A much-hyped rollercoaster in the 'X-Sector' at Alton Towers in Derbyshire, England.

The key reason behind the hype was that it was the world's first vertical drop rollercoaster. It has two rows of 16 people - the second of the two rows slightly elevated purposely, in order to allow both rows to boast 'front-row views'.

It does not invert at any point, however is still probably the theme park's most prestigious rollercoaster because of the vertical drop.

The motto 'Don't Look Down' was made famous from this ride and is also written on the ground near the rollercoaster, purposely visible from the coaster's maximum point.

Dave was an asshole. That said, Dave was about the only friend Steve had, so he tolerated him. Besides, he paid half the rent and did the dishes occasionally. Plus he made delivered pizza affordable.

Steve was a mad scientist sort. If you mentioned scientific ethics to him, he’d look at you funny. He liked to pick a pet project and work on it for a long time. Trying to point out that his project violated the fundamental laws of physics was pointless – he would either tell you the laws of physics were wrong and he was trying to prove it, or he’d test some sort of explosive on you and ask if it was also physically possible. Usually it wasn’t. The laws of physics weren’t enough to stop Steve from making an anti-stapler. It was a device which could make sheets attached to each other unattached. Whenever he was asked how it worked, he would become strangely quiet and mumble something and tearing the fabric of space time irreversibly.

Steve’s latest pet project was trying to prove there were more than the four dimensions known to exist. But that wasn’t enough – Steve wanted to travel in them, despite not yet knowing if they even existed. He said he aimed to beat the Large Hadron Collider experiment. To do this, he had secretly built a Larger Hadron Collider. Dave once asked him if it could also create miniature black holes and destroy the universe. Steve avoided eye contact, and mumbled something about “not so miniature” and “less than fifty percent.”

Dave was rather concerned.

In any case, Steve went about his experiments. All was as usual. One day, however, he noticeably changed. He stopped talking, he stopped eating and he stopped bathing. The last of these was the only one to bother Dave, but eventually Dave approached him.

“What’s going on man? I mean, I know you’re absent-minded enough to once have left that cold fusion generator at the supermarket causing that terrorist scare, but seriously, you’ve been acting weird.”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“No, I probably wouldn’t, but try me.”

“Ok, you understand how there are four dimensions? The three regular space dimensions, in which we basically have full movement, as limited by stuff like gravity and walls?”


“Then you have time, which is another dimension. You always move forward through time, and can’t control the direction or speed. That’s why it’s different, that’s why it’s strange.”

“I’m with you.”

“Ok, look at this cup. This cup can only occupy the three spatial dimensions in one combination. It can’t be in two places at once.”

“No, it can’t.”

“Not even if, like, two of the dimensions are the same.”


“Well I realised, it’s the same with time. An object can exist at two points in time, even if it occupies the same space.”

“Right. So what does that mean?”

“If you go back in time, there’s nothing there. If you go forward in time, there’s nothing. I built a machine to let me travel, and I saw it. We are a moments away from oblivion at all times. I saw oblivion. We are so close to it, and we can’t do a thing about it!”

“When you say nothing?”

“I mean nothing. I don’t mean just not having anything there – if you look, you can see there’s not even the absence of anything. Absolute oblivion. It’s chasing us, a moments behind us. Do you understand? DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”

“But it can’t catch us, can it? What’s the big deal?”

“Time slows down. As time carries on, our passage through time slows down. Eventually, it’s going to overtake us. We are all going to be beyond dead, and there is nothing we can do about it!”

“Is that even physically possible?”

Steve grabbed at the device in which he had seen the past, and thrust it towards Dave, exclaiming "Look, Look!". By the time he was done, Dave was just as shaken.

“Do you care if it’s physically possible?”


A companion to Deja Vu. Part of Fearquest.

Oblivion is the final collection of original fiction written and arranged by David Foster Wallace to be published in the author's lifetime. The book was published in 2004 by Little, Brown and Company which is a subsidiary of Time Warner.

There are eight stories in this book. They are: Mister Squishy, The Soul Is Not A Smithy, Incarnations of Burned Children, Another Pioneer, Good Old Neon, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Oblivion, and The Suffering Channel.

This is an unusual book. 

