Kiew

I went to Kiew, capitol of the Ukraine, for a week. A friend of mine was visiting his mother-in-law (lets call her Tamara) together with his wive and daugther and he asked me one evening over a beer whether I want to visit and I had to think about it for maybe two breaths and it was clear – of course I´d do this. But believe me, I had few concerns which of course stem from the political situation but also because of some prejudices I have about former-russian states. I visited Kazakstan in 2011 and pretty much enjoyed it there. There was a wedding going on and we had some adventures in the steppe and endless forests in the north, 4 friends together on a journey. But still, if I should choose which countries I want to visit, former Russia would rate pretty low. Thank god that since my India adventure I don´t have any concerns or fears or bad expectations when it comes to traveling to anywhere – you can throw the gloomiest or scariest looking travel proposal at me and there is chance that I´ll agree, but I´d never say never on the first sight. And this was the case here to some degree but basically it was a no-brainer, thats why I needed only two breaths.

Anyways. I decided to go by train. There is a night train going from Warsaw to Kiew and since I don´t like flying I decided to took it, going from Jena to Berlin, from Berlin to Warsaw, then to Kiew. One day in the train, for two times and I can tell you that it was a very serene, reviving, educational and peaceful experience, a very good thing to do.

                                    

           

           

Once in Kiew my friend picked me up at the crowded train station and we drove 45 minutes with the Metro (which has only three lines) and the Marchutka, small buses with 15 or so seats but with 30 passengers. Transport in Kiew is multi-modal, theres the Metro (fastest), Bus, Martchutka and Tram (slowest) and everythings is dirt cheap, at least for a Westerner, for the Metro you´ll pay around 25 Euro-Cents, the rest is even cheaper. In general the Ukraine is a country where you´ll get around on a stringshoe budget, pack of cigarettes – 1 Euro, beer in a pub – less than a Euro up to maybe 2, transport – see above, vegetables, food on the street – just cheap. But ok, the income is pretty low so thats no surprise.
So we went to have a rich breakfast at Tamaras flat which ended with some liquor since it was my arrival and my first time. I usually don´t drink before noon but hey.

           

                                      

We then went downtown to do some sightseeing and this was quite overwhelming. We went to the artisans quarter, visited Maidan, strolled along the Kreshatnyk boulevard, saw the Rada (parliament) and the Lobanowsky stadium.

                                                               

          

          

                                     

             

            

                                       

              

            

                                             

I guess we walked 100km more or less in weather conditions which I´m definetly not built for, 30 humid degrees with an occasional rain shower in between.
Kiew is a city where you´ll find history on every corner, I´ve never seen a city with so much of a different and long history than Kiev; Rome or Athens maybe, but ok, I´d consider myself only average-travelled. Anyways, In Kiew you´ll find churches, statues or gravestones of warriors, monuments reminding of perils or reminders of of great people of art. But Kiew is still a former soviet city which can be seen on the outskirts where 13-story buildings cover the horizon. I was a guest in one of these for two nights but I got the feeling that it hasn´t been worse or was even nicer than living in one of these areas here in Jena (There are two of those huge socialist-high-story-apartment districts here and I lived in the worse one for half a year during my student time and don´t have many good but some bad memories on this one.). In Kiew even these areas have some flair, each building look a bit different, theres much green and space between them, you´ll find playgrounds for children and small cosy markets, and a nice atmosphere, I never felt insecure there, which basically accounts for the whole journey – no bad shit, no dingy places (ok, we didn´t try to find them), no situations of concern.

Second day was a bit different. We went to a park and met a friend who lives in Kiew since two years to have a chat and some Kwas (delicious bread drink). Afterwards we went to an art exhibition in the Pinshuk Art Gallery which was free of charge (Pinkshuk is the son of Kutschma, a former president, and could be considered an oligarch. So he has lots of money and decided to spend part of it to give the people free art. Make your own decision on this.) and hosted works of Ai Weiwei, Damien Hirst, contemporary Ukrainian artists and as a highlight a performance by Irina Abramowitsch titled “Generator” in which you have to participate to experience it (put on some ear- and eyeblinds and then enter a room with other paricipants. Then you can do whatever you want, walk around, sit, run against the wall or collide with others, for minutes or hours.) – cool experience. The day ended in a bar at the river promenade where we met some friends of my friend, had some beers and talked. Information-wise this was the most productive day.

