The Orbital Children

The Orbital Children is a six-episode Netflix ONA that is about several middle schoolers in space. Some of the children were obnoxious — especially when it came to the social media parts. But overall the characters were each interesting and had their own quirks. For such a short series, it managed to do a fair bit of world-building and hit on some pretty high sci-fi concepts along the way.

It needs to be said that most of the “sci-fi” was pretty bogus. The “hacking” was just clicking a button and having droids shoot lasers at each other. The AI was pretty out there, but the show never tried to explain how an asteroid suddenly turned into a giant AI, so I will just leave it as that…

The ending was quite satisfying, emotional, and left room for a second season, but a second season is yet to be confirmed by Netflix. However, the season summarized two years of events in the last 10 minutes of the show, so I really don’t expect a second season. Most shows that do this are just trying to give the audience a somewhat satisfying conclusion since they don’t know if they will get a second season.

Ready Player Two

Oh boy, it’s time we talk about Ready Player Two, the sequel book that nobody asked for.

I really enjoyed Ready Player One, the movie was meh, but the book was really good. It felt unique, was interesting, and had a lot of nostalgia. Plus, it played an hommage to geek culture with the inclusion of things like D&D. I am a big sucker for 80’s nostalgia, despite growing up in the early 2000s. However, where Ready Player One felt new and exciting, Ready Player Two felt preachy and non-unique. The root of this issue is that the first book was pure world-building and nostalgia. Where the second book skipped the world-building and skipped right towards being a Debbie-downer and preached about real-world events. Not saying that commenting on current events is a bad thing for a book to do, but making it your main plot is a big turn-off for fiction readers.

The main protagonist was cast as an unempathetic villain– the equivalent of the Mark Zuckerberg of their universe. Although the book tried redemption for Wade, it came across as flat. To top that off absolutely none of the problems the book got preachy about was ever solved during the book. Instead, we are left with an ending that just introduces a new technology that apparently makes everyone forget about the handbasket of problems the book started off with. Making social commentary about social media/technology addiction is a good thing– there are amazing books that do that. But, Ready Player Two simply drums it up as a big deal to then completely forget it during the end of the book. Nobody can argue that the conclusion that “Technology Will Solve All Our Problems” is satisfying.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

I can’t believe I waited this long to watch the legendary anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion–aka AVA. This anime was incredible. A pure masterpiece.

Although this shounen anime is about giant machines called Evangelions fighting biblically sized monsters, the action didn’t sell this show. What really sells this show is the incredible character development and the exploration of psychological trauma, loneliness, and depression.

The protagonist of most shounen anime is an energy ball of pure skill and talent ready to leap into danger to save the world. In AVA, Shinji is a shy, weak, timid 14-year-old boy who is always doubting himself. Although Shinji has the ability to sync with an Evangelion, that is only because his very own mother was turned into the Evangelion. We see Shinji crumble into depression throughout the show– and not the kind that shounen protagonists typically just pop right out of. Shinji has a hard time dealing with the pressure of saving the world. Shinji longes for admiration from his father, who is distant. Shinji questions his sexuality and desires with characters like Kaworu and Rei. And most important, Shinji fears hurting others and has a problem with intimacy.

SEELE presents the solution to human suffering as the human instrumentality project. A plan that will combine all of our minds into one entity to fill in each other gaps. The show presents two endings to the show. The first in the last two episodes of the anime explores Shinji’s mind after the Human Instrumentality Project. Shinji learns the importance of individuality and what it means to be intimate with others and breaks out. The movies Death and Rebirth and The End of Evangelion present a darker ending to the story. Although Shinji concluded that individuality is important and breaks out of the singular being, he is doomed to repeat his past mistakes. The ending scene is of Shinji strangling Asuka.

There is so much more that could be said about this show, especially with confusing endings. After watching it a second time, I’ll come back and write a second version of this reflection.

The Prince of Milk

It’s incredible how much the novel The Prince of Milk did: love, philosophy, sci-fi, nihilism, horror, thriller. The short chapters and intriguing plot made this a book I couldn’t put down till I finished it.

With all praise aside for the book book. I first picked it up because I found Exurb1a’s YouTube channel and I binged watched 20 of his videos, and I found out that he was also an author. Not all YouTubers that write books necessarily do a good job at it. However, Exurb1a definitely has a way with words, and it is reflected in both his YouTube channel and his novel The Prince of Milk.

Similar to the novel This is How You Lose the Time War, The Prince of Milk is a story that spans both time and space, but this book mostly focused on a small town in England. There is a rather long list of characters in this book, and it is hard to pin down if we have any “main” characters at all since the narrative is spread out among a dozen people. This sacrificed deeper character development, but it paid off since it managed to tell a vaster story in a shorter amount of time. This is juxtaposed to This is How You Lose the Time War, which only had two really fleshed out characters.

A similar thing could be said for the themes of the book. It was definitely a science-fiction book at its core, but it also had romance, horror, mystery. This amalgamated something very unique and interesting, but it lost its focus, likewise with the science-fiction concepts. The Prince of Milk wasn’t a single science-fiction concept explored to its max and crafted into a grandiose story like a Neal Stephenson novel; Exurb1a gleaned a giant heap of spaghetti science-fiction and threw it on paper to see which would stick with the reader. Not to say that this was a bad thing, I found this aspect fascinating. But, for a relatively short book, it is hard to cover this grandiose vision while giving the reader something salient to walk away with at the end.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip Dick can definitely go down on the list of things you must read to be cultured. This was a short book; however, what it does with those pages, achieves more than several novels that I have read.

This book is popularly known as being the base material for The Blade Runner films. Although the general premise is the same in both the book and movies, there are significant differences between the two. The biggest difference is that the book focuses on a religion called Mercerism. I don’t think focusing on this would have made the movie more interesting; however, it certainly made the book more interesting. Nevertheless, the core discussion of the book revolves around the morality of killing a robot that has human-like consciousness. This discussion is made even more interesting because the main character, a bounty hunter hunting robot, is himself a robot and yet not aware of it.

According to the main character(who is a robot), androids have no empathy making them cold machines that need to be put down. Additionally, he believes that robots don’t have any love for animals -which are held sacred in this post-apocalypse world- and robots won’t do anything to help each other. The test used to determine if someone is a robot measures their reflexes to emotionally stimulating questions. However, this notion of human vs. robot breaks down as the story progresses. If robots don’t have empathy for each other, why is a group of escaped robots protecting each other? If robots can never care for animals, why does the main character spend an absorbent amount of money buying a goat that he spent years dreaming about– to replace his electric sheep.

If robots are empathetic like humans, what rights do we give them? What rights do we give other people? In the book, “specials” were people with mental defects due to the radioactive dust on the earth. These specials were treated as outcasts in society and barred from having kids. Like the androids, the Specials were treated like trash because society views them as inferior to humans. In the book, Mercerism (their religion) suggests that what makes a human is our common plight. To fight adversities by climbing the metaphorical mountain, constantly getting pelted by rocks, yet continue.

At the end of the bounty hunter’s ordeal of killing the newly escaped robots, he ends up questioning his own morality– he is still unaware he himself is an android. Isn’t questioning morality and other philosophical debates the most quintessentially human thing to do?