Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Solairs by Stanislaw Lem

Very quick read. Page turner. 200 or so pages.

It is a long short story kind of sci-fi. A single interesting idea, which could be the starting point of so many different ways to develop a story. The idea of a planet size other being/civilization - what to call it? And then, the anthropomorphic contact from a different intelligence is reminiscent of my other recent read, Sagan's Contact. 

There is a George Clooney movie as well on the story. Haven't watched the movie yet.

The book was very interesting. However wouldn't rate it at the top with the best kind of sci-fi. Great idea, but there could be so much more. There was a lot there, but somehow, I ended up reading quickly over the bits about the other world's history, and the politics of the science etc. There were some brilliant concepts, and insights about human approach to new exploration. Some ideas that I quite liked:
- the single consciousness lost in some sort of contemplation about the universe and its own nature?
- the frequent expression and destruction cycle - the creative representation, the art, the math.
- the idea that it copies, replicates to try to understand the other
- the way of contact - of literally reading the conscious and subconscious thoughts, of communicating through dreams.
- the general approach and discussion around contact, and the human aspiration of contact. And the general idea of a consciousness which is not human.

I enjoyed reading it, but I guess I am biased when it comes to sci-fi. I expect so much more! And forget that it is fiction. And end up getting disappointed. However beautifully or brilliantly written, the fiction cannot quench the thirst of needing to know what is out there.

Still, we seek.

PS: Normally I do not link other external articles here, but for a good quick read on Stanislaw Lem, and Solaris and the movie, visit this article from Wired. As to linking external blogs - there are hundreds of places I can begin, but where do I stop? So, as a matter of keeping it simple, will remove this external link once I have done my reading around Lem.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Prospector by J.M.G. Le Clezio


Loved this book. Beautifully written. Haunting imagery. Stays with me even after the story has ended.

There are so many different emotions that books might leave you with. Books and good stories. Some happy, some satisfied, some sad, some angry, and some making you want the story to go on and on.
This particular book, leaves me at peace, quiet and calm.

It is a beautiful, slow, rich in its sparseness kind of narrative. Serene, poetic, lyrical.

This is my first complete read from Le Clezio. I have a couple of other books from him, which I tried to begin reading a few years ago, Fever (stories), and The Giants. I left Fever on its first story since I felt it too closely for comfort (I got temperature around the time of reading it). And I hoped it was not psychosomatic. Some day, I'll read it. The other book, The Giants is very different. It does not look like a narrative, and I don't know how to approach it.

When I picked up The Prospector, I had confused Le Clezio in my mind with Patrick Modiano. For the first few pages, it even read like a Modiano narrative. And then it dawned on me that I might get to add to my 'Read the Prize' page. It is so very different from the other two books that I have from the same author.

On to the book - This is a translated book. This edition - translation by C. Dickson (Atlantic Books imprint) seems like published this year itself. Set in early twentieth century, this book is based in Mauritius and we travel with the narrator as he grows, on his journeys, in Mauritius, and its nearby islands (Rodrigues), and a bit of First World War action territories.

I have never read anything from Mauritius earlier. And this book is a book of the islands and the sea, and journeys, and a quest - seeking something, may be some treasure or may be peace, which we seek and seek outside like the narrator, but which we invariably, in the end, find within.

It is interesting how stories of so disparate times and lands can resonate with people across the gap of time and place and culture. In the end, the questions we all seek answers to, we are on our own journeys, and the derivative/ the setting may change, but the underlying emotion stays the same, and that is why perhaps we love such stories.

Like the 4 chord songs - everyone loves them!

Enjoyed every moment of reading the book. Not in a rushed, or 'what's the next page' kind of way, but 'I'm quite enjoying the journey' kind of way. Off to look for more from the author.

A good read. Definite recommend.