Asimov’s Foundation – a review

(A review by Sidharth VardhanOf I, Robot by Isaac AsimovFirst written on November 26, 2015) “PSYCHOHISTORY–…Gaal Dornick, using nonmathematical concepts, has defined psychohistory to be that branch of mathematics which deals with the reactions of human conglomerates to fixed social and economic stimuli..” Isaac Asimov (Foundation) Psychohistory is interesting but not as interesting as robo-psychology (which is subject of ‘I, The Robot’). One of the reasons I love reading Asimov is that he is one of the few science fiction writers who does not make scientists look like fools. Most science fiction I’ve read or seen is about scientists releasing some kind of problem on the world – zombies created by T-virus, monsters created using parts of dead bodies, artificial intelligence gone mad and looking to destroy the world, time machines taking people to 10000 B. C. and so on. You could expect them to know better. ” such folly smacks of genius. A lesser mind would be incapable of it.” Now Asimov is different. Here, scientists are rather cool people often solving problems even before they arise. That is what made psychohistory so interesting – it gave them the ability to foresee future problems. “Any fool can tell a crisis when it arrives.

Robots with an existential crisis – a review of ‘Machines Like Me’

(A review of ‘Machines Like Me’A novel by Ian McEwanReview first written on May 20, 2019) “there are tears in the nature of things.” Virgil Turing Test Alan Turing, one of biggest names in field of artificial intelligence world, devised a test known as Turing test. To pass the test, the machine will have to fool a human (who won’t know whether he or she is talking to human or machine) into believing that he or she is talking to a human being. This mechanical art of talking or acting like humans is only a simulation, the machine might act like humans but it is still not motivated by the same forces. This genius was accused of “gross indecency” because of his homosexuality and committed suicide at around 42 years of age. In the book, a few events of his last days are changed and he survives to bring forth an alternative history in which first Androids hit the market in the 1970s which is when the events of the book happen. A good part of the book goes to developing the alternative history – of robotics, politics and social. The plot itself is rather simple. In ‘Do androids dream

Samarkand – A Review of Amin Maalouf Book

(A review of Samarkand,a novel by Amin Maalouuf First reviewed on May 6, 2019) “Omar Khayyam mourned his disciple with the same dignity, the same resignation and the same discreet agony as he had mourned other friends. ‘We were drinking the same wine, but they got drunk two or three rounds before me.’” Amin Maalouf (Samarkand) Among other things, this book has among its motifs – Omar Khayyam, Hassan-i Sabbah, Persian liberation efforts at the beginning of 20th century, Titanic, Mongols etc. Omar Khayyam Have you ever detests the ‘x’ of algebra during your math classes, well Omar Khayyam is the source of that ‘x’. “to represent the unknown in this treatise on algebra, Khayyam used the Arabic term shay, which means thing. This word, spelled xay in Spanish scientific works, was gradually replaced by its first letter, x, which became the universal symbol for the unknown.” Amin Maalouf (Samarkand) He was a polymath – a true polymath, not one of the modern-day self-claimed ones who learn basics of many fields without mastering any. Omar wrote thesis in maths and astronomy and wrote incredible poems famous all over the world – and that had a really strong influence on sufi

Weakness of strong men – a review of ‘Things Fall Apart’

(A review of ‘Things Fall Apart’,a novel by Chinua AchebeFirst written on April 6, 2015) Called the father of modern African literature, Chinua Achebe is widely respected in Africa. Nelson Mandela, recalling his time as a political prisoner , once referred to him as a writer “in whose company the prison walls fell down”. He has inspired some big names in literature including Tony Morrison, Margret Atwood etc. ‘Things fall apart’ despite its ridiculously simple story is very aptly recognized. It involved breaking new grounds – the very choice of language of colonialists over any of domestic dialects was a major decision – Achebe thought English was the only language that can be used to communicate all over Nigeria; rather than country’s multiple dialects. There was an effort at creating a common dialect but the common dialect ‘just didn’t sing’. Set in Nigeria of 1890s, Things Fall Apart (Title is taken from a poem of W.B. Yeats) doesn’t wave any Tolstoyan worlds or tries to go into the depths of individual psyche like James Joyce. What TFA does is that it breaks new grounds; puts a dot of light in that undiscovered plane, which was so far summed up by

