Sunday, June 26, 2011

Across the Universe Chat Transcript

Thanks to everyone who was able to participate in our most recent chat!  I love how we are able to have a fruitful discussion about such a diverse selection of books.

Read on for the full transcript our our chat, and look out for a second post shortly to solicit recommendations for our next book selection!

Matthew: I'm going to begin by saying it was very easy and pleasant to read!
Susan: I agree!
Amanda: Agreed. It was a simple, entertaining book.
Matthew: Only 18 hours start to finish (and I was asleep for 8 of those)
Susan: It was definitely an interesting premise
Matthew: Well, I'm not so sure I'd describe it as having "a" premise
For instance, the concept of a space journey so long that a society onboard needs to span multiple generations is an interesting one
But the book moved further on a tangent from that than I was expecting
Amanda: It was a bit odd, because it was part scifi, part murder-mystery, and part romance.
Matthew: Towards "how does one control a large group of people stuck in one place"
Susan: and the segmentation of society
Cindy has joined
Matthew: I wouldn't necessarily say that is odd - that is life
(hopefully not the murder part)
Cindy: here!
Susan: but the controlled nature of it; and how it changed over the course of the journy
Amanda: Hello!
Susan: hi!
Cindy: Carla just got home, she should be on in a bit to join us
Susan: I wish they had gotten in to how the scientists were "controlled" and why they didn't freak out or rebel everytime the date got pushed back
yay! we just got started
Matthew: I think that kind of hides another question
Could life in a spaceship like that be at all tolerable?
Susan: or plausible?
Matthew: Because some of the time, the characters spoke as if life on the spaceship was something to be endured in order to achieve a goal
Amanda: Exactly the question I was writing out...
What did you all think of the psychological effects of being trapped on the ship? Amy had said, "I never thought about how important the sky was until I didn't have one."
Yet, others had no frame of reference.
Carla has joined
Amanda: Glad you could join us, Carla!
Susan: though I haven't read much in this area, I would imagine those on long sea voyages would have the same mentality - something to be endured for now
Matthew: I think that it's plausible that we would one day be able to set up a society able to function is such a place
The big difference is that entire generations live their life on Godspeed
Would you really endure that your whole life for the sake of your children
Or grandchildren?
Amanda: Yeah, that was tricky. I can't imagine how I would feel to learn that I had been born on this ship in order to serve as a cog in the machine...
Cindy: The people on Godspeed are more like caged animals than humans though.
Susan: but how bad was their life on earth?
Matthew: The book suggests that it wasn't unusualy bad
Susan: its like indentured servitude...on steroids
Amanda: Then again, if I had been raised to believe in the importance of the mission, and didn't really have any other options, maybe I wouldn't mind so much... At the very least, there wouldn't be a frame of reference for a better life.
Carla: However we are stuck on earth and although it is rather large it is still is not limiteless
Matthew: That's a point that's been in the back of my mind
Cindy: and the individuals who have free thought on the ship are made to belive they are crazy.
Amanda: And, we get to do what we want. We don't have to be a farmer or a scientist or whatever all working for the same purpose.
Matthew: What is "essential" about earth that makes life here worth living
Amanda: Yessss, 14 minutes in and we're questioning the meaning of life!
Matthew: Only because between us all, we cover all our bases
A few thousand years ago, everyone had to acquire food and shelter because they had little time for anything else
Susan: and on earth there are many that are just "cogs" in the machine
Carla: What if in the future we didn't have that right. The ship too had the right and were free when they took off
Matthew: So I think that's one part of what's needed: a large enough society to give people some choice
Amanda: And, our past generations in our families made significant choices that affected us. If my great-grandfather hadn't come over from Poland, for example...
Cindy: if we are comparing Godspeed to earth, isn't the essential difference free thought? I mean, in the book you can't just get up and find abetter place for you and your family
Amanda: Right. I don't feel like I'm trapped in the U.S. I could go back to Poland if I really wanted. They don't have a choice to go back to Earth.
Matthew: But what if there were a spaceship with multiple countries?
Amanda: I think you're right, Matthew--it's about having choices.
