Thursday, July 13, 2006

Reviews: The God Equation and The Great Philippine Space Mission

Download The God Equation and The Great Philippine Space Mission from the Fully Booked website.

If the previous two stories could be lumped together because of their common genre, then we could do the same with these two stories, "The God Equation" and "The Great Philippine Space Mission." Nevertheless, how doubly fortunate for me that they should follow consecutively in the alphabetical list, as they are both parodies of contemporary pop culture entertainment. Only one seems to intend it, though.

With a title like "The God Equation," the reader is promised something profound, thought-provoking, and controversial. The story even begins by quoting a news report of a murder in the Vatican, thereby promising intrigue. And yet as the tale picks up, you realize that this is less of "The Da Vinci Code" as it is a pastiche of The Matrix and Neal Stephenson with some crime noir thrown in.

In place of agents and adepts chasing each other in a virtual reality world, you have angels and demons in an eternal cold war. It's very Matrix-y, and it's obvious all throughout. The characters speak with an amoral and inhuman superiority; they can take over the bodies of people; and they use the word "anomaly" a lot.

But what about the God equation? It's supposed to be a mathematical formula that's going to prove the existence of God. Leading up to the revelation of the equation is a whole lot of intellectual posturing that borrows from popular math books and Carl Sagan's Contact. Then, the unveiling...oops, the grid of computers is still computing the answer. What a letdown, but why bother? We already know the answer is 42.

Really, the God equation is just a red herring, an excuse to paint for us this ongoing shadow war between angels and demons. It's almost forgiveable because it's a smooth read, the pacing is good, and there are hints of good concepts. I say "almost" because as I try to recall the story now, all I'm really left with is a sense of annoyance because all the time it's screaming: "Look at me, I'm so cool and smart." Just like the Matrix, "The God Equation" is all style and no substance.

"The Great Philippine Space Mission" is a comedic parody, and unlike "The God Equation," it is at least overtly so. It doesn't try to be too smart, and in fact seems to revel in its silliness. At the same time, it also has some good pacing and a moment of suspense that makes you want to see how it reaches its happy ending.

The plot: space shuttle crew needs to land on a comet to save the world. Sounds a whole lot like "Armageddon?" It is, and that paternity is acknowledged (and twitted) within the story. I will tip my hat to the author for creating a unique circumstance for such a mission: a hyperreactive element is converting all the oxygen in the atmosphere and so a counteragent from the asteroid is needed to reverse the process.

The plot device: the space shuttle is powered by chismis. How's that again? Well, you'll have to read the story for the explanation, just don't try to think too hard. Here, the story borrows from "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," but uses the Metaphysical Drive in place of the Improbability Drive.

Since the shuttle is powered by gossip, you need to put the celebrity with the highest concentration of gossip field around her. Now, that's positively inspired. I'll hold off on the disclosure of said celebrity, but it's an appearance that's played for laughs. Pity that this role isn't played out to maximum effect, though, either for the humor or for the pathos.

That's my problem with this piece. It would have been a whole lot funnier if the characters didn't look like cardboard cutouts. I understand that it's comedy, therefore all the more reason to exaggerate the mannerisms to cartoonish proportions. As it is, the author doesn't seem to go far enough, which is an interesting counterpoint to "The God Equation" in which its characters actually do.

2 comments:

  1. Aw, come on. I liked "The Matrix", Keanu Reeves and all.

    That is to say... I only liked the first movie, and I constantly try to forget the other two in order to preserve my memories of the original. I assume that "The God Equation" could be comparable to such an experience, only it doesn't have any sequels that can be cut out. It could have been written a lot simpler, and it would have been a lot more readable if that were the case.

    On "The Great Philippine Space Mission", I'm still wondering how gossip could possibly be used to power a propulsion system. The story offered no explanation at all, right? I get the feeling that the author deliberately intended to have us walking around with the absurd concept stuck in our heads. (Much like actual gossip, interestingly enough.)

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  2. I guess I was taking "The Matrix" as a whole. Can you say "anomaly?" The story is too much like Matrix (the parts I don't like) that it's already worn out its welcome. But that's just my tastes kicking in.

    You're right: "Space Mission" is more magic than sci-fi. I wouldn't think too much about the gossip field; it's just plain sillines. More than anything else, this story is a typical Pinoy fantasy. Unfortunately, it becomes a one-joke wonder. But I'd give points for the originality of the situation.

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