Dawn by Octavia Butler

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According to Jewish apocryphal traditions, Lilith was the first woman whom God had created along side Adam, before Eve. When Lilith was repeatedly persuaded to be subservient to her husband, Adam, she deserted Eden, revolting against God and her husband. This act of defiance has characterized future legends that epitomize her as manifestation of chaos, seduction and everything apostasic. In modern interpretations though, Lilith is an exemplar for feminist movements, for being a woman who stood up against dominance and subjugation. And for Butler’s post civilizational dystopian universe, that doesn’t have a God or any promised progenitors, I found the choice of protagonist’s name or the series renaming- Lilith’s Brood very fitting, allegorically and narrative wise.

tumblr_oqmsqmEkT91r1u2w8o2_500.gifDawn, as the name rightfully implies, opens with a proxy God scenario. Earth has been left uninhabitable by an obscure nuclear war, and what’s left of mankid is under the cryostatic protection of an alien race called the Oankali. The Oankalis are a very alien Alien species with Medusa-ish body hair, Cthulhu tentacles for sensory receptors, Karellen-ish face and strange names(“Kaaltediinjdahya lel Kahguyaht aj Din“) that makes you wonder whether the author had accidentally bumbed her head on keyboard and decided to roll with it, or was being ridiculously imaginative. This Childhood’s End soon escalates into Overlords awakening their Stormgren- Lilith Iyapo in this case, 250 years since the war, with the intention of repopulating Earth with humankind. But there is a disturbingly weird catch. Something far more unsettling than the proposition of Monks from Doctor Who or maybe even that of Clarke’s Overlords.

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Karellen from syfy’s Childhood’s End. I can’t even imagine how Oankalis would look in a screen adaptation

The Oankalis are perhaps the strangest species I have ever read, both in biology and psychology. As repulsive as this sounds, they have terrifying sensory tentacles all over their body, three sexes as a species, ability to manipulate genetic biochemistry and an entirely different perception of the outside world to which our sentience is rather handicapped in comparison. Though it is easy to go to generalizations with the what is left of us as and the Oankalis as a species, this book evades the appropriation by presenting grey scenarios; Where it is difficult to assert right and wrong, for characters as well as reader. Dawn is reaction driven than character or plot, right from the very inception where Lilith is recruited as prime emissary for the new world order to her conflicting loyalty towards humanity and its godly captors. The book has captured the moral confusion, acceptance of apocalypse and prospectus of strange future from now captivity, rather beautifully. I loved how subtley, it reminded me of racism and xenophobia, and how futile it looked when another species is in play. And how imaginative, though a bit unsettling, the concept of bioship and biological manipulation was in comparison with our industrial contraptions. In addition to this technological incompatibility, genetic dissimilarities made them all the more alien, with reasons to doubt and fear. And author seemed to have let the events just unfold, in all its messiness, confusion and partisian conflicts, without passing any judgemental remarks or assigning any moral codes. It was hard to objectively blame anyone as the possibility of humankind being like pets or Oods to an Ood looking odd species in itself sounds pretty terrifying. And it took me a while to make peace with it.

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Lilith by John Collier and Watchers as per Noah movie/graphic novel

I couldn’t help but compare the Onakalis with Enochian Watchers from Bible. In Aronofsky’s Noah they were depicted as Rock giants helping the selected ones pursue the ways of God, with minimum possible interference. This obvious appendage to Lilith allegory might be an overkill, but Oankali’s refined yet nonchalant attitude towards humans, even with the weird proposition for co-operation, sounded like something that would eventually become a legend, holy or unholy, once humanity is completely revamped as a civilization. Leaving these far fetched metaphors aside, Dawn felt well written and fast paced, if not completely reassuring. Loved the prose and I was gripped till the end, though it took me some time to decide whether the disturbance I felt were good or bad. Some feministic undertones could be interpreted from the lead being black and female, but, it might beat the purpose if not fun, as humanity itself is reduced to double digits. And just when I thought the book couldn’t get any more stranger, it surprised me by being even weirder. Definitely going to explore the rest of the books.