 

 

 

The Ukraine is in a precarious situation, parts of the country are occupied by separatists and informally under Russian control (thats not the official version though). Huge parts are agricultural and could be considered underdeveloped, going to the rural part and also what I saw from the train was like traveling back in time 20 to 30 years. But the youth clearly has arrived in the western lifestyle without losing that Eastern European charm though. And I´m not sure which way the Ukraine will take in the next month or years and I heard different opinions on this. One was that the occupied parts should be given to the Russians to have some kind of peace, but honestly whats next? First, Russia would not accept this since it would mean to acknowledge the fact that they have been officially involved and second Putin would then never accept that the rest of the Ukraine leans towards the West. In my opinion Putins wants the Ukraine to be a buffer state against Europe and the NATO so one solution might be that the Ukraine buries its dream of becoming a Western state and decides to become something like a Switzerland of the East, being neutral and open for both worlds and avoids having foreign military in their country. And I think that sooner or later the people will vote for a president who is neither pro-Russian (they chased Janukowitsch away in 2014, see Maidan protests) nor pro European but rather modestly nationalistic with the best interest for the Ukraine in mind. The war in the east is a war the Ukraine cannot win, it is draining the manpower and people will be more and more tired of the ongoing conflict.

On day three we went to the Lavra, birthplace of Eastern Orthodoxy they say. It is a complex the size of a village with 10 or so opulent churches next to each other and some famous caves where monks settled down in the 10th century to, well, found a religion. We visited parts of the caves, it was crowded, dark and no photos allowed. If you´re religious then this would be something for you.

 

 

Later that day we drove with the train to Tamaras house in the countryside some 80 kms west of Kiev, check Fastiv on Google. Was a two hour trainride (for 35 cents), train was cramped but I enjoyed the ride. Again, although the train was full there was no hassle, no loud idiots, even the drunkards behaved.
We stayed in the small village for two days, there was a lake to swim, a lot of time to write and draw and let the mind wander. One day some friends of the family came over and we had Shashlyk, couple of beers and talks. Talking to the people was different because only few people spoke english, we tried with translating but its not the same and fucking difficult to get a talk going and we left it be after two or three sentences; it felt a bit sad, I´d have loved to talk more.

 

 

 

 

 

On day 5 we took the train back to Kiev, another ride through town back to Tamaras, had a shower, lunch, prepared some postcards, another ride to the train station and thats it, almost. I boarded the train, got into my routine of reading, sleeping, watching the landscape drift by, listening to music and waiting for the border. We stood at the border for 3 hours or so. First, thats because the rail is wider in the Ukraine so all the wagons have to be lifted and fitting wheels have to be assembled which goes with a lot of noise and is quite spooky actually.

            

But more importantly the Ukraine-Poland border is an outer EU border and the Polish border guys are very, very thorough and took the whole train apart looking for smuggled cigarettes and I think I saw them carrying a waste bag full of them. Strange experience and I felt a bit uncomfortable. Thank god I had two hours to switch trains in Warsaw which have been melted down to one hour because of the border action.
Anyways, in Warsaw it was raining so I didn´t leave the station but rather had half a liter of coffee and a sandwich in the local Starbucks (my first time at Starbucks. Coffee was ok, especially after only 4 hours of sleep).

 

So I boarded the train to Berlin, met a cool guy there and we talked our way through. Arrived there, boarded the train to Jena, no hassle, no shit from Warsaw on, easy going.

Reversing forced right-handedness I – Introduction

A topic came up in my mind during the last months and during the last days I found that I have to delve deeper into it – I´m a left-hander being trained from youth on to use make the right hand the dominating one. And I found that this may explain some of my characteristics, some good ones and some bad ones and what I want to do now is to reverse this process, meaning training my left hand to complete task which I would normally do with my right hand.

My motivation is to test what effect this will have on me, I´ll basically do this for the experience and because I think it will have a positive effect, not in the sense that I´ll become a better person but that I can be in better accordance with my own, to better understand myself.

