah-kisah anak-anak tersebut, ada juga dimensi cerita yang membangkitkan rasa penasaran dan menggugah imajinasi. Beberapa yang menjadi sorot utama adalah tentang Dimitar dan Wes. Dimitar mampu meramalkan kejadian hujan-hujan serangga dan berbicara dengan bintang di langit malam. Sementara Wes memiliki kekuatan fisik yang luar biasa, orang-orang menuduhnya android. Settingnya, walaupun di tempat yang jauh dari keramaian kota, memberikan indikasi-indikasi bahwa teknologi di dunia tersebut menyentuh ranah Sci Fi.

Sesungguhnya jika satu buku ini hanya bercerita tentang anak-anak panti itupun saya sudah senang membacanya. Namun kalau diperhatikan dari simpul depan, juga bagian-bagian cerita yang menyiratkan suatu konflik besar, cerita ini sepertinya akan berkembang menjadi kisah-kisah penuh aksi dan pertempuran. Saya belum membaca buku format digital ini sampai selesai, dan tidak akan saya selesaikan. Kenapa? Karena saya berniat melanjutkan membeli dan membaca buku ini dalam bentuk hardcopy secara langsung!

Sang penulis telah mampu membawakan kisah-kisah sederhana tentang keseharian anak panti asuhan dengan menarik. Saya percaya sisa cerita yang akan saya lanjut baca dalam hardcopy nanti akan tidak kalah menghibur.

Kamu penasaran? Mau menjajal bukunya juga? Mau beli langsung? Di mana?
Bisa di sini: Bulletproof – Fortified.

Siapa Kamu?

Kamu bukanlah adalah

Tiada adalah yang tepat bermakna

Kamu yang tiada berbukan

Adalah makna-makna haus syarat

Yang lewati celah ganda bagai partikel

Membentuk interferensi bagai gelombang

Mewujud senyata-nyatanya jawaban

Di balik pertanyaan yang kusimpan

Bersama kucing dalam kurungan

Abstraksi Sang Fisikawan

Hasil Survei Naga

Saya iseng menghabiskan weekend saya untuk melakukan sedikit survei tentang naga. Saya penasaran, kira-kira, dalam pikiran orang, naga apa yang dianggap paling kuat? Naga apa yang paling bijak? Naga apa yang paling berkesan? Maka dengan muka tembok, saya serbulah secara acak manusia-manusia di media sosial.

Masih banyak yang belum menjawab, namun saya rasa cukup segini, toh polanya sudah agak terlihat, lagipula ini bukan survei akademis. Iseng aja. Begini hasilnya.

strongest

Dari 78 data masuk. Pada bagian Naga Terkuat, posisi pertama diduduki oleh Smaug dengan suara 12%, sementara posisi kedua diduduki bersama dengan perolehan suara 8% oleh naga berikut: Acnologia, Ancalagon, Jormungandr, dan Shen Long.

The Wisest

Sementara pada bagian Naga Terbijak, dipimpin dengan telak oleh Paarthurnax yang mencapai suara 23%, dibelakangnya Bahamut dan Shen Long dengan masing-masing memperoleh 7%.

most memorable

Gelar naga yang paling berkesan, diraih dengan suara 15% oleh Smaug, dibuntuti oleh Shen Long dari Dragon Ball Z dengan 11%, lalu dibuntuti oleh Fafnir, Bahamut, dan Alduin dengan suara masing-masing 7%.

Dari semua nama naga yang disebut saat survei, ada dua yang sama-sama paling banyak disebut. Yang satu naga dari timur, yang satu dari barat. Yang satu dari serial televisi animasi, yang satu dari film yang diangkat dari buku. Shen Long dari Dragon Ball Z, dan Smaug dari The Hobbit. Kemudian disusul bersama-sama oleh Bahamut dan Paarthurnax, lalu ada Alduin mengejar di belakang.

most mentioned

Kesimpulan seadanya dari data seadanya:

Kepopuleran seekor naga, mampu membuatnya terlihat paling kuat. Ancalagon, naga terbesar dalam dunia ciptaan JRR Tolkien baru mampu dikalahkan dengan kapal Earendil yang dipersenjatai oleh Silmaril langsung, itupun dibantu pula dengan burung Manwe. Sementara Smaug yang hanya digugurkan oleh seorang manusia, mampu meraih posisi pertama naga terkuat.