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No, I haven’t; still

Anyway, the weeboo in me was amazed by the fact that, Butler’s aliens haven’t permeated into the hentai market yet, to which their sexuality is seemingly begging for. Well, there is still time and resources at the disposal of this really strange place called internet.


 

Lilith’s Brood is a collection of three works by Octavia E. Butler. The three volumes of this science fiction series (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago) were previously collected in the now out of print volume, Xenogenesis. It has been picked up by Ava DuVernay, Charles D. King’s Macro and director-writer Victoria Mahoney for adaption into a television series.

source: wiki

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Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

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Central plot – a technically dead off world mercenary is hired by a murdered millionaire to investigate his own murder.

I couldn’t help but imagine Altered Carbon’s as a spinoff from Hyperion’s Brawne Lamia – Keats storyline or as a salty gritty take on Sheckley’s Mindswap. In Morgan’s futuristic pseudo dystopia, Earth is no longer the centre of human civilization and science has successfully dichotomized human body and consciousness. Physical bodies are more like interchangeable vessels (sleeves) and identity or memories of an individual is stored in a chip based cortical stack that can be downloaded, transmitted, broadcasted and even insured. This stack consciousness can be transferred organically or hyper spatially through ‘needlecast’ and be resleeved into a different body, even interplanetary-ily and at a speed faster than light – very similar to Hegemony’s Farcasting and Webworld if you ask me. This forever changes the concept of mortality, morality and death as we know it, since anyone with enough resources can, technically, extend their life as long as they desire by resleeving themselves into cloned organics. Or an Orwellian government can keep citizen stacks in perpetual storage. Anyway, in this futuristic cyberpunk premise, Altered Carbon surprises by being a hard-boiled detective story, a noir locked room murder mystery.

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I was constantly reminded of these three masterpieces during the read

The politics and philosophy of this world is intriguing in so many ways and also perplexing with our contemporary conventions. Also, the universe of Altered Carbon feels more believable now that than when the book was initially released, thanks to the ever increasing exposure to wireless technologies, cloud computing, wearables and STEM cell research. Novel’s very concept of mind body Cartesian duality and technological metempsychosis of consciousness has serious ramifications on the way we perceive morality. For example the recurring graphic violence gets the philosophical justification of it being replacable organic damage, and death as something that a resleeving can fix. It also raises questions like “Who are you when you are not in your body, to yourself and the people around you?” This also braces religion with multiplicity of souls, spirituality and metaphysics of rebirth or afterlife. In fact, Catholicism is presented as a progress inhibiting adversary in this novel with its negative stance on relseeving and clone storage. I was repeatedly blown away by the immediacy of the technological concepts book had to offer. On the explanation and exposition side, an appreciable balance was kept between the hard and soft extremities of science fiction spectrum. Still the believable futuristics and fast paced cinematic narrative wasn’t enough to take me over the general frustration I kept having with the novel.

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Still from Netflix adaptation. Looks like the stage for book’s iconic snuff shootout (could be an iconic moment in TV history, if done properly)

Morgan’s already uptight prose suffered from digressions and plastic dialogues, at least in my eyes. Every time I entered the universe, it offered something impressive and had my attention unaltered for a while. But the moment I put the book down, it looked like an ordeal I don’t want to resume. Plot line was derivative and the murder mystery was off the spotlight less than halfway the book, it was still a good incentive though. Takeshi Kovacs was presented as this hyper masculine antihero to whom everyone in the story is somehow drawn into, no matter how much of a dick he is. The backstory of Ryker’s body or Quell excerpts or Envoy flashbacks or even the first person narrative did little to make me cut any leeway for his actions. Bancroft, on the other hand, was a complacent Meth(book’s term for people who resleeve extensively, after Biblical Methuselah) with a femme-fatale wife and disparaging view on women in general. Everything was overly sexualized in this world, and even with the blurred philosophy I wasn’t able to digest the snuff brothels, unaccounted brutality on bystanders and sexual violence. Author’s efforts to justify them with the premise made it all the more infuriating. His angry dig on religion and neurachem induced Envoy combats made me look back to Hyperion again, to Dure and Kassad, and Forever War.