Susan: woah. i think that would be bad. war on a spaceship sounds super bad
Amanda: lol, good point.
Susan: a spaceship is far more fragile than earth
Carla: I think that is true we have the freedom of thought and the ability to choice which I cherish. Howvere sometimes my roommates and I joke about birthcontrol in the water
Cindy: even on a spaceship with diversity, aren't you still traped to some extant?
Amanda: But, knowing that we all needed the spaceship to survive to ensure our survival, don't you think that would quell the possibility of destructive war?
Carla: NO
Susan: no
Cindy: no
Amanda: Ha.
Carla: Why do we have nuclear weapons?
Cindy: well, I guess you have to thin about why they are living on the ship
Amanda: We haven't destroyed the whole planet yet, though.
Cindy: yet
Susan: but it would be far easier to destroy a ship than the earth
Carla: no But remember the cartoon
Susan: i have watched much sci-fi haha
Amanda: What did you think about how Eldest rewrote history?
E.g., Hitler was a strong leader.
Cindy: like how he rewrote Hitler to be some hero
Susan: well, to some extent I think the situation sort of made history obsolete
Matthew: We've mostly been discussing this in the level of "assuming the book is true"
Susan: it only mattered to the Elder
Matthew: But regarding the writing history, I'd say it didn't read as genuine to me
It felt like a relatively clumsy way for the author to say "this society is evil"
Cindy: I think it really makes you question your own understanding of different histories, because ultimately his perspective was wat rewrote the history
Susan: he did what most societies do, use history to fit their needs
Matthew: Perhaps more subtle implications than just "evil", but I felt that it felt like something aimed at giving an impression, more than a genuine representation of the reality
Cindy: and we see that today to some extent.
Susan: so I think it is plausible, but cluimsily written perhaps?
Cindy: I think I would describe the people as "confused" and "lost" versus "evil"
Carla: I agree with cindy history is remembered mostly by the vicotor and who writes it. I think only in the last century have we actually have documented evidence of war and that is even doctored
Amanda: It certainly caught my attention, and made me wonder what else in the ship society had been altered to control people--so, to the extent it foreshadowed bigger issues, it was effective. But, yes, it could have been more nuanced.
Susan: I felt that way, Amanda with a lot of the book. Like I had read better versions of the same theme
Carla: The society show what happens when we stop being individuals and follow a leader without quesiton
Matthew: I guess one essential difference between the spaceship and earth is that it's possible for one person to control everything
Amanda: Yes, Susan. We had chatted about this a bit the other day--that there are a lot of sci-fi novels that follow these concepts, and perhaps others had done a better job.
Cindy: I liked how Elder was always at odds with what was deemed normal on the ship. It never felt right to him.
Susan: Even though he had the exact same genes as Orion and Eldest
Matthew: He was able to think, and had a moral sense
Cindy: I thought it was interesting that, even though they all had te same genes, they were all individually unique
Amanda: Nature vs. nurture
Matthew: Well, I think Eldest genuinely believed it was necessary for him to control everything
Susan: but it isn't really nature vs. nurture. they were all raised the same pretty much
Cindy: Eldest was a lot better at following instruction given to him
Carla: yes but where did Elder get his morals from where was the nurture that made that happen
Cindy: well, not necessarily Susan
Amanda: I disagree. I think Eldest did a poor job of training Elder, as compared to the Eldest before Eldest.
Matthew: And I think that's the point
Susan: but Orion and Elder turned out very differently, though both raised by a suspect Eldest
Matthew: The situation of Eldest is one that someone could be made to believe is necessary and good
And Eldest was carefully brought up with such a view
Cindy: but Elder came after Orion
5:30 PM so they were trained differently
Carla: Still where did Elder get his morals?
Susan: exactly, Carla
Matthew: Elder didn't have such close attention, and had the more natural response of refusing to participate in it
Susan: both Orion and Elder have different moral compasses than Eldest
is it really more natural?
Matthew: Some degree of morality is inbuilt
And I think we pick up certain things just from interacting with people in a society
Even one as unusual as Elder's
Cindy: Did Eldest or Orion live in the hospital like Elder?
