Our friend Lindsay Lajoie saw that we were considering William Gibson’s Neuromancer on the podcast, and admitted on her Instagram that it’s one of the very few books she attempted and could get through. Lindsay joins us for a mini-sode, and we pick apart her reaction, and try to convince her it’s worth another go.
Dukes and Bagg return to William Gibson’s groundbreaking 1984 novel, that popularized the cyberpunk genre. The reviews are mixed. There are moments of brilliance, but does the young Gibson’s drive to “put a hook on every page” lead to more confusion than clarity?
As students, parents, and teachers happily (or wrenchingly) return to school, we invite our resident education specialist, Justin Reich, to talk about stories with teachers. We identify many examples of bad teachers and bad teaching in fiction, and while film and TV often present sympathetic teacher protagonists, we wonder if the Great American Teacher novel is yet to be written.
Whitehead’s neo-noir crashes to a climax, but does it stick the landing? In the end, the Dukes and Bagg wonder if the weight of the the author’s allegory overloads the elevator car laden with plot and character. The lads continue to marvel at Whitehead’s sentences, and sheer originality and ambition of this remarkable novel.
The lads are quite impressed with Colson Whitehead’s debut novel, which packs an allegory about race, class, and futurism into a unique take on hard-boiled noir. Bagg challenges Dukes to unpack exactly how the tone of irony is detected in the novel, and they both marvel over Whitehead’s delicious sentences. Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”… Continue reading Episode 26: “Uplift!” or Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist
Jemisin weaves three major threads into one in the second half of The Fifth Season, but the lads take issue with some of the convenient plot wrapping. Dukes + Bagg remained blown away by the power of imagination on display, but Dukes raises the question of whether the book deals honestly with the moral dilemma at its heart.
The Fifth Season is… a lot. Fantasy? Sure. Sci-fi? Maybe. Allegory? Definitely. The first half introduces us to three apparently different protagonists, with action in an uncertain number of timelines, and the sense that this particular world is about the be transformed. But why? And how?
We hear from you! We share listener summer read recommendations in the form of voicemails and texts. Dukes + Bagg each share a summer reading recommendation, and somehow, the conversations keeps getting dragged back to baseball.
We’re joined by two veteran high school English teachers, each with a summer reading recommendation for a teenager. We talk about about how speculative fiction (including sci-fi, fantasy, horror, alt. history) engages teenagers in different ways, and why magic gets a bad rap among “literary” readers.
Lauren Olamina leaves her ruined home in the second half of Octavia E. Butler’s 1993 novel/theology document/allegory/philosophical text, heading for the mysterious utopia of Branscombe first and then…the stars? Bagg and Dukes try to locate the climax of this work, discuss the figurative vs. denotative nature of the novel, and close things out with some Muppets impersonations.
Parable of the Sower purports to be a work of speculative fiction, but Bagg points out that “speculative” is in the eye of the speculator. Dukes calls it the founding document of a theology that both UMBs find rather coherent and attractive. Whatever the book is, it is the work of a gifted writer, who was overlooked when she was alive, and died too young.
Robin D. Laws, in his excellent book Hamlet’s Hit Points, walks readers through upward and downward beats in Shakespeare’s iconic work. By identifying the rising and falling moods of the play, Laws tracks how Shakespeare keeps a narrative alive and interesting, the true opposite of “flat,” an adjective usually deployed to describe narrative works that… Continue reading Tracking the Beats of Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary
Dukes and Bagg’s challenge each other to recap the second half in three and a half sentences before diving into what makes Weir’s hard sci-fi novel about interstellar friendship so satisfying. Bagg unveils an elaborate beat map [link or insert here] based on insights from Robin D. Law’s Hamlet’s Hit Points, and Dukes wonders what is lost and gained by the mostly happy ending.
Many many many many writers take on “hard” science fiction, and get lost in the science, leaving behind such niceties as plot, character development, human insight, or deep emotional stakes. Somehow, Andy Weir imagines a thrilling and scientifically plausible adventure, that’s really just about friendship in space. Amidst the ammonia, burritos, and penis blood, sits… Continue reading Episode 17: “Bromancing the Stone Carapace,” or Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary
Jonathan Lethem’s climax is fun, exciting, and surprises both Bagg and Dukes by not requiring much action from its already largely inactive protagonist, Journeyman. The UMBs once again consider the virtues and drawbacks of a hapless protagonist, and wonder if post-apocalyptic tales are replacing the western, as the dominant form of American mythmaking.