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It was really weird to be repeatedly impressed by a book and be frustrated over it time and again. Maybe Kovac’s Westworld would have found better audience in my younger self.

 


Altered Carbon is the first book in Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, followed by Broken Angels and Woken Furies. It is getting a live series adaptation from Netflix and is scheduled for 2018.

Artemis by Andy Weir

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I often get confused between Andy Weir and Ernest Cline, and there was a part of me that got excited mistaking Artemis for Art3mis, and hence a Ready Player Two. But after enduring months with the opening chapter tease and having my expectations already raised by Egg, Martian and even Lacero, I must admit to being massively disappointed. This might be an over statement, but in all this author confusion I am inclined to tag Artemis as Wier’s Armada than a worthy successor of his debut novel.

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Artemis Station Plan

Artemis is a lunar colony, a space version of Bioshock‘s Rapture city, and functions under a hierarchical society that follows a post-modern caste system. Built under the patronage of Kenyan government, who had gone Sri LankanSpace Elevatorpath with geopolitics here, Artemis provides home and employment to a considerable number of humans in Tourism and their indigenous Aluminium smelting Industry. Book opens up with impressive topographical sketches of Artemis stations and does a fairly good job in designing a sustainable functional ecosystem in Moon. Written in first person monologue format, the story unfolds through the eyes of a first generation Artemisian and is confined mostly in Conrad Bubble, which is basically an affluent Belt favela from Expanse universe. Our protagonist is a Saudi girl, Jazz, with name of Jasmine and lifestyle of Aladdin, and a weird obsession towards poor life choices. Weir explicitly and repeatedly states the genius of Jazz and her state of life being her own edgy choice than lack of options. But, like her Dad and acquaintances around, I too was not impressed by her or the course of events.

uk-scientists-announce-crowdfunded-mission-moon.jpgThe diversity and the cosmopolitan culture of space station, though conspicuously forced, were commendable, and I enjoyed the small town treatment of lunar bubble in consideration. The cultural contrasts between Earth and Moon, though through brief epistolary side narrative, was well expressed. Even with this edgy diversity and ecumenical lunar immigrant city life, the novel’s near future wasn’t free of clichéd stereotypes. Like the semi centennial Hollywood tradition of killing off the black guy first or making the Asian guy in the guild either a nerd or a Katana expert, Artemis had its own weird conventions. Working classes, for some reason, were from Middle East, tourists were majorly Americans, crime syndicate from Brazil etc. And to me, this cronyistic nationalism and sterile approach was a huge turn off, considering story’s futuristic premise surrounding a lunar colony. There was even a closed room geek who pretty much manufactured every tech the plot needed, and he, with his shady business background, was conveniently a Slav.

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Appolo 11 Visitor center, the major tourist attraction of Artemis

I remember the reddit AMA where Weir answered Doctor Who to a question whose answers of choice were Star Trek and Star Wars. Not sure whether its this predisposition or his weak attempt to attribute references just for the sake of it, the NCC 1701 code breaking felt like ‘trying too hard to stay mainstream’ to me. In fact he didn’t stop there, and went off the narrative to insert an unnecessary and misplaced Han Solo reference as well, like crossing off some list. I love them both, even Who, but its a bit cringy when contemporary literatures find themselves compelled to make passing references, by any means necessary. The contrast was all the more visible, since other pop culture comments felt so natural and aptly placed. Watney‘s SOL log styled quirky monologue and well conveyed science, in my opinion, are author’s strong suit; and novel’s ‘Jashn Bahara’ easily rendered this style irritating by being an arrogant snowflake that somehow enjoys infinite lifeline. The science also felt misplaced at times too, like author had decided to write down everything in his research, no matter what the question was.

Rather than being an alcove into life in Moon, the novel was invested in being a panegyrical record of its young delinquent’s jagged adventures. And Weir based it so much on the central character that everyone else felt like some insignificant yet obligatory NPCs, who were there to just nod and propel her narrative. She wasn’t any help either.

Or like Jazz might say, “In comparison with the red planet castaway, Artemis was just a glorified cheap slugged gunk, if you know what I mean.”

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

The hype in ‘Hype’rion is real. This book is awesome.

Picture1.pngEntering this story was like entering a chat room full of veterans, as a total noob. There were no expositions, no introductions, no explanations on the world order  for a highly allegorical story filled with passing references to things unknown. Yet, by the end of the book, I found myself transformed from “What is a Shrike?” to “What the Shrike!

The background is set in a distant future where humanity has spread across the galaxy under a decadent society aptly named as Hegemony of Man. Hegemony often finds itself in conflict with the original inhabitants and ‘intergalactic Ronins’ called Ousters, in their coercive efforts for incorporating every planet to their farcasted WorldWeb. Almost all of mankind’s technologies are controlled by an agglomeration of AIs known as TechnoCore, which also predicts future by extrapolating events from past and present, like Psychohistory in Foundation. The Ousters and Technocore, for half explained reasons, are obsessed with strange structures called Time Tombs in the distant planet of Hyperion. Time Tombs are surrounded by an anti-entropy field and are said to be under the protection of a legendary time traveling creature called Shrike. Seven selected individuals are sent on a pilgrimage to time tombs by TechnoCore for aiding Hegemony in imminent war for annexation of Hyperion to WorldWeb. If I may do a frail comparison with The Expanse, Hegemony is UN, Ousters are OPA, Pilgrims are crew of Rocinante and Shrike is the protomolecule in a macro scale.

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The Romanticist(John Keats) and the romancer(Dan Simmons)

Hyperion is also the name of an abandoned epic poem by 19th century Romaticist John Keats, and this novel draws huge parallelism with Keats‘ life and works. Along with that, the novel also expects readers to be familiar with Norse terminology, Biblical stories and many other things that I had no first-hand knowledge of. And further, the narrative treats readers like they are already familiar with the surroundings as much as any other Pilgrim is. But a well-conceived story line with fine prose, fascinating characters with well-developed stakes make the reading highly enjoyable even without any of above predispositions. Also I found the multiple pov unraveling of the universe more enjoyable than the usual biased view through the perception of a single character.

‘In Medias res’ is the literary practice of opening narrative amidst action; it enables the author to bypass superfluous expositions through variegated time lines and dialogues. Most of Hyperion’s story or story telling happens in a physical space by that name, where Simmons takes us through the intricate details of universe through character flashbacks. Rather fitting, I would say. Each Pilgrim story can be considered as a standalone book, and this seemingly fix-up structure with inside epistolary stories feels somehow supple even with main narrative’s expansive nature. Usual tendency among interconnected stories is to weave characters and events with each other through different vantage points; but here the stories more like separate novellas sharing same universe as those of Culture or Revelation Space. In a weird way, whole exercise reminded me of LOST.

Simmons has been offering theological, historical and literature allegories throughout the stories; often provoking our thought in its powerful narrative. Hyperion, Time Tombs and Shrike are a mystery for every faction in the universe to which everyone is somehow connected. Whole pilgrimage and Hyperion seemed to me like an allegory for purgatory and redemption. Each character has got his/her personal interpretation of Shrike and their own personal artefacts; like God being a different concept for each individual and faith being as personal as it can get.

