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Simon Stålenhag

Teoksen The Electric State tekijä

9 teosta 1,068 jäsentä 52 arvostelua 3 Favorited

Tietoja tekijästä

Image credit: LA2

Tekijän teokset

The Electric State (2017) 350 kappaletta
Tales from the Loop (2015) 345 kappaletta
Things from the Flood (2016) 227 kappaletta
The Labyrinth (2020) 105 kappaletta
Urtidsbilder (2019) — Kuvittaja — 12 kappaletta
STALENHAG SIMON - LOOP - STALE (2017) 2 kappaletta
Flood (2021) 1 kappale

Merkitty avainsanalla





I enjoyed the television adaptation, when it was initially released on Amazon Prime. Years later, I'm coming around to Stålenhag's "narrative art" books. I like what he does, but I like even more how it was brought to life for the screen. The device of using a child's recollections is great.
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mpho3 | 15 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jun 7, 2024 |
Very dark, depressing, spooky, and beautiful.
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markm2315 | 4 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Feb 3, 2024 |
Another brilliant work, in which a seemingly advancing society still thrums with the undercurrent of a dark and mysterious past that threatens to resurface. In some ways, it's an illustration of how we can never escape the things we've made or the things we've done as a human race, even as we remove all the physical signs of its existence. In this installment we follow the narrator through the next phase of his coming-of-age journey - being evacuated from his home for three years when the decommissioned Loop floods, and exploring more of the tech-ridden landscape with new companions. The same motifs occur as in the first book, but with a new dimension: it's no longer a series of idyllic childhood expeditions but more of a growing discovery of the xenophobia and cruelty of humans, in parallel with our narrator's struggle with acceptance among his own age group.

One example that painfully struck me was "The Vagabonds", where fear ultimately decided the fate of these sentient robots which had fled one massacre in Russia... only to be rounded up a second time by the Swedish locals. And yet the robots' conduct seemed at worst simply childlike - they settled in abandoned houses, worshipping living creatures and collecting bright, soft objects out of fascination. It's yet another statement of how this world can be a cruel place, crushing those who are not prepared for it and had no choice in the matter, whether they are humans or robots, and how this cruelty may simply be a part of our nature. The narrator himself exhibits one such moment when, frustrated with an AI teddy bear that won't talk, he points a gun at it and finally receives a response.

Yet another, more horrifying dimension is added to the book when it turns out the flood might be more than just water clogging the Loop - and this is where I found some parallels to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which turned up a species of fungi that consumes radioactive material. In Things From the Flood an "unknown biological component" infects the hulking machines in a macabre and fascinating way, producing growths that look like flesh and blood and even, in some cases, entire series of limbs. Once again, as with Tales From the Loop, there's that quality that comes with anecdotes where you have no way of confirming what's true and what's false, and yet you can't help but suspect that the strangest rumors of why this happened might actually be true. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I found myself sympathizing more with the robots than the humans, because all things considered they were created and brought into the world without a choice, and were doomed to destruction whether by human or alien hands.

On another note, the brief cyberpunk-like glimpse into city life (and the accompanying artwork) was so neatly conceived. I found the concept of vertical cities intriguing - entire megabuildings containing thousands of apartment units, with entire schools and subways on the bottom level, definitely seems like something a futuristic world would have to free up land for various purposes. The logistics of such a place would be mind-boggling but fascinating to consider. And this setting is also where the familiar phantasmagorical images of The Electric State begin to show themselves, from creepy grinning cat balloons to deceptively cheerful floating billboards. Once again I'm utterly impressed by Stalenhag's comprehensive vision of this alternate-universe dystopia, and I would love to know the process through which he created all this.

Finally, the ending seems to take us full circle - "closing the loop" as it were, even as we're reminded that what is buried does not always stay that way. The narrator returns to his home with a faint feeling of loss that he manages to shake off as the immediacy of everyday life begins to set in again. It really illustrates the fleeting nature of human memory, how quickly we can forget the darkness of our history, and I love the hints sprinkled here and there that the Loop and its mechanical children may not be completely gone.

Definitely recommending to all my sci-fi enthusiast friends!

Adding my favorite quotes to come back to later:

"Somewhere out there beyond the cordons, beyond the fields and marshes, abandoned machines roamed like stray dogs. They wandered about impatiently, restless in the new wind sweeping through the country. They smelled something in the air, something unfamiliar.
Perhaps, if we had listened closely, we would also have heard it. We may have heard the sound rising from the forgotten and sealed caverns in the depths: the muffled pounding from something trying to get out."

"In everyday life, our surroundings only shifted slowly and subtly, such as altered designs of door handles and alarm switches, a soft color change in the glow of streetlights and lightbulbs, or a new font on the signs in the subway... Each is a minor change, but often, when looking back at them all together, they are as glaringly obvious as a sudden industrial collapse."