I´ve know that I´m a left-hander since my childhood, it´s something which has been clear to me my whole life but so far I didn´t pay much attention to it. I write with my right hand (and have a terrible handwriting), I clean dishes with my right, use cutlery like a right-hander, use the mouse on the right side, I use right-hander stuff, it´s normal for me to use my right hands for almost all tasks. But I play table-tennis or badminton with my left and I´m left-footed and this shows that originally my left side is my dominant one, the stuff I do with my right was trained (or I would even say ‘forced’, but this is too harsh since it was not done on purpose as I´ll explain in a second.) on me as a child. But before you think this goes in the wrong direction I want to make a statement here:

Point 1: I don´t blame anybody, not my parents, not the society, not my teachers, nobody. Things were as they were and are now as they are, there´s no point in looking back and feel grief or hate.

Life consists of events which are influenced by fate and one´s decisions. And what I´ve learned this year is that fate can be provoked by doing lots of stuff, take a risk once in a while, to make events happen. Sure, I´ll fall sometimes, make mistakes and feel bad about things once in while, but this is better than doing nothing, taking the easy road and just letting time pass. You only life once, there is no such thing as a second chance. Enough kitchen philosophy for now, back to the task.

So what I´ll do the next days and weeks is using my left hand for mundane tasks, practice writing with my left but also read deeper into the topic and let you know about the results.

If you are interested into the topic rummage in the net for “forced dextrality” “forced right-handedness” or similar and let me know, I´m interested in knowing more.

If you find yourself in the same situation and want to try this too I have a word of advice though: Having read a bit into the topic, trying to switch back to the left hand may not be without risk and there are warning signs from psychologists that this should not be done without professional aid since it is an intrusion into the brain structure and can have severe consequences.

Now I´m not afraid of messing with my brain – I have done this my whole life – and am doing this without any help, because I know myself best and can evaluate things on my own. But maybe you shouldn´t do this on your own – just saying.

Gregory David Roberts – Shantaram

I visited a schoolmate this weekend and had no book with me (which happens once in a blue moon), which was perfect because browsing through his shelf I found „Shantaram“ which another friend of mine proposed to me. So I took and started it and well, the story seems interesting, I like the style of Roberts but most importantly on page 25 there are sentences which blew me away. In the story the main guy meets a woman on the streets and his thoughts go like this:

„The ancient Sanskrit legends speak of a destined love, a karmic connection between souls that are fated to meet and collide and enrapture one another. The legends say that the loved one is instantly recognised because she´s loved in every gesture, every expression of thought, every movement, every sound, and every mood that prays in her eyes. The legends say that we know her by her wings – the wings that only we can see – and because wanting her kills every other desire of love.

The same legends also carry warnings that such fated love may, sometimes, be the possession and the obsession of one, and only one, of the two souls twinned by destiny. But wisdom, in one sense, is the oppposite of love. Love survives in us precisely because it isn´t wise.“

Wow. Except for the wingy thing I think that this is true and having read a bit further, the book seems to contain more of such insights. Looks like a great read.

Anyways, now I have a nice book for the trainride to Kiew later this month, I already thought I´d have to take the Ulysses with me.

 

Let me calculate: I started it beginning of July, finished beginning of November – 5 months for this 900 page behemoth of a book. I feel ambivalent about it.

Roberts definetly has a story to tell, a story about love, hate, crime, redemption, adventure, revenge, forgiveness, hardship, death, joy etc etc. and his style keeps you very close to him and the story. And on every second page you´ll find sentences of wisdom like the one above, most of them quite agreeable, some nah. But on the other hand, honestly after 500 or 600 pages it got me bored quite much and I had to make a decision – leave it at that or try to finish it. And well, I decided or the latter and regret this a little bit because its all repetetive and the story also lacks depth and turns.

Should I recommend it? Don´t know. It´s a great adventurous story which sucks you in the first 200, 300 pages but then… I don´t know, honestly.

Richard Morgan – Black man

Another masterpiece by Richard Morgan.

Black man plays in the same league as the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy. It´s a fast paced, partially violent, more than less complex story of a James-Bond-Terminator-Jason-Bourne lone wolf type of guy who gets things done. It also contains futuristic concepts (Mars colonization yeah) and plays somewhere in the future. The story takes a bit too many spins in the end maybe but hey, actually you don´t want to stop reading, at least I didn´t.