Amanda: Good question.
I was wondering that, too.
Cindy: becuase I think his time in the hospital really changed him
the people in the hospital were the closest thing to family Elder ever felt
Carla: I think I waw going off the assumption that they had the same up bringing but that would be a diferenece that could explain somethings
Susan: about the people in the hospital: who was the art/etc for if it was never consumed by the "masses"?
Carla: I thought it was but I could be wrong
Amanda: Yeah... Was it just to keep up the arts so that there would be art on the new planet when they got there?
Cindy: what was te point in keeping those genes around, if they were never aoppreciated or enjoyed
Carla: They never could appreciate it as much but they still looked at it
Matthew: It was a byproduct
Susan: but if they had those special genes, why do you need to keep it every generation?
(in bottles/tubes)
Matthew: They gave the babies particular skills, some of which could be used for art, but could have other uses
Carla: maybe they didn't have the genes completely figured out and the art gene is right next to a science or neccessary gene
Susan: but they didn't have the hospital people mate
so they had to have the gene somewhat identified and figured out
Matthew: p338
Cindy: why did they keep all those people alive in the hospital? why didn' they just dispose of them?
Carla: I thought they did isn't that were one of the guys that attacked Amy?
Susan: but I don't think they had babies
Cindy: one of the guys from the hospital did attack Amy
Susan: right, but they had anti-inhibitors in their meds
Amanda: What chapter is that, Matthew?
Matthew: 64
(end of)
Amanda: Thanks, I have it on my Kindle, so no page numbers, inconveniently...
Matthew: It's interesting that they decide that creativity and intelligence are needed, but they only allow a few people under careful control to have them
Susan: Also - do these practices of meds and mating extend to the scientist class?
Amanda: Yeah. It's especially strange, given that they then also had frozen people with special skills. I mean, I understand that the ship society was supposed to invent cool new technology, but still.
Cindy: I don't think the scientists mates
I think only the feeders do
Amanda: Speaking of technology, what did you think of the wi-coms?
Matthew: Fairly realistic
Carla: The scientists were not well developed. They go down to the feeder level but are still able to run the ship and know that something is wrong but still just keep doing their job
Matthew: And OK except that they don't have an off switch
I think they have sacrificed the potential for brilliance in their science for the ability to keep everyone under control
Carla: Ah i-phone of the future especially since you can see where people go
Carla: But Matthew why has some of the most extensive reasearch gone into goveernment projects
Matthew: Can I get some context for that question, please?
Cindy: "artisits have their purposes...some artists also think outside their DNA replication. We are facinga problem in the engines that decades of intensice researdh have not solved. We don't konw how creativity will manifest itself." then i talks about Harley and how he was given spatial and visual creativity,and became a painter ecen though he could have become something selse with those skills
sorry for the many mistakes
Susan: but those wih special genes weren't told of the problems to work on them - at least that's what I got
Carla: The US government spends Billion of dollars on weapons, spy equipment, and in essence ways to control others. Just think of the Manhattan Project.
Cindy: how can they expect to find a solution to a problem that no one is made aware of?
Susan: yeah I don't know if the author fully mapped out this world :/
Amanda: Re: Susan-- Over time, it was just a lack of trust. The Eldest(s) felt that they had to keep everyone under control. But, it's like Elder said in Ch. 66: "I realize the simple truth is that power isn't control at all--power is strength, and giving that strength to others."
Carla: Did you see the inside of the book cover?
Susan: but then where did the scientists come from and why didn't they rebel?? ahhhh no answeres
Cindy: no
what was the book cover, Carla?
Matthew: Well, I think you can choose between good scientists and scientists who won't rebel, and they chose the latter
By limiting their numbers, keeping them in the dark about the real state of the world
Carla: There is a map of the ship I think it is the one that Eldest sees in the library
Amanda: Ooh, that sounds cool.
Matthew: Amy cover and Elder cover
Cindy: the problem with the kindle is that you don't always get those visuals
Amanda: Here's the Elder cover:
Matthew has left
Carla: Yeah that is it I was just going to Email it but you beat me to the punch
Cindy has left
Amanda: We just lost a couple of people...