"Change is the dynamo that slowly but inevitably drives our society forward, while past days are clouded more and more in mystery and myth. The dynamo only spins one way - there are no return tickets to the land disappearing in the mists behind us."

"In the twilight hours, it is hard to discern the details marking the passage of two decades. It is hard to separate memory from reality; my mind fills out all the blurry sections. At dusk, the field looks like an ice-covered lake. You could almost believe that the flood is back."

"They were called vagabonds. They were an odd group, and were fascinated by colorful fabric, complex patterns, fur, and feathers. Anything organic and soft was exotic and highly valuable to them, and they seemed to have developed some form of religious worship of biology and nature."

"I happened to glance out at the landscape outside the window and was struck by a brief sensation. It was a sense of something having been lost, but also a sense that I was already forgetting what it was. I shook the feeling off, turned up the volume on my stereo, and returned to more important things - in thirty minutes I was supposed to be at Martin Hagegard's party and my hair had to be just so."

"Somewhere deep within the bedrock, where the nation kept its radioactive waste and where only machines labored, there were now endless rows of echo spheres filled with concrete. If we had been able to linger there without being incinerated by the radiation, and if we had been able to put our ear to the spheres, we might have heard it - the nervous heartbeats of something in there, slumbering restlessly."
… (lisätietoja)
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Myridia | 12 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jan 19, 2024 |
A hauntingly beautiful and visceral work of art that once again reminds me what a privilege it is to walk through this artist's imagination.

The book reads like a series of vignettes interspersed with illustrations that made my heart ache for a world I never lived in. Some of the paintings have such a dreamlike quality, with hazy edges as though remembered distantly, from a childhood long ago - so that even as they depict moments of childhood against the forbidding technology of the Loop, they still remain so human and nostalgic. It made me think of my own childhood and the bleak landscape that it was set in; the stories speak to the resilience, adaptiveness, and even optimism of children in their ability to seek out things that give their lives meaning even in a dystopian environment.

In other words, this is a remarkable instance of how pictures can be worth a thousand words, but also how a few words can tell us so much about humanity and about ourselves. Stalenhag is phenomenal at depicting how small we are against our enormous, magnificent and terrifying creations, either as extensions of ourselves or manifestations of our lofty goals - and yet there are some things that, just as the description states, are instantly recognizable. The ebb and tide of human life continues in spite of the constant danger and disturbance, and we are presented with an eclectic cast of characters illustrating the different ways people react to the unknown. A touch of the macabre here and there makes it all unforgettable.

And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn't admire the science behind the science fiction. I love the interspersed snippets that read like little ads or informational blurbs, as well as the strange rumors that are never fully confirmed or discredited. The vast mystery of the Loop and its effects on space-time; aerial travel via the magnetrine effect; artificial nervous systems and sentient machines that are sometimes as lost as the humans in this alternate universe. ("The Escapee" particularly tugs at my heartstrings and I would love to see the side of the story from one of these robots.) The possibility of time travel, both for us and for creatures that came before us (the dinosaurs come to mind, along with the giant two-legged robots that look, walk and turn in ways strangely reminiscent of them). And then there is Nature slowly but surely reclaiming what is left of our abandoned forays. One of the final pieces of art accurately illustrates just that - the end of a technological age in a bleak landscape of man-made structures, broken-down humanoid robots sitting in disarray beneath gray skies.

I could probably go on for hours about the thoughts and emotions that this work invoked, but I'll simply end with some quotes that stuck with me:

"Small flares of light swarmed above the mounting around the tower. They danced in the cold air, emitting soft siren calls that echoed in the valley."

"Some days are like jittery, malicious clockwork -- sometimes things freeze mid-movement and we age several years in a few seconds."

"Suddenly, our machines were bestowed balance and grace previously reserved for biological organisms."

"I remember at the end of August, when the vacationers started to migrate back into the city and the guest pier was deserted, you could hear the distant breaths of the vane turbines rise and fall under the water, like monotonous whale songs in the chilly water."

"A moist mass of cardboard boxes, pillows, and mattresses had erupted from the front door, like the house was vomiting forth its stomach contents."

"If I look at my memories from the side, that weekend is a black line, like the dark boundary in the rock layers left by the disaster that killed all the dinosaurs."

"A new and dark inner landscape had opened up, and we wanted nothing more than to talk about it. We abdicated from childhood, tried to learn how to talk as adults, and shamefully glanced back at our playgrounds."

"... and then we returned to our old playgrounds like zombies around a mall. We sat wedged into the swings outside the school, or crouched in someone's old treehouse, smoking stolen cigarettes."

"We walked in long lines through winter nights, and you could see little points of light go on and off in the darkness - cigarettes smoked by teenagers who had gathered around their wrecked memories, like a requiem.
We made our nights our days, squinted at the horizon, and sighed. Way over there, the morning dawned."

An unforgettable book that will always have a place on my bookshelves.
… (lisätietoja)
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Myridia | 15 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jan 19, 2024 |



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