So, if you like hard-boiled sci-fi or fast-paced thrillers gibe it a try. If you´re a fan of Richard Morgan this is a must-read.

What is left-wing politics

This question has been asked and answered a thousand times so here is my opinion. With my 37 years of age I´ve read lots of political theory, have experienced and followed politics, talked about it and although I sometimes feel conservative thoughts getting through these days (because of age I guess) I manifested a left-wing liberalism in my head as the best political concept. So let me write about my thoughts on it.

There is a strange, mostly unexplainable paradox going on in the world: On the one hand more people than ever are complaining about the social, economical and political consequences of global capitalism; on the other hand this protest seems to lack a coherent vision of an alternative society so that this protest remains silent (on a global scale) or people are adhering conservatism and nationalism which both will not change anything. There is a lack of utopias.

One reason for this lack of “enthusiasm for revolution” is that in the western world most people are satisfied with their lifestyle and at most have fear that it will change. This may seem paradox to the sentence above but it seems to be human nature to be satisfied with an agreeable but could-be-better situation than to risk losing it for the chance of improvement.

Another reason why left utopias are very unpopular is that with the breakdown of the Berlin Wall and afterwards the breakdown of the Soviet Union and the obvious failure of the state-socialist system the self-confidence of people who were left was shattered and sometimes eliminated and it was not “chic” anymore to be left but rather one has to defend and explain himself.

But what is also clear after this failure of a huge social experiment is that it cannot be the claim of the left to put into reality a socialist concepts which includes a powerful state controlling everything. In the times of globalisation and capitalistic internationalization these concepts are obsolete anyways.

One of the difficulties left parties are facing today is that politics these days is driven by (mostly economical) necessities which make reformations very difficult, for example the politics of austerity in Europe cannot be abolished from today till tomorrow because there are many players and obligations in the game. The left may have ideas for a better system but it has to be clear that the obstacles to reach these goals may be too high. It is therefore important to accept that implementing left politics will take time, requires endurance and may even be bound to fail in certain areas.

The abstract goal of all left parties is the transformation of capitalistic economical and social order towards a socialist society. Concerning strategic questions on how to reach this goal the parties differ though: Should the transformation be organic reformatory or revolutionary? Is violence an option? Should there be a state-planned economy or small self-organizing production units? Is the resulting society libertarian or authoritarian?

So, how should left politics look like?

It should stand for strengthening international institutions and for reforms inside them, e.g. abolishment of the security council of the UN (this is an old relic from the Cold War and does not represent the situation of power today), reformation of the international finance architecture (IMF, World Bank, WTO) so that these institutions are not helpers of global companies but become adversaries of them, transformation of the EU towards a social union with more participation of the people. This requires international cooperation of left wing parties since it cannot be done alone.

One of the most important aspects of a global left initiative has to be the reduction of poverty in the third world, since this is the breeding room for terrorism and refugee movements which are problems that will become uncontrollable in the future. This is also one tough if not impossible ask since it requires that the people in the Western countries will have to radically question their lifestyle. Whoever does that will not get votes. It is way more likely that conservative or nationalist approaches will be favored. But I believe that more money transfers to countries in Africa, SE Asia, Central Asian and Central American states in combination with strengthening democratic structures in these countries is the only solution to stop the helplessness and desperation of the people there.

This goes hand in hand with protection of the environment, because climate change is another driver for people becoming refugees. The details for environmental protection are all there – establishing local production to reduce transportation, clean energy, taxes for pollutant industries, production efficiency etc. – so I won´t go into detail here.

Next point is regulation of the internet and internet companies. The obvious thing is to create a worldwide legal and tax framework in which companies have to operate. Today many large internet companies are paying very low taxes because they can set the origin of their “product” in almost any country in the world (guess which ones they choose) which is a scandal. Second, ligitable acts cannot be prosecuted because of different or non-existing laws. But the more interesting point is the creation of a consciousness for the dangers of the internet in regards to solidarity and communicative interaction – a very deep pedagogical task for every society. I haven´t read psychological studies on this but I believe that a generation growing up with Facebook (although this may sound paradox) will become more solitary and will show a lack of solidarity towards each other in real life.

