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Review: Archangel by Andrea Barrett

8 Aug

   

Layout 1Title: Archangel

Author:  Andrea Barrett

Genre:  Short Stories

Publisher:  W.W. Norton

Publication Date:  August  2013

Description: Winner of the National Book Award for her collection of stories Ship Fever, Andrea Barrett has become one of our most admired and beloved writers. In this magnificent new book, she unfolds five pivotal moments in the lives of her characters and in the history of knowledge.

During the summer of 1908, twelve-year-old Constantine Boyd is witness to an explosion of home-spun investigation—from experiments with cave-dwelling fish without eyes to scientifically bred crops to motorized bicycles and the flight of an early aeroplane. In 1920, a popular science writer and young widow tries, immediately after the bloodbath of the First World War, to explain the new theory of relativity to an audience (herself included) desperate to believe in an “ether of space” housing spirits of the dead. Half a century earlier, in 1873, a famous biologist struggles to maintain his sense of the hierarchies of nature as Darwin’s new theory of evolution threatens to make him ridiculous in the eyes of a precocious student. The twentieth-century realms of science and war collide in the last two stories, as developments in genetics and X-ray technology that had once held so much promise fail to protect humans—among them, a young American soldier, Constantine Boyd, sent to Archangel, Russia, in 1919—from the failures of governments and from the brutality of war.

In these brilliant fictions rich with fact, Barrett explores the thrill and sense of loss that come with scientific progress and the personal passions and impersonal politics that shape all human knowledge.

Review by Judy G.:

I received an ARC of Archangel at a book conference. It is about scientific experiments and inventions and the people involved in them. It shows their passion and personal loss and the hardships they endured.

The five stories take place in the span of the two World Wars and the characters and places are intertwined.

Archangel is well written and gives you a look behind the scenes of the scientific discoveries. I found it interesting and recommend it, especially if you’re interested in personal history. It can be ordered from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

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Marty is an organism

26 Jul

Marty is an organism. An organism is defined to be an individual chosen to carry on the activities of life by means of a body consisting of parts performing a function, or cooperating in an activity with separate functions, but all mutually dependent; or in short, a living being. When this organism was born, his life was simple. He was left to his own devices, received the occasional swat from nearby siblings, many smaller than he, though these did leave some terrible scars. He cried and cried until it appeared that he had covered himself with tears in an attempt to drown himself. Eventually, these tears dried and his skin could be seen clearly again, a nice rough brown. Marty has matured into a very big organism and therefore moves very slowly, but with a very determined stride he makes his way onward. Marty is so focused on this journey that he doesn’t notice the parasites and fungus that grow on his skin, he is much more worried about his journey. We find him at a certain point in his journey where he has first noticed a growing irritation on his back side. However this is not a parasite or some fungus, but a virus. And as many other viruses, this will spread quickly.

***

The sun strikes the top of the mountain as the trees gently dance with the wind. The sound of rushing water is heard and disturbed with the cupping of a hairy hand. A creature of some kind has come forth from the edge of a forest, being followed by several others who appear to travel in a similar fashion. These barren bipeds approach their brother and observe silently. As this “drinker” continues slaking his thirst, he glances at his family; his gaze slows as his eyes find the female he is infatuated with. These creatures, their bodies blanketed with matted, stiff hair, lay on the ground, resting from the journey to this sacred waterway. As the majority of this peaceful family rest, a male and the “drinker’s” love wander off. The “drinker,” no longer parched, follows these two, keeping his distance as to not be seen. Back to the woods they travel, male chasing female, until finally they rest in a meadow, tired from their games. The sun, now falling down the side of the mountain, shines on these two, the wind increases, bringing with it several dark clouds, and this pair mate. As they enjoy their minute of ecstasy, rain trickles down from the heavens. The “drinker” sees this and, for the first time in history, a creature feels true jealousy and anger. He grabs a rock, rushes to the meadow, and as he howls with the wind, the rock falls on this pair’s heads. The “drinker” screams in misery, wondering a thought which might be translated as, “why?” He lays in the rain, next to his dead lover and weeps, his fur matted with her blood. He will want more of these intense feelings, and he will find them. The “drinker” has become the first man.

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