In this Hugo winning short story, David Brin looks back into our modern history to postulate a probable, though completely fictional explanation to Fermi Paradox. His interesting yet unclear universe includes Crystal Spheres – invisible envelopes, around every galaxy. Unlike the usual sci-fi route of metaphysical arguments, Brin’s Crystal Spheres are completely materialistic with seemingly protective intentions – like Kandor in Fortress of Solitude or dust cloud surrounding planet Krikkit in Hitchhikers.
Background of the story involves futuristic Earth with Interstellar travel and deep space dwellers,and Milky Way with ‘broken by accident’ Crystal Sphere. What troubles me is the entire breakage of so called gargantuan envelope in one single impact, whose physics and existence are completely unfathomable. God would have been like, ‘I need to shield every universe from each other, lets get the most brittle material for that’. Anyway, since then, humans were on an active SETI mission that ends in one solid clincher- unbreakable Crystal Spheres enveloping other universes. At the wake of the novella, a deep spacer is called for duty , on discovery of a broken Crystal Sphere, which could be humanity’s First Contact, and bright answer to many disappointing frustrated years.
Brins argument actually aligns with the progressive Segan thought (aliens exists) and the relatively hegemonic yet pessimistic Hart- Tipler (where are they if they do exist) thought. Though fascinating and full of imagination, story didn’t work well with my rigid mind.
- Included in The River of Time, collection, 1994, Bantam Spectra.
- A well read audio version is available under this link starshipsofa
There were few things I couldn’t get my head around. Unnecessary word building, the whole idea of fixing cosmic stuff as Shards from Crystal Spheres and the voting out of night from Earth(?) would be a few. Also the incentive of meeting intelligent life seems far less convincing for suspended animation (or stuff) of a whole civilization (Natarals),since it practically bookends progress, leaving them inferior to the very intelligent life they seek so badly for.
Binti is a Nebula and Hugo Award winning novella and below review covers only the first installment of an ongoing series. An ambitious Wakandan-ish girl, also the very first person from her tribe to leave the planet, is left with the heavy responsibility of universal peace as some Romulans– ish race butcher her Starship, which was on its way to Oomza University – this story’s StarFleet Academy.
One is often insecure about his stand when it comes to registering his like or dislike towards a culturally or ethnically diverse work; which often leads to a personally unjust review, under peer pressure or the fear of being branded by the adjectives for intolerance, non progressiveness and their kins. I am unable to get my head around this old school racism or sectarianism, that forms the basic framework of Binti (also some how limited to protagonist’s particular tribe), considering the extremely diverse and pluralistic Intergalactic society, story’s universe is based on.
Okorafor is a really good writer, and I heavily appreciate the prose which consorted well with tribal girl narrative, and the non pretentious word/world/culture building; but as far as science fiction is considered, story is solid meh.
From a whovian perspective, the philosophy of Binti would be something like this – Hey, I can’t accept Martha Jones, but Sontarans are cool.
But, Afrotourism? Really?
Bint(d)i- the red dot that decorates an average Indian lady’s forehead.
Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I wish I had more stars to give and more pages to read.
Honestly this review covers only the eponymous story and I read it after watching first trailer of ‘Arrival’. Expected something of Contact sort, never in my head crossed what it really was during the speculative process of determining what it could be. The writings of a mom to her daughter, those wore some of the most beautiful things I have ever read. I found myself standing in train absorbed in the copy, never caring to check for seats or station.
Big alien ships out of nowhere like Childhoods End all over the world and a linguist is hired by government to establish communication with the visitors. Stuff like Calculus of variation and Fermat principle of least time seems elementary to them, the very stuff I dozed off in last weeks lecture series. Now I am stuck with Whorfianism and sorts like below in my head. Human ear is adapted for the sounds of human larynx and so forth with every other sensory elements, and perception outside usual neurotic receptions would certainly be overwhelming. Also we as well maybe limited in our capabilities and thought processes by our language and senses.
Anything more will be rendition and spoilers. And keep an eye on the usage of tenses through out the read. Totally a non zero sum game 🙂
“It amuses me,” Sir Geoffrey said, “how constant it is in human nature to think that things might have gone on differently from the way they did. In a man’s own life, first of all: how he might have taken this or that very different route, except for this or that accident, this or that slight push—if he’d only known then, and so on. And then in history as well, we ruminate endlessly, if, what if, if only … The world seems always somehow malleable to our minds, or to our imaginations anyway.”
This novella is mostly the unusual adventures of an antediluvian secret society, like the anarchist one from Chesterton’s Man Who was Thursday, except its quite state obedient and is run by the likes of Rip Hunter’s Time Masters with a Victorian agenda- not letting the Sun reach any west over the great Empire. More like an Adjustment Bureau functioning behind a Narnia cupboard unaffected by Time and Space. Tiring at times with all the orthogonal logic of past and future, mirthless even, having it all explained in comported polished long sentences. But hang on till the splintered timeline starts making sense and enjoy the ride.
I happened to read the free sample chapter and immediately buy myself the rest then and there itself, rather unusual of me. And later learned the very existence of Cecil Rhodes, who wanted a secret society to ensure supremacy of British Empire over centuries, intriguing conspiracy theory material there. Also multiverse, negated past timelines, finding one self over time, manipulation of history in this brilliant, hugger mugger tale.
Like those very time travelers who returned to a present, not truly the one they departed from, post read me seems to have returned to a better bitter self. Definitely going to re read and with my limited knowledge I would like to classify this as advanced read in the time travel genre.