Another task for left parties is the reformation of the working world away from the patriarchal system currently established. In most western states a woman has to make a decision between career and family leading to childlessness or dependency of the mother from the father. This can be done with a reformation of the tax system and more support towards educational institutions.

Another important task is the reformation of the social system. The concepts are also all there: a just tax system and closure of tax holes, empowerment of the lower classes, free education and health systems, controlling or abolishing lobbyism.

Socialism

(This text is completely inspired by the book “The idea of socialism” by Axel Honneth and is more or less a synopsis in my own words.)

Socialism developed as a byproduct of capitalistic industrialization in the early to mid 19th century. After the French Revolution most people realized that they didn´t profit from the egalite-fraternite-liberte symbols and that everything went on as before just with different rulers. The main intent of all early socialist projects (e.g. Owen, Fourier) was to give back economic and social control to the state, to reorganize the economic sphere, to end the poverty of the lower working class and give them a voice.

Besides that early socialists were seeing that the two goals fraternite (brotherhood) and freedom were exclusive and that freedom had to be stripped of its character of being only a means for egoistic fulfillment of desires and expanded to a more intersubjectual context. This binds together with another aspect of criticism which was first objected by Marx – the exchange of goods via the anonymous market. According to Marx this will not lead to a social society because every member on the market only acts out of self-interest and for his own best benefit. If this would be exchanged by an “association of free producers” each member would take more care for the needs of everyone around him and not see his benefit first but that of the whole community/society.

The first step towards the goal of unification of freedom and brotherhood is the acceptance of dependence of each member of a society. Each individual requires the others to fulfill his desires and to be free. This leads to the point were basically there is no more individual freedom but only the act of cooperation with other members of the society can be considered as freedom. But still this cannot be considered as collectivism since it´s still about individual freedom; on the other hand it cannot be considered as individualism since everybody needs the community to fulfill this individual freedom. Acknowledging the others as somebody each is dependent on for his own sake will lead to an understanding of equality and not lead to exploitation or other misbehaving – this brings the three principles of the French Revolution together and is the starting point for every socialist thought.

The socialist idea bears some problems though. The first being that early socialists did not differentiate between different spheres of a society (Liberalism in contrary was much more differential concerning all aspects of society) and saw the problem and solution only in the economical area. By restricting the concept of social freedom to an only economical sphere and leaving out areas like family, political participation or law there is no place for political freedom of each and on the other hand a common will (like in democracies) has problems to manifest itself. This problem was later solved by adding “democratic” to “social” but still the gap between attaining social freedom via cooperative production and individual self-determination remained.

Another point of criticism is self-reference of the early socialist thinkers. They had the presumption that the working and the lower class were basically waiting for somebody to free them from feudal and capitalistic production towards a society of free associations. There was no empiric evidence that these thoughts were widespread. This opens the door to theoretical capriciousness because the thinkers only assumed what the people want. It has later been shown (by Horkheimer and the Frankfurt School) that there has also been a tendency to Authoritarianism amongst the working class in the 19th century and that the assumptions of Marx et al. had no real empirical foundation. But of course this can be said about many theoretical political concepts. For today this leads to two conclusions: Either socialism will stay an only normative concept which has to defend against other concepts but with no political impact or substitute groups for the working class have to found with which the ideals of socialism can be put into reality.

The biggest flaw in the early socialist concept is its deterministic and theory-laden view on history though. Marx and his predecessors thought that society will naturally develop into socialism without much ado from the people. Marx thought this for two reasons: First because the main driver of social development is class struggle, meaning that on each step of evolution the former bigger but politically unrepresented group will be in charge and that with the ruling of the working class history will come to an end. The second thought is that social development is a linear process of thought-based environmental control and the next step from the capitalistic way of production has to be the socialist community-based one. These both assumption lead to one conclusion: Socialism is determined to be the next step in social development and the old system has to be abolished completely or to put it bluntly: There can only be revolution. This leaves no way for experiments or reformation and this can only bring illness and is more or less bound to fail.