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the Shrike Pilgrims

In Priest’s tale, Fr. Dure was modelled after historical figure of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the celebrated Jesuit palaeontologist who was exiled by Church for allegedly fabricating archaeological evidences of Piltdown Men. Bikura tribe, Tesla Tree and Cruciform were direct allegories towards the philosophy of afterlife and resurrection in Christian theology. I found it amazing and terrifying at the same time, along with story’s subtle critique on blind beliefs. Kassad’s space opera was spoiler filled and a bit timey-wimey like that of the Doctor and River Song, and was perhaps the weirdest among this weird lot. Third story involving the Poet Martin Silenus felt like a loose adaptation of Keats life, which could be tagged as paraphrased slash fiction. Sol and the ‘curious case of his daughter’ Rachel was the most compelling and emotional story for me. For Sol, Hyperion was the Moria Mountain for his personal binding of Isaac. Brawne Lamia’s (Lamia is the name of a poem by Keats) hard boiled cyberpunk detective story had the central plot of Altered Carbon up its sleeve as far as I was concerned. By the final story involving Consol and consequences of time debt in Interstellar travel; the universe has been wrapped up pretty nicely, though an excessive usage of Planet of Hats trope was hard to be ignored.

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confronting Shrike

After planet fall their ship Yggdrasil(the Nordic tree of universe) is said to have been destroyed by Ouster attack, and I couldn’t help but connect the burning of cosmic tree with end of the world, Ragnarok; thanks to Marvel. Time tombs and mystery of Shrike felt like a Skynet plot even from the interpretations of Ousters or AI. Also Simmons has done a commendable job in establishing the technological asymmetries between colonies and the Hegemony via farscaping and Hawkings Drive. I absolutely adored his attention to detail towards ways of old earth that tends to pop up now and then with romantic reverence, whether it is the usage of carpets or mythology or nomenclature of old technologies with archaic terms, like Benares for the Barge. Things were mostly explained as status quo and left to be picked up in the reading process. For example, Silenus house having real time windows to different planets had left me perplexed during Poet’s story, only to have it later explained by Siri (yes, Siri) as farscaster portals in Lamia’s story. I loved this style of writing and it left me like a teen who just got treated like an adult like he always wanted to have.

I would totally understand the criticisms against this novel though I have a strong leaning towards book that invests on plots over characters. The whole thing feels like an extended prologue or pilot episode; And the abrupt ending does kind of feel unconventional, like you have watched only the first half of movie Inception or MCU coming to a halt just before the first Avengers movie. If one has been waiting for a Then There Were None style big reveal at the end, or some clear explanations about the eeriness behind Shrike, the disappointment is all the more justifiable. But the whole thing worked for me, like the story being a book example for all those coffee mugs quotes and self-discovery movies that venerate journey over destination. I was rather blown away by the sheer scale of things, ensemble of genres, nonlinear narrative structure and the massive word and world building. And to me, the ending was ingratiating; maybe not in a comprehensive sense, but rather like a noob who has discovered his knack in a new game.

Keats never finished his poem, and Simmons leaving the first book in Hyperion quartet unfinished is strangely fitting, considering his fixation on the Poet. If it’s any consolation, I found The Fall of Hyperion quite satisfying and equally awesome, if you are up for the effort.

A Descent into Maelstorm by Edgar Alan Poe and Maelstorm II by Arthur C Clarke

A Descent into Maelstorm by Edgar Alan Poe

A-Descent-Into-the-Maelstrom-SDL174885084-1-b9b8cTianming‘s Fairy Tales from Death’s End bought me to this 1884 born extended grandfather of science fiction.

In this proto science fiction story, Poe’s Narrator recalls his miraculous escape from a whirlpool(Moskstraumen), with chilling accounts of his terror and helplessness against natural forces. But instead of succumbing to the morbidness, narrator tries to make sense of the danger he is in, with reason, hence the sci fi / math fi categorization. Readers do have the usual incentive and freedom to consider this as a horror story in conventional sense, or to question the reliability of narration, with its prevailing story inside a story structure.

O_AlexandreSerrano_Maelstrom_5b.gifPoe even star notes an Archimedian work (obviously fake), as his reference material for floating body dynamics in fluid vortex. Still, I somehow kept expecting some weird supernatural or unknown horror from Nordland, till the last word, like in Algernon‘s Willows of Danube.