If this book happens to be your first exposure to Wallace's fictions or you are considering reading it after an abortive previous attempt with a different or longer book, take heart. The stories in this book well-represent the intricacies of plot and narration which Wallace uses to explore his themes of alienation, boredom, chicanery, despair, entertainment, finagling, grandiosity, hubris, imagism, and je ne sais pas.

This is Wallace at the height of his maturity as an author and for that reason is a preferable entry point into his oeuvre. You will need a good dictionary but no matter how good your dictionary is, you will need a secondary reference. Coffee or some other stimulant might also help during some of the slow-building parts of the first two stories. For other stories such as "Incarnations..." or "Good Old Neon" the prose may overstimulate you.

All of the stories in this collection are meticulously arranged in a thematic progression which becomes more clear upon completion of the cycle.

As is typical of his writing, Wallace exercises both constraint and restraint as well as flouting any notion of such matters wholeheartedly. Many of the stories involve multiple jump-cuts and asides and parallel actions and subplots and reveries. There are rather few footnotes. Themes of medicalisation, psychological horror, corporatism, hyperbole, innocence, (religious) fanatacism, and tragedy are all included

The first two stories, Mister Squishy and The Soul is Not a Smithy, in particular almost seem as if Wallace were adapting a Chris Ware comic into prose. As alike as they are in form, these first two stories could not be more different in topic: the former concerns corporate machinations in a focus group for snack cakes while the latter concerns a young boy in a tense schoolroom hostage situation who daydreams about his father taking a break from work. "The Soul is Not a Smithy" (which takes its title as a refutation of the vow to art which Stephen Dedaelus takes at the end of Joyce's first novel) is a prolonged meditation on boredom, a topic Wallace was pursuing at the same time in his unfinished novel The Pale King. It is likely that this story grew to stand alone as a discard from that posthumous work.) 

The shortest piece in the collection, "Incarnations" seems to be indefinitely available online at Esquire. It's a doozy. You may read it here.

In "Another Pioneer" Wallace employs some tricks of nested narration to explore how myths are made.

The story "Good Old Neon" speeds across the page, right from the opening line of "My whole life I've been a fraud". From there the author and narrator do the sort of high wire act which can only end one way. This is the sort of story that grips you by the throat and forces you to take stock in what really matters to you in life while simultaneously reconsidering the very nature of time

"Philosophy and The Mirror of Nature" is a more subdued tale of a socially awkward boy on a bus with a spider. There's shades of horror film tropes and echoes of the work by a certain pragmatist philosopher which shares the name of this story.

The title story, "Oblivion" is nothing less than Lynchian. Lots of involutions here. Don't expect it to make sense until the end.

The final story, "The Suffering Channel" reexamines the nature of entertainment, a topic explored in greater detail by Wallace in his novel Infinite Jest and his seminal essay on television in the 1980's (the latter may be found in his collection "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again"). "The Suffering Channel" takes its name from a fictional cable channel that specializes in schadenfreude. The story is stylistically interesting in its use of arrows to convey chronological movement towards a certain event that more or less set the tone for American life in the new millennium.

So. Read this book if you think you like to think.

Read it when you are going to be on an airplane for a while or in a car or otherwise find your mind restless. If you try to read this book while tired, your progress may at best be halting and you will more than likely grow frustrated. Or maybe you just won't get any sleep until you finish each story. 

329 pages total

ISBN: 0-965-91478-x

Oblivion (2013)

I'm one of Tron: Legacy's biggest apologists. I saw the movie as a feature-length music video. I think its soundtrack is Daft Punk's strongest album. The visuals are sharp and pretty enough to keep the eye amused, and the storyline was largely incidental. Sure, it didn't have a single memorable line of dialogue. Sure, Michael Sheen was clearly acting in a completely different movie from everybody else in the production. And any kind of serious science fiction statement it was ever trying to make - the grand themes of science, medicine and religion promised in the trailer - were clearly quelled by Disney for fear of being remotely controversial, which is to say, thought-provoking. And yet every movie is the work of many hands, and it's statistically improbable that none of those hands will have any skill. Tron: Legacy clearly had a lot of love put into it. My particular highlight is the computer interfaces seen in the real world, used by Cillian Murphy's character to stop the hack at Encom in the beginning, and then the huge, ancient Solaris box that Garrett Hedlund's character discovers. While the actors are just poking imaginary buttons, you can see realistic prompts and command histories. While it's not entirely clear what Clu is trying to accomplish by driving his aircraft carrier thing at the exit to the Grid, the score pumps it up to something that's close to gripping. The movie was like a cake made entirely out of icing: far from filling, but icing is still nice, right?

