March 15th, 2008

20111112, Marilee

Dreams, Bookgroup, and Reading Glasses

The dream I had when I woke up last night was really great. There was a space station (much bigger than the current one) and it had a hub with all the common activities, a control room, and a spindle for docking. Then trapezoidish "wedges" fit around the hub -- each one owned by a country or group of countries. They moved around as needed (were little spaceships) and a SSTO came up every week to bring supplies and transport people to/from leave. They brought up specialists, too, and I was there to work on a particular piece of equipment. I noticed it had been sabotaged and fixed it but also made it so if it was sabotaged again, the person would be hurt. I stayed another day and during that day, in the common rec hall, I sang and played some kind of mini concertina. While we were all singing and playing, the saboteur tried to kill the equipment again and set off an alarm and burned his hand. He belonged to one of the country wedges, and they were very angry, so I used an emergency escape capsule to return to Earth -- it was sort of coffin shaped with an ablative coating and both automatic controls or manual for those who knew how to use them. I used the auto and I went around the world a few times to slow down and then a parachute dropped the capsule gently at White Sands.

The dream I had this morning was about hiding from a religious state -- probably from real life and from the last section of A Canticle for Leibowitz. We had two new people at bookgroup today and one entered in quite a bit. The other was an older man, rather crippled, whose daughter and grandson dropped him off and picked him up. He laughed and nodded, but didn't contribute. I hope they both come back. I knew one of the members and I would have a polite kerfuffle about the religion and we did. Then we went to eat at Olive Garden, where they cramped 12 of us at a table that should hold 10 in an alcove. Good thing we like each other. I found out you can use a hacked chip in a Nintendo DS and it gets a browser and that might well be the cheapest thing I can get to read ebooks on. It's wireless, so I'd need to get a wireless dongle for the computer, and I'll need to cost it all out. It looks promising, though.

When I got the mail on the way home, my new reading glasses were here and I was right -- the reading Rx is right for the computer, too. Now I don't have to tilt my head all over for the computer. And I love the frames, in red, of course.
20111112, Marilee

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

This was the book for today's bookgroup and we all agreed that the message from 1959 is still immediate.

The book is divided into three parts -- each six centuries after the last -- that show Father, Son, and then Spirit. Much of the book is about science vs. religion. Miller converted to Catholicism and he was strongly in favor of the religion side.

The book starts six centuries post-apocalyptic with a novice named Francis in an abbey of the Order of Leibowitz. It's clear to us that Leibowitz was part of the military/scientific group that provided weapons for the apocalypse. To the monks, he was someone who became a monk and tried to save paper and was hanged for his beliefs. The abbey has kept close guard over pieces of paper for many years when all papers were to be burned and they are also looking for proof that Leibowitz was a saint. Francis is led to find proof of Leibowitz's sainthood by a man clearly meant to be the Wandering Jew.

The second part starts at the capital of Texarkana and is strongly political -- New Rome (in the US) against Texarkana against nomadic tribes. A brilliant scholar comes to the abbey in case some of Leibowitz's (and other scientist's) equations actually have value. He is angry to find out that he is not the inventor, but the rediscoverer of some science. The monks greet him with a rudimentary generator and arc light -- devised by one of the monks -- and he is more gracious to them because of that. As he gets ready to go home, he finds out that the ruler of Texarkana is coming to take the abbey and all the small governments.

The third part takes place at the abbey in a time where apocalypse is imminent and is strongly religious. Many Catholic beliefs are pushed by the current abbot. The abbey receives fallout victims and initiates the secret plan. It's no accident that many of the monks have been spacemen and it turns out that the church has its own spaceship. The men, some scientists, women, and children, plus enough Catholic officials to assure continuation of the faith, and copies of the papers will go to make a new colony and never come back. The last spaceman on board taps Earth dust off his shoes before he closes the door.

There are many many religious clues and symbols throughout the book and if you don't read Latin, you might want this study guide which includes Latin translations.

I had the hardest part with the third section, of course, because choices made by the last abbot cause pain to innocent people. I suppose if you believe in souls, maybe the pain is worth it so you get to heaven, but it's always seemed like torture to me.

There is a sequel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, that was mostly written by Miller and finished by Terry Bisson, but it's not very good.