——

Maelstorm II by Arthur C Clarke

This short is Clarke’s space homage for Poe’s proto sci-fi survival story A Descent Into the Maelstorm. Due to some electric failure on launch rail, the freight catapult is handicapped from attaining lunar escape velocity and Cliff Leyland, the sole passenger on board is stranded on moon. While he is contemplating on life, universe and everything, Ground Station engineers a daring escape plan that could turn his hair white.

tumblr_om8bbzO7ta1r2aobgo1_r1_500.gifFor some reason, Clarke’s agrarian reminded me more of Weir’s Watney than Poe’s fisherman in this brief space caste away. The short story can be found in the compilation edition –The Wind from the Sun.

And it is undoubtedly one of his best.

Death’s End by Cixin Liu

DeathsEnd_titleDeath’s End is by far the darkest, longest and the most expansive of three books and is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, but in its own terms. When you wrap your head around the scope of this cosmic saga and ruminate on it like the title says, the intricately engineered story line, where everything was seeded in with careful future consideration, feels all the more epic.

While the 3BP opened with Red revolution and Dark Forest with detailed scanning of Chinese alphabets, Death’s End prefaced on a more familiar non eastern account – the fall of Constantinople. This western centric or rather international approach was a prevailing characteristic of the narrative, though story kept transcending inter gallactically. Wake of the novel is the failure of deterrence between Earth and Trisolaris under the new ‘sword-holder’ Cheng Xin, a female rocket scientist, and humanity’s efforts to evade annihilation in the Dark Forest universe. ‘The Staircase project’ is the first brain child out of this desperation, which sends a human brain for Trisolaris to intercept. Like the propagation mechanism of staircase project, readers are taken through the splintered timeline of Universe’s history, via main protagonist’s hibernation cycles, with divulged informations and throwbacks to previous legacies.

I didn’t have much patience after Liu’s direct reference to Bester-‘The Stars our Destination’ project, and my initial taking a sip of the book got elevated into full course dinner. Destruction of 187J3X1 by Luo Ji’s spell reminded me of Clarke’s Star, the Twilight Zone version in Dark Forest and original interpretation in this installment. The message in the bottle and unfolding of Universe from Garden of Eden state were reminiscent of The Last Question, though not directly referenced. Jovian space stations resembled Cooper Station of Interstellar or Rama in construction, and Liu traced it as far back as Poe’s Maelstrom. The initial existential questions of how natural nature is, and how much life has structured the universe offered interesting pov’s to the way we usually see things. The beauty of Liu’s writing was incorporation of all its Gordian knots into a comprehensive narrative, with invitation to view them from both sides of the equation. The obvious setback of this centenarian narrative was neglect for infos on galactic humans or decision making of humanity or relationships where the previous installments did well. And though imparted with understandable metaphors and detailing, much of book’s science felt like expositions.
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For a book about higher dimensions, characters were a bit 2D. I actually prefer story/idea driven book where plots are way bigger than characters, but here, Cheng Xin and AA had little flesh on them. Unlike Ye Wenjie or Luo Ji, who propelled the plot, Cheng Xni felt like a badly written trope with a cardboard sidekick, whose sole existence was to provide a narrative perspective. Acknowledging the sheer scale of story might be one way to evade this, for the Deterrence, Bunker and Galaxy Eras were highly different from Crisis Era of previous installments, which shared a lot with the CE we are in, both in terms of science and events. But the pity I felt for Xin’s mother like attitude to hang in and avoid risk probabilities, changed eventually after getting through the brand new universe, brand new life concept. Like the first person who send out the message towards Trisolaris out of her frustration towards cultural revolution, one cannot blame Xin solely for her decisions without considering the circumstances and cultural eras she was in. Like Yifan puts it “A single individual cannot destroy a world. If that world was doomed, it was the result of the efforts of everyone, including those living and those who had already died”.