This either-or thinking also extends to Marx understanding of capitalism. The foundation of capitalism is the market with its horizontal exchange of goods between marketmembers. According to Marx this has to be completely abolished and exchanged by a vertical approach of state-controlled planned economy without giving the market or capitalism the chance to reform. One way to revive the idea of socialism is therefore to undo the equalization of market economy and capitalism.

One of the most important tasks of socialistic theory today has therefore to be to cleanse the construct of market from all capitalism-specific additions to test it on its moral capacity and integrity. For example by analyzing specific markets on their feasibility of free pricebuilding or if the state should regulate them. Or by deconstructing assumptions and premises of economical theory, e.g. does a higher income motivate a person to work more efficient or why is it allowed to make a profit from speculation on the stock exchange although these profits do not benefit the society as a whole?

Also socialism has to get rid of the idea that it only represents the proletarians or the working-class; the group of recipients has to be extended to all people with precarious jobs (science industry, arts, low-paid jobs). The gap between rich and poor is extending continually and the idea of socialism should be attractive for more and more people.

Another task is to extend the concept of social freedom to other spheres of the society like family and development of democratic opinions and not just see it as a problem of the economical sphere. And here one should not follow the liberal tendency and put an emphasis on the free development of each individual but rather establish a common sense of informal togetherness for the benefit of all.

The answer to the question whether the idea of socialism should be established locally or globally cannot be an either or, it should be both. Globally socialism should follow the role of successful NGOs like Greenpeace or Amnesty International and should be an international connected representative organ which pushes ideas of social togetherness and freedom. On a local scale there are of course political socialist parties which should fight politically for the concept of social freedom and implement it into the democracies but not go for a revolution like the thinkers of the first days implied. Also the public should be won for social experiments and the voices of the so far unheard should be included in the democratic process to find solutions for their problems.

Only if every member of the society can satisfy his need for emotional and physical intimacy, economical independence and political self-determination in a way that he can rely on the help and interest of his partner in the interaction, our society could be called socialistic.

Youth is getting reckless

Hey yo, my brothers and sisters in your Twenties, how´s it going? No wait, wrong tone.

GET UR ARSES UP, GO VOTE, SHOW SOME INTEREST IN YOUR FUTURE!

In the Brexit vote the percentage of voters between 20 and 30 years of age has been 25%, three quarters decided to not take position, to be uninterested, to be apathetic. And I assume it has been the same with the US elections. It´s a fucking shame, their future gets stolen by people who have good, economically stable lives but are afraid of change; but change has come to the world and the only way to deal with it is to adapt – the conservative executioners want to preserve, built walls around our pretty lifestyle, widen the gap between rich and poor, look away from the rest of the world and leave them alone with their problems. This political style may buy some time but the heat will rise and not boil down.

The people who voted and are in power now will be dead in 30 or 40 years and are leaving a conservative, anti-liberal mess behind which the young generation has to clean up. But I wonder how they are gonna do this when even today they are not showing interest in politics but rather live their innocent, free, facebooky but insecure lives.

What I want to say is this: If you have children or if you get in contact with young people tell them to show some interest in politics (maybe not in the words at the beginning of this text though), tell them to go vote, tell them that democracy lives from every participant, tell them that their future is in severe danger of turning into a hellhole if more anti-liberal fucks like Trump are elected. My generation is doing their part and more or less votes for the middle but there are many old and bitter people and these days its the youth who tips the scale.

Donald Ray Pollock – The devil all the time

Brutal book, not an easy read. It is full of violence, perverted characters ( and I mean really abnormal like child abusing priests and a Bonnie-and-Clyde-style serial killer couple) with no humor and written in a very sinister language. But believe me, once you start to read and survive to page 10 without putting it away, you´ĺl get sucked into this downward spiral of darkness; this book is fascinating.

The story is manyfold and describes the lives and deaths of several characters in the bible-belt-US between 1945 and 1960. These lives and their either desolate or gruesome inner workings are depicted and meetings between the main characters end mostly fatal.

The main topics of the book are guilt and believe. All the bad guys in the book are guilty of something (mostly of murdering the innocent) and all the good guys are hardcore believers and only toys for the badasses – a bit too much black and white, although there are greyshades and the main character doesn´t fit into this black and white scheme either.

