Human vs Human?

House of the Scorpion, like a number of the other books we have read, questions the nature of humanity and what it is to be human. The revulsion Matteo is given when the Big House staff realize he’s a clone, the injection given to most clones to turn them into dumb beasts, the chips that turn the workers at Opium into “eejits” and even the Keepers and Lost Boys towards the end of the novel. Just like in Blade Runner, Lilith’s Brood and Frankenstein there is the question of whether the clone, whether something constructed by man to resemble man is truly human. Even when that construct is a clone of humanity, identical in all respects, there is still that question. This conflicted question is given greater emphasis with the presence of the eejits, normal humans turned into little better than mindless automatons, and whether they are still “human.” Then the injection given to clones is also an interesting thing to consider. It brings up many questions about the society that would implement such a thing, and make it standard procedure for clones to receive. It hints at the underlying fear of clones, their potential and what they represent. It’s a procedure that emphasizes the “otherness” of clones and shows the desire to protect the “original” from the influence or competition of “copies.” Which makes it all the more interesting when compared to the dehumanizing behavior of the Keepers and the eejits. Real humans who are or at least act less than human in various respects, in a society that fears the potential of clones and destroys their intellect. These juxtaposed groups really speak to the underlying attitude and nature of the society into which Matteo is thrust and provides a rich backdrop for his character to develop and grow to be more human than the dehumanized individuals around him.

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Oversight Committee

The room was dark, the only source of light the soft glow of a row of computer monitors around the semi-circular table. A dozen men in dark suits sat around the table silently watching the displays. The haze washed images coming through from deep space were on a long delay. A much longer delay when one considers the six years it took to get to this day in the first place.

With a barely perceptible grimace I turn back to the display, watching the stasis pods opening one by one on the far distant space ship. First the seals break, steam and other gases spilling from the interior and the broken pressure cables that temporarily obscures the view through the cameras. As the gases clear my grimace deepens into a marked frown, one of the pods is already empty, the occupant gone. Damn that blasted vampire, monstrosities all but… necessary. Sarasti was of course already out of his pod and out of sight, it shouldn’t have surprised him, as a full-blooded vampire he had advantages over his fellow crew. I cycle through the other camera feeds, one by one, but cant locate the vampire. I’m not sure if he is just that good at hiding, or if the ship’s “Captain” was helping him. I returned my monitor’s view back to the rest of the crew as they slowly regained some semblance of life. Siri in particular drew my attention, the so called “commissar.” We could expect his first report relatively soon I knew, I would be interested to see what he had to say about the rest of the crew. A slow smile crept across my face as I thought about the half brained freak, it wouldn’t take him, or the others long to figure out that they hadn’t been told everything.

He watched as the grossly emaciated and shriveled cadavers returned to something resembling life. None of them could move very well, only Bates was actually mobile and even she was pathetically unable to catch a ball bounced off the wall. It was galling to think they had to rely on these aberrant creatures.

“They don’t look like much,” said the man at chair 4.

“No they don’t, but we must rely on them nonetheless,” I replied.

“After all the money, time and resources we have soaked into this project they better be worth it,” grumbled the suit in chair 9.

“There’s little we can do about it now, the Captain and Sarasti have their orders, they will carry them out,” said chair 7.

“Can we be sure of that?” asked chair 11.

“Of course we can’t, but we’ve done all we can to ensure their success,” said chair 2.

“In the end though there are too many variables to account for, we have no idea what kind of opposition they will find,” said chair 1. “If the worst happens though Sarasti is a killer, born and bred, he’ll manage and the others… they are ultimately disposable.”

The conversation continued along those lines for a while, but I just kept watching the screen as Siri and the rest of the crew stumbled to life.


I chose to rewrite the first scene of Theseus because I felt it sets the stage for the rest of the story, and I chose to do it from the perspective of the enigmatic “suits” controlling the mission from back on earth. They’re characters who are integral to the plot in many ways, what is happening and why, but are never really seen or heard. I wanted to try and give them a voice and an attitude, to illustrate their mindset and their thoughts on the mission to provide a counterpoint and explanation to back the rest of the story that’s from Siri’s perspective. For instance, Sarasti getting up and about so much faster than the rest of the crew, I wanted to show that from the perspective of the watchers and their disgruntlement and bemusement on the subject. I also wanted to show the suits attitude towards the crew even as the crew expressed their attitude towards their situations and those who put them there. I made special note to have them comment on the change of plans the crew were finding themselves in and how long it took to get them there. I also had them note the inability of Bates to even catch a ball as she tried to exercise life back into her limbs and the appearance of the rest of the crew. All told I wanted to show the scene, or at least a part of it, from the perspective of those orchestrating things behind the scenes.

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All About the Observations

“I should have been able to tell. She should have been clear,” (p. 274).

Ok so it’s two sentences but they’re little ones. I’m not entirely sure why this line stood out so heavily for me. I think it comes down to the observation and commentary heavy narrative of Siri. For a character that observes in such detail, is so good at reading people, every point where his key strength; his ability to analyze, fails, it stands out all the more starkly. It kind of hammered home how even with all of his skill and experience with reading people his disassociation with others still leaves him at a disadvantage sometimes. It illustrates how his condition exacerbates the problems with his interactions with others. In this case in reference to the title of the novel: blindsight. Trying to identify the nature of the scramblers the character Susan relates their existence to an individual afflicted with blindsight over every sense. An existence that is totally deadened to the environment around the individual. The mental image is a significantly off-putting one but it is when Siri is not able to tell whether Susan believes what she is saying, doesn’t know or is hiding something that strikes me as so interesting every time I read that passage of the book.

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Diary of the Lost


We have the kid, Akin I think he’s called, and I have to say he creeps me out. It’s unnatural, the way he acts, the way he… talks. He’s not human, no matter how he may look now. This whole situation is unnerving. What with Hillmann… empty. No, not empty, deserted but not empty. The kid knows more than he lets on, these things always seem to know more. I don’t like any of this. I know the kid is more valuable than his weight in gold, much, much more valuable. But I still wish Galt had kicked the little monster. I didn’t know it could poison things… I know I’m not going near it again.



We skipped Vladlengrad, saw some Oankali sliding out of the river and up the bank, I couldn’t help shivering when I saw it, they’re just so unlike us, the way they move, the way they think, the way they act. We rowed hard past them and down the left hand fork of the river, my muscles burned and my arm aches from the effort of the hard rowing but I felt much better when we had left the creatures behind. I just want to get to Phoenix and sell off this little hybrid, the sooner the better. We have another boat, we have trade goods, but somehow I can’t shake a feeling of unease. The fondness Iriarte is showing to the kid doesn’t help. More later.

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Trading Species

I’m having a hard time getting into the collection of Xenogenesis that is Lilith’s Brood. The post apocalyptic earth where humans have nearly wiped themselves out is a common theme or background in sci-fi but one I can only tolerate when it is done well. In this case it just seems so staid and combined with the weird alien species that has engineered itself into a dead end, kinda a stupid move, and the images relating to slavery it all just gets under my skin somehow. The underlying message also hits me as less subtle than a truncheon. Suggesting that we need to be more accepting of other races and cultures is a worthwhile message, but that doesn’t mean I want to be clobbered over the head with it. Maybe it is more subtle to others but for me the themes and the message are just too overbearing to draw me into the story. If I cannot be drawn into the story then it is hard to enjoy it. It might also simply be a case of my simply being unable to accept the central plot. The idea of trading species has merit with biology, but usually on the micro-level. I find it a hard concept to accept on a more complex level.

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Gratuitous Violence

I’m not partial to comics or graphic novels in the first place. Even so I was surprised by the sheer level of gratuitous violence in We3. Perhaps that sounds strange coming from someone of my generation but still. I’ve never really seen the need for excessive amounts of gratuitous violence. All is best in moderation after all. As such I found We3 more irksome than cool or even sad. None of it made sense to me and the gore was just not necessary. Why steal animals when strays and unwanted animals are aplenty? Why use a completely non-predator animal like a rabbit? Where did they get the gigantic dog for weapon 4? Why use animals at all? And seriously, animals wiping out how many dozens of soldiers and armed combatants? Dogs, cats and rabbits are not exactly the most violent or predatory animals out there and with their heads exposed and everything… I just couldn’t buy it. Suspension of disbelief failed in this case for me. Perhaps I’m fairly alone in feeling that way but it is what it is. The art style and quality is nice and the story has some compelling components, tweaking the animal lovers heart string is always a safe way to go, but that’s just not enough for me to overlook the unnecessary gore. Plus there were parts that just made me groan, the rabbit dropping a bomb out of his rear end was just well… ridiculous. All told just not my thing.

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Expository Dump Dumped

Why is Neuromancer difficult? What is standing in your way of understanding the novel so far? Explain clearly what the difficulty is, and use specific examples from the novel that illustrate the difficulty. Finally, include several questions that particular difficulty leads you to ask about Neuromancer.


I think the most difficult thing about Neuromancer is the use of exposition or sometimes lack there of in the novel. The book begins without a pause and throws you right into dialogue basically without the introduction or “expository dump” more common in science fiction novels.

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.It’s not like I’m using,” Case heard someone say, as he shouldered his way through the crowd around the door of the Chat. “It’s like my body’s developed this massive drug deficiency.” It was a Sprawl voice and a Sprawl joke. The Chatsubo was a bar for professional expatriates; you could drink there for a week and never hear two words in Japanese,” (Gibson 3).

