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THE (ALMOST) UNDELETED • View topic - The Joy Makers, by James Gunn

The Joy Makers, by James Gunn

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The Joy Makers, by James Gunn

Postby Omphalos » Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:11 pm

By popular demand!!!

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Something is about to happen, Hal. Something wonderful!

-James C. Harwood, Science Fiction Writer, Straight (March 5, 1956 - May 25, 2010)



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Postby Liege-Killer » Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:03 pm

Of course I already mentioned how much I loved the book, so it'll be no surprise when I say I agree with every major point you make in your review.

One of the things I was most impressed by was the fact that this book was written a half century ago, but it didn't seem aged at all.

You mentioned the theme of balanced pursuit of happiness versus for-the-moment pleasure-seeking. And you mentioned the theme of turning over control to an AI caretaker. Another major theme that I thought was at least as important is that of the government's role in all this -- the evils of "for your own good" legislation, and the contrast between allowing people freedom to pursue happiness and requiring people to be happy. There were a lot of philosophical and political angles here; a complex book, indeed.

I had formed an idea of what the book would be about before I even opened it (and I had not read your review yet). On my paperback copy there is a small blurb on the front cover that says: "The Council processed the whole world for happiness -- but it forgot to complete the equation." My immediate thought was of The Matrix, and the scene where the Architect says to Neo: "Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the matrix." So I had that comparison in mind before I ever read the first page. I had no idea that movie would prove to be such a relevant comparison; by the end of the book, when the people were swimming in their pods of goo, enjoying their virtual-reality happiness supplied by an AI, and having no real freedom, one can't help but think of the all-too-similar images from The Matrix.

You mentioned something about the social utility of unhappiness, and that was also an important theme. If you have everything, there's no more reason to strive. Life's a journey, not a destination. That sort of thing. I also had a very clear image of this concept in my head, also from a movie, Star Trek V. I'm sure you remember Kirk's answer to that Vulcan guy who could take people's pain away: "I NEED my pain!" More fully, the quote was: "Damn it, Bones, you're a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away! I need my pain!" I think we need some unhappiness to keep things in perspective, and for happiness to even have any meaning. We need both happiness and unhappiness in order to be who we are, to be human.

I also thought a little bit about Dune, because the mental powers and disciplines of the Hedonists reminded me somewhat of the mental abilities of the Bene Gesserit, the Mentats, etc.

The only thing I disagree on is which of the book's three parts was the best. You liked the first one best. I thought they were in increasing order of quality, with the last part being the most interesting for me.

One thing's for sure: I am definitely a Gunn fan now. :D
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Postby Omphalos » Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:33 pm

You should read The Space Merchants, L-K, by Pohl and Cornbluth. The story is different, but the atmosphere is much the same. I think you would love that one too.

Gunn can write an awesome story, can't he? When I opened that book, I was expecting something typical of that era, but the story and the background really are timeless, arent they? I think it takes real skill to create that timelessness.
Something is about to happen, Hal. Something wonderful!

-James C. Harwood, Science Fiction Writer, Straight (March 5, 1956 - May 25, 2010)



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Postby Liege-Killer » Wed Apr 09, 2008 3:23 pm

I'll keep an eye out for The Space Merchants.
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