I was ambivalent about Oblivion, even on the basis of its trailer, until two things happened. I discovered that the score was by fellow French electronic band M83, and I discovered that it had the same director, Joseph Kosinski. I went in with broadly similar expectations: a feast for the eyes and ears, with a relatively light plot tying matters together. As long as the movie didn't actively insult my intelligence, I'd be happy.

Oblivion borrows heavily from many sources of science fiction: Moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Half-Life 2, Portal, Rendezvous With Rama, Wall-E, Planet Of The Apes, Blade Runner, Independence Day. In fact, if you take all of those works and lay them out, you'll cover Oblivion almost completely. This should not be construed as criticism; the comparison, in most cases, is favourable. Filmed largely in unspoilt black wilderness in Iceland, it takes place on an Earth which has been invaded and successfully blasted into oblivion by aliens known as Scavs. Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough form a two-person team whose job is to repair the drones whose job is to defend the vast water-powered offshore fusion reactors whose job is to supply power and resources to the Tet, a gigantic orbiting space station where the rest of humanity lives.

All of this is revealed in an opening narration by Cruise's character, whose first name, in accordance with US film industry regulations, is Jack. Right out of the gate, Jack Harper's narration gives us some hesitation. Defend the reactors from what, exactly? Why, from the few remaining Scavs on Earth. But didn't humanity win? Well, perhaps not entirely. In what sense did humanity "win", anyway, given that there's nothing left of its world but the Washington Monument? These inconsistencies are not accidents, but Jack and his teammate/lover Victoria accept their scenario unquestioningly. After the standard science fiction day-in-the-life tour of Jack Harper's world, his cool little white aircraft, his improbably dust-free ultra-modern glass home in the clouds, and his comparably sterile relationship, a standard science fiction kick-off-the-adventure event happens: a antique human spaceship crash-lands, containing a woman (Olga Kurylenko) whom Jack recognises from his vivid recurring dreams.

Much of the movie from this point onwards can be predicted easily, but I urge you not to be that person. I singled out Blade Runner as an inspiration because Oblivion, similarly, is a movie which works in terms of some fairly broad concepts, using long dialogue-free sequences to let the concepts breathe and to let the audience soak up some atmosphere. It would be easy for you to instead use this time to start jumping to conclusions about what's going to happen next, which plainly isn't the intention. Themes are artificial intelligence, fate/predestination, identity, warfare and religion. This time around, they actually do get more than lip service paid. Some interesting messages come out, which I'll cover after the jump.

There are points of weakness. Although the technology, gadgetry and architecture are impressive and nifty and sweet, "colourful" is not a word that can be applied. There's an excessive reliance on the old teal and orange palette, particularly in indoor/underground scenes, with plain white often replacing teal, just to make things even less interesting to look at. It's almost the photographic negative of Tron: Legacy (which was orange/teal/black where this movie is teal/orange/white). There's a smattering of action sequences: they look good enough. They pass the time. The dialogue serves, but still isn't in the same league as "quotable". Many of the characters, I would call sparse, seemingly only existing to join dots up without embellishment. But another way to describe them might be "elegant". It's a reasonably simple story, all things considered. Perhaps additional complexity would have just felt arbitrary.

The score is not a point of weakness. M83, like Daft Punk before them, have created something not entirely like their usual fare, but risen to the new challenge with confidence and capability. Pretty enormous events transpire in the final act of this movie, and M83's soundtrack amplifies these events to an extent which, as I say, rather flips the score/movie relationship around, and makes it the movie which is playing catch-up in the emotional stakes, trying to construct a story momentous enough to fit a work of music that was pre-existing. Their final track, played over the closing credits and also titled "Oblivion", could be the best thing they've ever recorded.