Meskipun sama-sama paling banyak disebut dalam survei, Shen Long dari seri Dragon Ball Z tercinta gagal menjadi pemuncak kategori manapun. Seiring waktu ingatan-ingatan masa kecil akan tergerus dengan terus datangnya hiburan-hiburan baru dalam berbagai bentuk. Tapi, satu keunggulan Shen Long dibanding Smaug adalah Shen Long berhasil dominan masuk ke setiap nominasi yang ada, bahkan ke nominasi Naga Terbijak, meski masih kalah dengan Paarthurnax dari Skyrim.

Sementara itu, Paarthurnax bisa dibilang memiliki karakter yang paling kuat dan spesifik. Dibandingkan dengan naga-naga lain dalam kategori masing-masing, Paarthurnax memuncaki naga terbijak dengan telak. Ia duduk di puncak gunung, memimpin para Greybeards. Menghabiskan sisa hidupnya merenungi kejahatan masa lampau, bertanya, “What is better  –  to be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?”

Salah satu tujuan saya melakukan survei ini adalah mencari referensi naga-naga untuk dipelajari, dan dijadikan sebagai model dasar untuk pengembangan konsep naga saya pribadi. Dengan ini saya sekarang mulai memiliki sedikit bayangan tentang naga-naga seperti apa yang akan saya ciptakan untuk proyek ke depan. Ada baiknya jika saya mempertimbangkan kembali niat untuk menciptakan konsep naga terkuat lalu mengalihkan fokus penciptaan ke naga-naga yang berkesan.

Terima kasih.

The Android Champion

When things gone quiet

Customers home; sky went red

I would sit, tilting my head

Picking apart my nerve casket

_

I sold advanced parts from various planets

But mine here is ancient and so fucking outdated

Everytime the related long term memories being accessed

My atomic heart maddened

_

Colossal was the effort to invent this

Primitive minds courageously shouldered dreams of bliss

But mountains of corpses were the sacrifices

And I,

took parts in its abrupt conclusion of peace

_

Yet, I was then, sent away to far galaxies

Forbidden to return, allowed only to reminisce

Through the news of its recent yearn

Back to earlier abyss

_

I erased and disabled my automatic calculation

So I can feel the joy of dreadful wonder

Will I, expire?

Before my homeworld die, in fire?

 

Falterless

Never ever falter
It is not,
the fire we’re after
Unless,
our cries,
drowned in water
Let the lights,
hunt down our cancer

When the brights,
persuaded our eyelids to shut,
the neoplasms were cut,
down to the tiniest matter
where facades touched themselves with dagger

In panic, agitated
Chains of multi dimensonal sorrow,
were yanked
But crippled not,
the wisdom of men and women

Shall the eyes opened up again
The errors would wet with shame, and
Maths would cease into simple doodles of childish gibberish

The Might

Which one fell?
The night or the day?
How shall I tell?
For my sights are gray
As meaningless as it seems
I still want to pray
That the horizons of grim
Shall swiftly passed away
As the might of the dream
Taking the helm to lead the way
Out to the starry dwell
So far far away from the pastime hell

The Fever

The world’s heat is fleeing
Breaths skipped; scenes blurred
Against time, the seekers soar
To where it may goes, to when it may ends

Creeping about like flocks of wingless raven
Up, and down, sway, and away to the freezing shores
Spotting no traces at all
Between the weep and the deep

Only cold merciless salts,
To flavour the boiling of the self

The Lensing

I took a handful of stars
In my grip they screamed
The throbbing pain assured me
That miracles are worth less
Than the smile beyond the outer space

My feet is stuck in the far future
Among suspicious sands
And vicious rocks
Under the collapsing chunk of bleeding rainbows
My knees fall smooching the dessert with explosive lust

The whirling of big bangs and big crunches
Put the mind and the gut into a corner
There is no option left but to form a truce
Except, such a feat is nowhere stable as the constant pull of masses in space
Yet, such a feat is as astounding as the discovery of gravitational waves
For one may observe the world anew by looking through its lensing