Tianming’s fairy tales deserves a special mention, for if read individually, they are quite Hugo worthy. Though well elucidated later, Liu urges readers to form a educated view, along with characters trying to debunk it. The metaphors in the story made great sense and offered an enriching experience on possible evasion strategies for humanity with black domain, curvature travel or using laws of physics as weapons, when revisited after finishing the book.

renaissanceI couldn’t help but look back and wonder how perfectly titled the books in this were. In this retrospection, the title of trilogy, is all the more spectacular. Though the immediate response would be to attribute it with Cheng Xin’s ‘a past outside of time’ epitaph, Liu has been remembering or paying homage to epochal moments of Earth’s past as we know it, as well. The Great Ravine was a visible metaphor for Industrialization and Renaissance in general, Dark Forest deterrence stood for the nuclear stalemate and cold war history, Resettlement of humanity in Australia represented colonialism and genealogical migration. Sophones standing for Totalitarian regimes and welfare states, and the whole Trisolaran thing offering existential questions in Theocracy, were few other accounts where I suspected philosophical implications. The multitudes of universe was staggering as well, offering unlimited possibilities of ideas and persons, like diversity within a civilization, and in this grand scale Death itself wasn’t any fair or an ending for that matter.

3BP and The Dark Forest were slow burners for me, which I savoured over considerable time, but Death’s End hit me like a Trisolaran droplet. There was a part of me that wanted the darkness to be done with, and another part that couldn’t put the book down due to the cliffhangers and constantly mind blowing concepts. And, towards the end of the read, I found myself more eager to interpret the light at the end of tunnel as a speeding train than rescue dawn.

“The ultimate fate of all intelligent beings has always been to become as grand as their thoughts.”

Considering ‘Remembrance of Earth’s Past’ series, Cixin Liu is more close to this ultimate fate, by vacillating his ideas with probability and game theory, urging readers to think scientifically while constantly blowing their mind off.


Three Body Problem

The Dark Forest

 

Way Station by Clifford D. Simak

waystationMost of our contemporary science fiction rattles around a technologically advanced gone wrong future, that is obsessed over the imperfect past we never truly cared to live in.* It is a contradiction considering the classics we started off from, like Way Station which envisioned a future of Intergalactic peace and confraternity among Stars.

This novel essentially represented a Space Opera during cold war, spatially confined within the private bulwark of a Man from the Earth civil war veteran, by American Midwest. Our anachronistic Highlander, Enoch Wallace, and his House of Leaves soon falls under the surveillance of covert Men in Black, thanks to the static sloppy life he has been protracting for over a century. This classic mystery build up from an outsider pov eventually shifts, and takes the reader through protagonist’s eternal loneliness and indirect adventures in an Intergalactic Way Station, for which he is the custodian of. In my imagination Way Station looked like a controlled visitation zone, full of artifacts and sacrosanct knowledge. The novel subtly touches the terrains of human emotions and humanity as a whole through the eyes of alien visitors, hind-bound local yokels and a morally conflicted old man.

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I found a pub by the name Way Station on internet, which I pretty much captures the strange image I had in mind, and it has got a Tardis!

Might be a bit far fetching, but, Enoch and Lucy had the facsimile of a censored docile Old Man Logan, more with the upcoming movie than the comic it claims to have been adapted off. And I kept wondering whether Douglas Adam‘s Babel fish came from Simak‘s pasimology for understanding intergalactic shibboleths, till getting hit by the obvious parental reference – the Bible. Prose has been simple yet classy and I actually copied down one correspondence between Enoch and an unknown science journal editor, for embellishing my ongoing job covering letters.

Way Station was a pleasant reading experience, a calm soft classic sci-fi with little dystopian elements. It hasn’t been entirely faultless especially with the rushed resolution and extra nicety around, but none of them mitigated the kernel of the story nor it’s debonairness.

 

*source – John Dally