Jumping off the Planet – David Jerrold

JOTP(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Science fiction isn’t normally my thing but this book came highly recommended from someone whose judgement I trust (and our sister groups in Cardiff and London have read and discussed it.) so I thought I would give it a go. Once I got into it, I quite enjoyed it, though it got silly towards the end and my reading pace slowed down.

There are some perennial issues – world economic problems, dysfunctional families and a tug of wars between estranged parents and the effect that this has on the children. Currency speculators shift money around regardless of the effect it will have on people, some of whom will die of hunger or during war.

The father takes the children to a colony on another planet and there is a toy monkey that is a bit like those dolls that teenage girls look after from school – the ones who need feeding and changing.

The middle teen has a strange take on jazz, but then again it’s new to him: I didn’t know anything about historical jazz—which is nothing. like the stuff they call jazz now—so I listened to something called A Love’ Supreme. And I hated it. I didn’t get it at all. But I kept listening because I wanted to know What that guy meant by “so fucking subversive” that I kept listening and listening; even though all I really wanted to do was rip the headphones off and wash my head out. ….Knowing that the music, wasn’t about love for.. .a woman but love. for God. was interesting .-but it wasn’t the music. And knowing that this part of the music was really Coltrane reciting a psalm through the saxophone was interesting—but that wasn’t the music either. ….Jazz isn’t music. Jazz is what happens when the music disappears and all that’s left is the sound and the emotion connected to it. Jazz is a scream or a rant or a sigh. Or whatever else is inside, trying to get out. And when you listen to it like that, you don’t have to understand it. All you have to do is get it. And in the middle of the night, with my headphones clamped to my head, in the middle of a scorching saxophone riff that had to be about anger and love and frustration and hurt all wrapped into one gritty scream of sound, I got it—that sound was about how somebody felt and right now’ it was about how I felt. And I got it. And after that, whenever I wanted to get away from Mom or Dad, but especially whenever I wanted to get away from Mom and Dad, I went to the music and the music I went to was John Coltrane, and I’d listen with my hands holding the headphones tight to my ears until I heard the sound that eras me, and then I knew I was all right. I wasn’t alone. There was someone else who knew. Or who had known. And it was all right for a while. A little while, anyway.

The middle son (and narrator) shares the teenage male obsession with pubic hair.

Mention of a ‘beanstalk’ meant I kept thinking of Jack and the beanstalk.

Mention of planet Betelguise seems to have been in homage to Douglas Adams.

There is the unlikely climbing (and even swimming) through space at one point towards the end.

Does the earth rotate anti-clockwise? I though it was the other way round.

I had to look up ‘amortized’ = The paying off of debt with a fixed repayment schedule in regular instalments over a period of time. Consumers are most likely to encounter amortization with a mortgage or car loan; The spreading out of capital expenses for intangible assets over a specific period of time (usually over the asset’s useful life) for accounting and tax purposes.

‘Boogers’ is the American term for ‘bogeys’ and apparently they are important – they protect the lungs.

space elevator14 years after this book was published, I read on August 289th 2015 that a key element in this book was about to become reality: According to Thoth Technology Inc., the company that was awarded the patent, the U.S. patent allows for an elevator that would be 30 percent cheaper than the fuel required by a conventional rocket. Also, the system would be fully reusable, further reducing costs, the company said.

“Astronauts would ascend to 20 km by electrical elevator,” inventor Brendan Quine said in a statement. “From the top of the tower, space planes will launch in a single stage to orbit, returning to the top of the tower for refuelling and reflight.”

Quotations:

“Y’know, people say that kids are the hope of the future—that a baby is the human race’s way of insisting that the universe give us another chance. But I don’t know. Sometimes it feels like a baby is just another chance to screw things up even worse than before.

Not having- anything to do is a lot more tiring than having everything to do. But I think we were tired of each other. I know I was.

I knew what my ethics teacher would have said to that. People who negotiate loopholes for themselves are criminals in training. He said that most people see rules as some kind of burden that someone else makes them carry—like Mom or Dad but the rules are really agreements that we make with each other on how to behave so we can all get along. And when we don’t follow the rules, it’s like breaking a promise -everybody at once. Break enough rules and nobody will trust you anymore.

Parents think kids are just little programmable robots.

“Everything’s connected to everything else. If we don’t have any connections; we’re lost.

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