Don’t Die

(A song first written onMay 3, 2019) Don’t die Please don’t die Please hear me cry Please don’t dieNot nowNot already I can’t deal with another loss With the rest of the world, I am already cross. I can’t handle another death You are my gem, precious wealth So please don’t die Can you still hear me cry Please don’t die You alone were my friend You suffered when I suffered But now this shared time too will end Everyone must leave or die That is my life’s trend But not you Please not you Please don’t die Shower water saw me cry Please please don’t die We used to play together in rains But no tears nor rains willEver wash these strains I never ever deserved you Lesser still your pains Yet I beg don’t die Please don’t die All I know is to cry Please, please don’t die If you must suffer to the bitter end Better it be now my friend I will miss youWilll forever want to kiss you Yet can’t anymore hear you sigh If that is only way out, please die. Or no, no, don’t die Can’t help but cryPlease don’t die Please please

The Seekers After the Sun

(A Flash FictionFirst written on April 25, 2016) “They are just wasting their time” “How” “They are looking for the sun.” “That is not a waste of time. They are bound to find it sooner or later.” “No. They won’t.” “And why is that? Sun can be seen anywhere. And it is a sight worth seeking.” “Yes. But they are looking for it in corners of planets and depths of books. In the darkness of caves or carved up rocks. Believe it or not, they are looking for the sun and have candles in their hands.”

Chronicle of a Death Foretold – a review

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ –  a novel by Nobel laureate  Gabriel García Márquez) ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ is a journalistic account of a murder, and not at all detective-like at that. In very first pages both the murderers and the murdered are revealed. It is only the writing style of Gabriel Marquez that makes this average story so enjoyable. , Gabriel put the Santigo’s flip side in the very beginning and then goes on to reveal the motive of murder which makes you believe that the murder may have some justification. Slowly though we realize he probably didn’t do the thing he was murdered for. The character gets more humane in later half; still, his behavior, especially in those last moments is strange. The chronicle shows you the hollow nature of society. A really, really expensive marriage wouldn’t survive a day. Angela Vicaro’s writing letters to her husband for seventeen years is something so weird that you won’t believe it to be real if you didn’t know otherwise – especially because she didn’t want to be married to him in the first place. Then there is the fact that only hours before the murder,

The righteous ways of ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’

(A review of ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’, a novel by Anne BronteReview first written on May 20, 2019) Of course, it is an excellent book and was definitely ahead of its time – to the point that it aroused much criticism in times it was written. The fact of a woman walking out on her husband must itself have been sensational during those times. I am really curious about the lives of Bronte sisters. I could really like to read a common biography of them or see a Doctor Who episode based on them. All that said, I am gonna focus on why I didn’t like this one as much as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Part of the reason why I have avoided reading ‘The Tennant of Windfell Hall’ this long is that I had read Agnes Grey and was worried that the protagonist here would be just as righteous. It is one of the most dislikable qualities a person can have in my opinion. Now there are two reasons I hate righteousness. First, righteous people will cause themselves unnecessary suffering. Helen, for example, will suffer gladly for this righteousness. First, she chooses to stick around with a

Of Han Kang’s ‘Human Acts’

(A review of ‘Human Acts’a novel by Han Kang) “I still remember the moment when my gaze fell upon the mutilated face of a young woman, her features slashed through with a bayonet. Soundlessly, and without fuss, some tender thing deep inside me broke. Something that, until then, I hadn’t realised was there.” Han Kang (Human Acts) A semi-fictional account of unnecessarily violent supression of a student uprising in Han Kang’s home town, Gwangju, South Korea in 1980 through point of view of inter-related characters. I guess it would have been brutal to expect another ‘The Vegetarian’ from her but this is beautiful in its own way – showing what it means having to live through such incidences – how it changes the way one sees the world: “Is it true that human beings are fundamentally cruel? Is the experience of cruelty the only thing we share as a species? Is the dignity that we cling to nothing but self-delusion, masking from ourselves the single truth: that each one of us is capable of being reduced to an insect, a ravening beast, a lump of meat? To be degraded, slaughtered – is this the essential of humankind, one which history

Of Dying – a review of ‘The Death of Ivan Ilych’

(A review of ‘The Death of Ivan Ilych’ a novel by Leo Tolstoy First reviewed on February 27, 2015) “Ivan Ilych’s life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.” Leo Tolstoy (The Death of Ivan Ilych) How do you define an interesting life? Ivan has seen it all one can normally expect to see in a life – he has loved, he has married, has have children, has seen ups and downs in his professional life – yet the moment death shows its face, he comes to conclusion that his life was futile – everything is so ordinary including the very cause of his death. He comes to wonder at the meaninglessness of everything he has done: “Can it be that I have not lived as one ought?” suddenly came into his head. “But how not so, when I’ve done everything as it should be done?” Leo Tolstoy (The Death of Ivan Ilych) With each successive chapter, his health declines and death becomes more and more real, initially he is fully focused on saving his life. His family and friends, it seems to him, are not taking his disease with enough attention. “but that what was

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