Written by Sasmito Yudha Husada

Review: Asimov, Vinge, and Eagleman

I recently read these three books, and I’d like to share my experience reading them. The first book was, Isaac Asimov’s The End Of Eternity, the second book was Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon The Deep, and the third was David Eagleman’s SUM: Forty Tales From The Afterlives.
I had been craving to read Asimov since the first time I stumbled upon a web comic adaptation of his story titled The Last Question. Then I decided to buy some of his books. One of them was The End Of Eternity. It tells a story of Andrew Harlan, a Technician of time. He was recruited, educated, and trained to be a part of the Eternity—an organization that spans across time enforcing their computational result of minimal human suffering through their method of Reality Changes.
Andrew became Computer Twissell’s personal Technician supposedly because of his talent as an observer, though later revealed it was for another greater complex reason. It’s described in the story that Technicians are commonly avoided and feared; other Eternal would throw their gaze away from Technician’s presence. This is related to Technician’s authority over the fate of many. There’s a saying in the story: A trillion personalities changed—just a Technician’s yawn.
As I read the book, some part of Andrew’s struggles resonated within. It made me excited for the story and rooted for him. Anyone with some kind of nomadic lifestyle, whose possibility to settle down is thin, might sympathize with the life of an Eternal. They’re forbidden to have a family and to settle. The rule served as a prevention against individual attachment with a particular time frame; they’re only permitted to arrange temporary liaison with a timer through some kind of bureaucratic process.
Because their main job is to enforce Reality Changes, an Eternal must be detached from time to maintain objective judgement. Suppose a Technician has a family in some century, how then would he react if suddenly there’s a policy to enforce Reality Change upon said century? His family might no longer existed or changed to a degree that render them too different to be regarded as the same persons. In Andrew Harlan case, he fell in love with a girl from a century he was investigating. He hated her. He feared her. Then, as he lowered his defense for that first love he ever encountered, he suddenly find himself willing, to end the Eternity itself just to stay with her. Yes. This is basically a love story. A love story that’s imbued with time paradoxes and rich wonderful sci-fi world building.
There are weaknesses in this book. It’s too short. Asimov didn’t let the characters to build enough tension within sufficient time for them to naturally fall and hate each other. This resulted in a payoff that is somewhat a bit lacking despite the big impact of its characters’ decision at the ending as suggested by the title of the book. With The End of Eternity, I think Asimov was trying to tell us, about love, humanity, and the infinite possibilities that may rise from its ruins and wreckages.
I’m merely an insecure visitor and silent reader in LessWrong community. I also quite fancy Eliezer Yudkowsky, its founder. While I was reading his personal site, I saw a post recommending a sci-fi novel: A Fire Upon The Deep. After a bit of looking into it using search engines, I was captivated by the world building. The galaxy consisted of several variable physical laws called The Zones Of Thought. Closer to the center of it, the more intelligence and techs failed to survive or emerge; the closest zone is called the Unthinkable Depth, no civilizations mentioned ever exist there. While the zone at the outerside allowed miracles such as super artificial intelligence to exist; this outer zone is called The Transcend. Between them, there are the Slow Zone and the Beyond. Slow Zone is where the Old Earth resides; there the physical law only permit slower than light travel. The Beyond is where most of the story happened. It’s a place where various intelligence able to reach each other and built vast society because faster than light travel is common. This fascinating setting itself that swayed me to purchase the book, I didn’t even bother to check the plot and the characters.
Basically there are two things happened alongside each other as the story unveiled. First is the story of the two refugee children who were trapped in medieval conflict between aliens that look like dogs. And the other one is the story of a rescue mission unit. It wasn’t a mere rescue. There’s something in the children’s crashed ship that may or may not stop the cosmic calamity.
There are numerous aliens and characters in the story.
The Tines, the doglike medieval alien is probably everyone’s favourite. These dogs become intelligent when a number of them grouped together, but they wouldn’t likely to survive as a singular member. This characteristic raises fascinating wonders that are tightly related to the plot. Specifically to the political difference regarding soul arranging methods that caused the tension between the two factions. The antagonist enforced a dictatorial soul mutilation to members of groups in order to create ideal identity related to its engineering purposes. Guess what? The leader of the antagonist faction was an offspring of the protagonist faction.
The Skroderiders are some kind of ancient alien plants using a platform to float around fulfiling their noble and peaceful pursuit. But, watchout, there are awful secrets regarding the myth of their origin.
The Powers are godlike beings from the Transcend that sometimes interract with people of the Beyond. Old One is one of the Powers who was snooping around to investigate the disaster using a human interface it has built named Pham Nuwen. But then, the Old One eventually murdered by the disaster and that’s where the disaster started to deliver serious threat to the whole inhabitant of the galaxy.
I really enjoyed the various aliens and characters and technological differences as they affected each other in meaningful ways, like when the rescue unit gave an instruction from afar for the Tines to invent radio and gunpowder in order to help their war.
For me, the book main weakness is the disaster itself. I think it was supposed to deliver cosmic horror to the reader. But it didn’t work. Yes, there are the murder of the Old One, the fall of Relay, the destruction of Sjandra Kei, and much of the disaster’s rampage upon the top of the Beyond. But those happened far from where the point of view locked on, which are either at the Tines planet, or at the rescue ship. They’re just like news. Bad news. The fear experienced by the characters are largely based on assumptions. Sure there are closely happened evil that threatened the rescue unit, like the betrayal at Harmonious Repose and the pursuing fleet sent by the disaster. The disaster felt so passive and lacking in presence, as if it was invented just to let the world being illustrated to us because of the conflict it allowed. But still, the world of A Fire Upon The Deep is one of the most epic delicious cake to feast upon. Enjoy!
The last one I’m going to review is the book by David Eagleman titled SUM: Forty Tales From The Afterlives. Years ago, this book was mentioned in some articles and I fell in love at once with the concept because at the time I was fascinated by the speculation of the afterlife; I participated in a local short story contest thrice, and thrice I submitted stories concerning such tales. Back then, I didn’t have the cash to purchase the book, it’s only recently that I started generating a bit of cash.
Before reading the book, I was so cocky that I expected what’s inside of it are some things I might’ve thought or written.
I was proven wrong.
I expected a longer form of short stories.
But these are far shorter than what I expected.
And far more powerful.
SUM: Forty Tales From The Afterlives is a book where you can find such surprisingly powerful impact within very short narratives. As I turned the pages, I was like being mercilessly bludgeoned by David Eagleman’s awesomeness. I think, he was really confident that he didn’t need more words to push the readers’ buttons at the right places.
He was right.
SHIVERS. SHIVERS. SHIVERS.
I find my eyes getting wet, and my body shivering everytime the stories take turn to reveal the horror of its seemingly harmless introduction at each of its narratives.
Imagine the shivering I got when I read passages regarding “two-stage process of Death” from one of the stories titled Mirrors:

“…. To understand the meaning of this afterlife, you must remember that everyone is multifaceted. And since you always lived inside your own head, you were much better at seeing the truth about others than you ever were at seeing yourself. So you navigated your life with the help of others who help up mirrors for you. People praised your good qualities and criticized your bad habits, and these perspectives—often surprising to you—helped you to guide your life. So poorly did you know yourself that you were always surprised at how you looked in photographs or how you sounded on voice mail.
“In this way, much of your existence took place in the eyes, ears, and fingertips of others. And now that you’ve left the Earth, you are stored in scattered heads around the globe.
“Here in this Purgatory, all the people with whom you’ve ever come in contact are gathered. The scattered bits of you are collected, pooled, and unified. The mirrors are held up in front of you. Without the benefit of filtration, you see yourself clearly for the first time. And that is what finally kills you.”

The horror of these stories are evoked by pulling the strings of various human conditions and stitching them into a different form that reveal the perceived truth in imaginative ways. Let me give you an example, the opener, titled Sum, told an afterlife story where we relive all the experience we have ever done in our life. Nothing scary huh? Except, we have to relive them in ways that all the moments that share a quality are grouped together. Imagine reliving fifteen months of looking for lost items, six weeks waiting for green light, seven hours of vomitting, sixty seven days of heartbreak, and all things joyful and painful. This raises the realization, that we should choose a lifestyle we would gladly relive in such a way. What are the things you often do but do not actually like it, and still very possible to be eliminated from your life?