Oryx and Crake tells the story of Snowman, a strange, bedraggled loner who lives outside of what remains of human society as he struggles to stave off hunger and survive. To say much more would be to spoil the story, but Oryx and Crake is one of the most intelligent, clearly defined works of dystopian — or is it utopian? — science-fiction I’ve ever read. Atwood clearly understands not only the science of genetics in some depth, but also the worrying implications for the development of the human race.
I’m reading a lot of Philip K. Dick at the moment — so far A Scanner Darkly made me a real fan; Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said made me a devotee; and Ubik…well…it’s just amazing.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the story of Lale Sokolov, a 24-year-old Jewish Slovakian, who arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1949. After working his way through a series of roles in the camp, he is assigned the role of Tattooist. His task: scratching identification numbers into the arms of his fellow victims.
If heroes were my thing, the late Christopher Hitchens would be one of them. He was such a contradiction. On the one hand, Hitchens was a lucid intellectual and seemingly well-read in every subject known to man; he was a vicious debater while also being kind at heart; he could communicate with envious clarity, but turned off many who disagreed with him. Hitchens also had the appearance of a Dickensian villain: he was a heavy smoker and enjoyer of alcohol, and he often wore a dirty trenchcoat on his back.
In 1935, Mayer, an American journalist of German and Jewish descent, travelled to Germany in an attempt to secure an interview with Hitler. He failed in this task, but what he saw in Germany terrified him enough to know that Hitler wasn’t the person he needed to speak to. Instead, he interviewed ten everyday Germans — a tailor, a cabinet maker, a salesman, a student, a baker, a bill-collector, a teacher, a policeman, and a bank clerk — to decipher how it was that the Nazi movement had swept the country.