If you get your hands on this book give it a try. It´ll be a short read – either you put it away quickly or you´ll suck it in breathlessly.

Richard Morgan – Takeshi Kovacs trilogy

Well, well, Richard Morgan and his Takeshi Kovacs. These books have blown me out of the window together with the interior of the whole damn room. On my all time favorites list this trilogy would at least be in the top 10. It cannot gamble with “Ulysses”, “Lord of the rings”, “Das Boot” or “Bleeding edge” sure but after these there are a few candidates and Morgan is one of the better ones.

The books are called “Altered carbon”, “Broken angels” and “Woken furies” and are of equal quality, both all three compared and also in each book, you won´t find major divergences from the middle line, which means that if you read 50 or so pages of one book you know what the rest will be like. But this only refers to the style in which the book are written, storywise it´s only one direction – forward.

The story is about Takeshi Kovacs, an ex-black-ops special-force soldier (think of a mixture of James Bond, Jason Bourne with the unscrupulousness of the T1000) and plays several hundred years in the future. Technology has advanced to a point where the whole human brain can be downloaded into a stack and therefore be transferred into a new body. This implies that people are basically immortal. Also space travel and planetary colonization is common, the three books play on three different planets. There is an extinct race of extraterrestrials in the books (“Martians”; winged creatures, but technologically advanced. They have been able to travel space and construct advances weapons etc.) but they only play a minor role, most of the story is human-centric.

The first book, “Altered carbon”, plays on Earth where Kovacs uncovers a ploy amongst the rich. In the second book “Broken angels” he leads a group of mercs and scientists on a war-torn planet on an expedition to uncover martian secrets. In the third book “Woken furies” he is back on his home planet (hundreds of years after his birth), has an encounter with a feminist-religious rebellion leader long thought dead and teams up with old mates to free her from the hands of the ruling family. This book has an exceptional ending.

All of these are full of fast-paced action, violent shootouts and killing, philosophy about society, friendship and life in general, meager dialogues, the occasional (very explicit) sex-scene, all in all very hard-boiled literature, certainly nothing for the faint-hearted.

I´m not sure why I´m so fascinated by these books, but ok, I certainly like when a book has action in it, when the story is pushed forward without much hesitance, when there is some philosophy in it, when there are no long passages of lets say landscape descriptions, also to me most of the characters don´t need depth, I´m fine with stereotype descriptions of thugs, prostitutes, the rich etc. Add to that the sci-fi scenario and basically thats it. These books got me.

Also these books bring up something inside me which is a bit scary and that is the lust for violence, or better said I don´t mind reading about the violence displayed in the book. Now, I´m a very peaceful person and do definetly not enjoy watching horror movies or shit like that. But when reading about it, fine and entertaining – scary, as I said.

All in all, if you want to read some sci-fi and don´t mind the above said things give these a try, I promise you´ll not be disappointed.

Jennifer Egan – A visit from the goon squad

An unspectacular but very good book. Egan won the Pulitzer Price (in 2011 I think) for it. Her language is simple, never ugly or explicit, with strong sentences here and there. I wouldn´t want to have this convenient reading in every book but on the other hand I don´t need the linguistic force of Pynchon or Joyce or the vehemence of hard-boiled sci-fi all the time either.

It is a mixture of a novel and a collection of short stories. It consists of 13 chapters which all tell a story in themselves. The people in the short stories are all connected to a music manager, which gives the book its consistency and feel of a novel. The stories themselves are unspectacular sometimes even dull, although there are two or three scenes in the book where I couldn´t believe what I just read, e.g. [spoiler ahead] in one chapter she describes a holiday from the view of two young siblings, then fasts forward to tell that the 10 year old boy will shot himself aged 28 [spoiler end]; what the hell?

Egan has a nice way to give the characters depth, also because most of them appear more than one time. Also none of the characters are bad guys or complete losers, they could be you or me, which is good for attachment and plausibility. They are shown in everyday scenes, on holiday, at work, at parties; some find their luck, to others bad stuff happens. The main topic about which the book circulates is time; what it does to people and that you cannot cheat time. The title of the book is best described in one of the best sentences in the book: „Time´s a goon right? You gonna let that goon push you around?“