Susan: :(
Amanda: I knew Cindy had to go, but not sure what happened to Matthew.
Carla: OH no
Susan: well, a bit off the topic, but I did like the twist that Elder was the one who unfroze Amy
Amanda: Yeah, it seemed like something he would have done at the beginning of the book--but, by the end of the book, he had done a lot of growing up, I think.
Carla: I was think it was Orion the whole time so that Elder would have some one to care for or get off track
Susan: I had guessed that Orion was the former Elder though pretty early on
Carla: Oh yeah as soon as they said that he had a scar on his ear I was pretty sure
that was early on not the one Amy saw
Susan: I love that even though this book perhaps wasn't the most complex or intricate, we still got a very good discussion out of it!
Amanda: Agreed.
I'm looking forward to our next book, as always!
Carla: I think it was a good book it was the first one that I finish with a lot of time to spare, granted I should have been sleeping instead of reading
Matthew has joined
Matthew: OK, sorry, internet troubles
Amanda: Welcome back!
Yes, Carla, it was a pretty fast read. I finished it a couple of weeks ago.
Susan: me three
Amanda: I decided that my bus rides would be bar exam-free zones, so that's when I've been doing my reading. :-)
Matthew: I need more books to read because it's summer and I don't have homework!
Or rehearsals
Amanda: Any thoughts on books to nominate for our next discussion?
We will post something on the blog soliciting recommendations, of course, but shout out any ideas you have!
Or, genres?
Carla: I am not sure how much free time I will have starting Monday so I will pick up whatever you guys decide on
I like Sci-fi/fantasy or mystery
Susan: well I have a list of books that I recommend (though they don't necessarily need to book club ones): Possession (pretty big), Devil in the White City, Hunger Games, The Shadow of the Wind
Philip K. Dick has some sc-fi ones that would produce pretty interesting discussions!
Matthew: Are people familiar with Lionel Shriver's work?
I just read So Much for That, which was interesting
Carla: nope
Amanda: Interesting--all new titles to me!
Matthew: She has a number of novels, of which We Need to Talk about Kevin is the most famous
Susan: I love adding books to my reading list! Unemployment sucks, reading more doesn't
Amanda: I wouldn't mind doing another sci-fi novel, or something completely different. Non-fiction, even. I am in the middle of a lovely book about the history of puns, for example (The Pun Also Rises, by John Pollack).
Matthew: That is awesome!
Carla: you would be
Amanda: lol, yep
Susan: haha
The Devil in the White City is nonfiction - about the 1892 (4?) world's fair and a serial killer who sort of used it to his advantage. the best part of the book is the discussion of the design and development of the White City
also Bossypants is nonfiction haha
Amanda: Oh, interesting! I went to this fantastic exhibit at the National Building Museum a few months ago that was all about the various World's Fairs.
Yes, I just started Bossypants. So good.
Well, gang, I should probably say good-bye soon, but thanks for the great chat and the good book recommendations!
Carla: Okay I am going to let you guys decide. I have to be in at 7 tomorrow for my First day of 4th year. Super excited! also do not get sick in the next month new interns are scary hehe. Amanda hope all goes well with the bar I am sure you will do great. And Susan hope job hunting has an up swing. Talk to you guys later hopefully before we finish the next book.
Susan: ok I know everyone is bisy, but maybe next book do a 90 min discussion?
have fun tomorrow, Carla!
Amanda: Sure, if we have a book that generates that much discussion! :-)
Good luck, Carla!
Carla has left
Amanda: I'll post this chat on the blog, along with a post soliciting recommendations for our next book, and we can go from there...
Susan: well it always seems like we could go longer... :)
Amanda: Agreed. It's just tricky doing it around dinner time...
We'll figure something out.
Susan: very true. Well, thanks for a great discussion and catch you all next time!
Matthew: See you!
Amanda: Awesome. Bye, Susan and Matthew!

1 comment:

  1. Here's a better version of the dust jacket image of the ship: