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Book Review: A Matter for Men

January 7, 2007

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Loved this book. Loved it! Could not put it down. Over 400 pages but only took a week and a half to finish. And I really didn’t think I’d like it, because how interesting could a book about killing giant alien worms be? But I was wrong. Sorry Dad, hehe.

I am just in awe of David Gerrold. I truly think many science fiction writers like him are some of the world’s greatest minds. The breadth of knowledge they must familiarize themselves with…politics, weaponry, history, ecology, psychology, etc…all while creating a compelling and believable set of characters. Amazing.

And that is what this book is really about. Its not about the worms, but much like Starship Troopers (which makes me want to give it a chance as a book, not judge it by the dismal movie), its about what the world and its people would have to go through during armageddon. How impossible a task it is for the world to unite even when there is a clear common enemy. We follow the life of Jim McCarthy as he is starts his military career (in the future, we all are commissioned for some service) as he is sent to Special Forces to be a scientist, but soon becomes a “worm burner,” someone who kills the alien worm creatures called the Chtorr. The world has gone through several plagues, wiping out billions, but most of his family survived in their cabin in the mountains. He flashes back those memories, and back to when he was still in school, being taught global ethics by a scary SOB called Whitlaw. (I have to admit, those were my favorite parts). While on a mission to burn some worms, he discovers something unusual about them….

…OK, don’t want to give away too much but the conclusion– I would recommend this book to anybody. I dare you to read the first 2 chapters and not be hooked!

Quotes:
“The defining condition of adulthood is responsibility. So what’s the one thing you need to experience that responsibility? It’s so simple you won’t get it–it’s the opportunity. The opportunity to be responsible for yourself. That’s it. If you’re denied that one, then you’re not free, and all of the other so-called rights are redundant. Rights are opportunities–thats the definition. And opportunity demands responsibility. Now if you want to be free, then get this: freedom is not about being comfortable. It’s about seizing opportunities–and using them responsibly. Freedom is not comfort, its commitment. Commitment is the willingness to be uncomfortable. The two are not incompatible, but there are damn few free men on welfare. The free man, class, doesn’t just survive– he challenges!” ~Whitlaw giving Global Ethics lesson

“I’m all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let’s start with typewriters.” ~Solomon Short

Jim:”I always thought you seemed a little bit….well, wobbly for making such a thing about being self-sufficient. Now it seems like awfully good planning.”
Jim’s Dad:”Yes, it was good planning, but it wasn’t my idea, it was your grandfather’s. He used to tell me that a man should be prepared to move suddenly at least three times in his life. That is, if you’re planning to live a long life. Pick any period of history, any place. It hard to find seventy years of unbroken peace and quiet. Somebody’s tree is always too crowded. When the screeching starts, it’s time to find someplace quieter.”

“Hank was making noises back at them, quacking duck-billed platitudes.” ~good pun

Tim describing his reaction to the real world after leaving the cult called Ape City, where people tried to get to their nake ape roots: “I couldn’t believe it, how fucked up the outside world really was. All of you, you’re so desperate about sex. You all want to look at eachother’s pee-pee- and woo-woos. Where you go, what you do, how you wear your clothes–it’s all about tits and pussies and cocks. Like you don’t know what they look like. You can’t possibly realize how boring that is. Really. In Ape City, sex was about people. Here–it’s only about genitals.…You know what’s wrong with people, Jimbo? You guys don’t know how to hug. You don’t know how to be close. A hug is foreplay…or something to be endured until its over. You want to know why I’m a flamer? It’s because I hate most of you fuckers for what you’re all doing to yourselves and to eachother. I’m trying to wake you up.

“A diploma only proves that you know how to look up an answer.” ~Solomon Short

Response to the US being “rich, fat & selfish with resources”:
“…the size of success is proportional to the amount of energy invested, and all of the technological advances that have occurred in this country could only have occurred b/c of the huge amount of resources available to apply to the problems…The other nations in the world have benefited from our advances. They can buy the fruits of the technology without having to invest in all the research. Would it have been better for us to have spent that money on food for the poor? We’d still have lots of poor people but we wouldn’t have energy stations in space. And those stations may eventually make it possible for the poor nations to feed their people.”

Jim in the hospital, getting sensors placed on him-
Nurse:”Three for EKG, three for EEG, two for pressure and pulse, two for the pathologist, one for accounting, and one for luck.”
Jim:”Accounting?”
Nurse:“Sure, it automatically checks your credit rating while you are lying there so we know how much to charge.”

“Okay, we’re all crazy right? Everybody says so–but deep down inside, everybody’s saying–‘excpt me.’ Right? The things is, none of us can see our own craziness, because that’s the filter we look through. All we can see is what we project on the people around us. And then we blame it on them. Do you know how to tell if you are crazy? Look and see if the people around you are.”

Personal Note: 50 min circuit training vs pizza & fritos

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