Oblivion is better than Tron: Legacy in almost every respect, is a step forward for Kosinski and, as big-budget widesceen blockbuster sci-fi goes, is not immediately forgettable, which in my book makes it great. There is something good here. This is a recommendation.



Oblivion has two messages that I can see. One of them (relating to warfare) is quite amusing: if you find that your home has been invaded and destroyed by a vast, faceless, technologically advanced civilisation who wants to plunder your natural resources but honestly couldn't care less if you live or die - a civilisation which defends its property using unmanned drones and cookie-cutter soldiers raised on a diet of disinformation, such as "the war is over" and "we won" - then the best way to fight back is using guerilla warfare tactics and - I kid you not - suicide bombing. Yeah, I'm saying that this is a movie in which Morgan Freeman plays Osama bin Laden. I mean, I could be wrong. But then, why don't the invaders just harvest hydrogen from a nearby gas giant instead of stealing perfectly good water? Oh, right: because they're lazy jerks who don't care enough about ecology to develop something better than what they've got. IT'S A METAPHOR.

The other message relates to religion. Jack Harper is a mindless adherent to a religion which withstands no scrutiny. He dutifully follows the instructions of his priest/prophet, Victoria, who in turn relays those instructions from their shared God, Sally, to whom Jack himself is never permitted to speak directly.

Until the very end of the movie, that is. Hence my belief that the other message is: if you meet God, kill her.

There is a region dark and dun,

Whereto we slide but never run;

Which early was from chaos won,

Yet marks nor metes nor bounds has none---

They call that land, Oblivion.


No bells are there with clanging ring,

No birds are there to twitter and sing;

To reach its borders you must bring

Yourself to the edge of everything,

And then drop off---poor scatterling.


In rusted quiet are the vanes

Upon its spires; the window-panes

The spiders' workshops; naught complains

Of fears or throbs or aches or pains,

While wandering o'er its foggy plains.


It is the realm of Nowhere, where

The listless dwellers have no care,

No bitter past, nor future fair;

Memory and hope are useless there---

Hence from their eyes that vacant stare.


The ghosts---for dwellers there are those---

Have long time since, with many throes,

Stripped from themselves both flesh and woes,

That to the air, which coldly blows,

Their naked souls they might expose.


As in a dream they go and come,

Their voices ever hushed and dumb---

(Bees, straying there forget to hum)

They need not senses to benumb,

Hemp-juice nor wine of opium.


For reading they have little knack,

Although of books there is no lack,

All bound in suits of dullest black,

On which the worms have left their track---

The whole world's literary wrack.


Monarchs who ruled o'er kingdoms vast,

In olden ages dead and past,

By later monarchs overcast,

As shall Napoleon be at last,

Stalk those dominions grim and ghast.


Poets, who deemed their idle song,

Had perfect rhythm, amply strong

To shield it from the critic's thong,

There, with their lays forgotten long,

Silent and sallow, ever throng.


There struts the votary of the stage,

Who from the old poetic page,

Portrayed the grief and fear and rage,

Meant by the bard as lessons sage,

To gazers in a former age.


The sage and stern philosopher,

Dull gravity's prime minister,

Who let no passion pulses stir---

(Deeming who felt had stooped to err)

Moves aimless there, a wanderer.


Old thoughts, with proud and stately air,

Old projects, wonderful and rare,

Old promises, well-meant and fair,

Old grand designs, beyond compare---

Forevermore are floating there.


It is a land of fogs and mist

Which sunlight never yet has kist;

And that is why to it, I wist,

Move slowly the somnambulist,

The dreamer and the rhapsodist.

Thomas Dunn English, from The select poems (1894)

Ob*liv"i*on (?), n. [L. oblivio, akin to oblivisci to forget: cf. OF. oblivion.]


The act of forgetting, or the state of being forgotten; cessation of remembrance; forgetfulness.

Second childishness and mere oblivion. Shak.

Among our crimes oblivion may be set. Dryden

The origin of our city will be buried in eternal oblivion. W. Irving.


Official ignoring of offenses; amnesty, or general pardon; as, an act of oblivion.

Sir J. Davies.

Syn. -- See Forgetfulness.


© Webster 1913.

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