The opening paragraph above is, as I mentioned, a perfect example of this. Multiple slang references are made in the first paragraph and yet the novel plows ahead as though this is entirely normal and everyone understands. It is an interesting way to establish credibility for the environment and characters quickly but leaves readers a little out of the loop. Curiously Star Wars does much the same thing but movies provide a better medium for this tactic I think.

The book does use exposition every now and then, on page 51 we get a nice explanation of the “Matrix” which is one of the central ideas to the novel and a key aspect of the main character. Yet for all this the explanation is on page 51, a solid chunk into the novel. Usually such central themes and ideas get a serious explanation earlier in most novels. In some ways I felt drawn along as much by curiosity as to what the characters are on about as much as the plot itself.

The obvious questions raised by this difficulty are why did Gibson choose this drip feed method of information and exposition and what differences that ultimately makes in how the story comes together. I guess I’ll figure answers out more as I get to the end of the novel… almost there.




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Thoughts in Response

I noticed my group mates showing a general appreciation for the messages in “The Comet” and I have to agree. Especially given the time in which the story was written the message that humanity is more important than racial distinctions is important and profound. As for the end of the world anxiety or appreciation I found it a little hard to share in those feelings, my thoughts constantly wandering back to Armageddon or something similar and it was difficult to take seriously.

As for the thoughts on The Thing I also must agree that the book has deeper meaning and is both more serious and thoughtful than the movie which is a fairly cheesy horror flick. A lot of the underlying messages and psychological aspects of the story are lost in the movie which takes a much more simplistic approach to the story. However I’m not entirely inclined to say that the Movie is worse, for its time and what the movie in particular was trying to do I think it is a classic example of sci-fi horror. Not really my favorite sub-genre or movie but I can at least appreciate what it was trying to do. It is certainly far better than many other sci-fi horror movies that were produced around that time or earlier.

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Nearly a Shakespearian Tragedy

Another of the biggest differences between the novel Frakenstein and the movie adaptations is, to a certain extent, the collateral damage caused by the drama between Frankenstein and his creation. In Volume III we see the death of Elizabeth, Frankenstein’s father, Clerval, the destruction of the Monster’s Bride and eventually the death of Frankenstein himself and the Monster. This sequence of events always brings to mind Hamlet in the near poetic way in which every major character, sooner or later, snuffs it.

This sense of building tragedy and death is helped along by the distinct pacing of Volume III. The split of the story into Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein in the Borris Carlof movies makes perfect sense with the pace of the novel itself. Building up to the creation of the Monster is practically a story in and of itself, followed by a second very tragic story that immediately follows it. Having already doomed himself Frankenstein goes on to doom those closest to him. In this way the pacing of the novel follows two distinct story arcs, each centered around the creation of a Monster, the events leading to the work and then the repercussions of that act, or in the second arc the repercussions of abandoning that act.

Now I’m trying to figure out some witty or original way to build on that observation but I’m rather Shakespeared out these days so I think I’ll just leave it with asking how others view the deaths filling Volume III of the story?

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Frankenstein on Ice

The comparatively slow pace of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein comes as a surprise to anyone basing their image of the story with the iconic movies about the original Mad Scientist and his nightmarish creation.

More than the pace alone the novel takes place over a wide geographic area, noted in a much more fragmentary way than we are generally used too and covering a longer period of time as well. The various Frankenstein movie adaptations, either serious or comedic take place over a relatively short space of time and predominantly within a single geographic location. This is in stark contrast to the voyage of Frankenstein searching for his horrible creation in the frozen arctic or his more leisurely and less frenetic slide into insanity over a much longer period of time in the novel. These distinct differences present two entirely different effects on the story. For instance, the more immediate pacing and setting of the movies shows a much more rapid and frantic decline into madness and depict Frankenstein in a more caricatured manner. The epitome of all Mad Scientists becomes obsessed and loses most, if not all, of his morals and sensibilities very quickly as the vision of defeating death draws him in. The novel on the other hand shows a more studied decline, a slow period of individual rationalizations justifying ever more questionable actions and directions of research that eventually lead to the ultimate downfall of Frankenstein. In this way the novel makes a more serious critique of scientific ethics and cultural morals in general. Shelley gives us an example of the dangers of the slippery slope. Each questionable morale decision leads to another, which leads to another, and before one notices it is too late to turn back.

This commentary is still very relevant today, the self-same arguments and critiques made of many modern scientific developments and areas of research. Stem cells and chimeras are two obvious examples. This commentary is also far more serious than anything any of the movie adaptations bring to the table. When I first read Frankenstein I had not expected such deep critiques of modern science in a story I thought I knew quite well.

Has anyone else noticed this underlying commentary? If not what does the slower pace and more gradual decline of Frankenstein mean to you?

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