Book: Paradise

I’ve been reading a lot of Mike Resnick’s work lately, especially after encountering his short story Kirinyaga, and then the book built from a number of short stories set in that world. He’s always an exceptional storyteller.

With that, I picked up Paradise, currently it appears only available used. I got my copy from my local public library, on which let me make a comment. Support your public library. It’s a wonderful institution.

Now Paradise is not a book with a theme I would normally enjoy. But this book is interesting and thoughtful and provides a variety of characters to love or hate, or more likely feel ambivalent about. (Don’t even think of mentioning the preposition at the end of a sentence!)

The lead character is a writer who writes first about the people who have been involved with the early years of human contact on the planet Peponi, which means Paradise in a local language. One thing leads to another until he finally visits the planet he has been writing about and gets a direct view.

The problems frequently reflect those of colonialism here on earth. I’d like to think we’d have better sense by the time, if ever, that we contact other sentient species on other worlds. Realistically, that’s probably not a very realistic hope. Even more, just what would “better sense” be in this context? There’s a great deal of room for wondering just exactly what each person should have done in this story. Certainly there are many specific things that are either definitely bad or definitely good.

But even assuming that the exploiters could be kept off a world like this, what would happen with the philanthropists? One imagines that perhaps a Star Trek style non-interference directive (obviously better defined and better enforced than in the series) might be the only answer. No two species would actually meet until each had developed a certain level of technology. But thinking about that leads me to many questionable situations as well.

Moralizing aside, or perhaps because of it, I really enjoyed watching the various characters work through their situations. Each is constrained by his or her own background and situation, and often there are not nearly as many choices as the outsider, such as a reader might think.

Now don’t get the idea that this story is made up of philosophizing and moralizing. The story is well told and well worth reading for fun as well as for thinking. Resnick sneaks the thinking into the cracks and you get caught up asking yourself questions, or at least I do, but perhaps I’m strange.

I strongly recommend this book whether you have to order it used or find it at your public library. Get a copy and enjoy!

Book: Kirinyaga

I’ve already written about two of the stories that form a part of this book, and I’ve also linked to what I consider an excellent review, except that it gives a bit much of the story away for my taste. But I want to make a couple of additional comments because this book is really exceptional.

I have stated before that I don’t really have standards for some kind of universal “good” or “bad” literature. Rather, there is literature that I like and some that I don’t. I’m quite happy with this being subjective. One of the things I like in literature is engaging characters, folks that you actually care about. If it doesn’t matter when a character dies, or narrowly escapes death, then I’m probably not enjoying the book very much.

There are quite a number of engaging characters in literature, and most of them are characters that I like. There’s something about them that attracts me. But there’s something special about presenting a character that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like and making me root for him as the story goes on.

That’s the case with Koriba, the mundumugu (witch doctor) who serves as the repository for tribal knowledge and tradition on the terraformed world of Kirinyaga. He is, in fact, everything I wouldn’t like in reality. I personally embrace the advance of technology, and am at worst amused by the social changes that tend to go with it. I object strongly when someone can’t pursue their goals and dreams because of tradition. I’m ready to toss out the tradition and let people do what they can.

Koriba is in love with a set of traditions, and wants to freeze everything at that point, and yet he is so clear about his desires, and expresses himself so well, that I found myself in great sympathy with him, all the while realizing that if I were encountering him in real life, I would almost certainly be one of his enemies.

I could use every story in this book as the basis for teaching and discussing some concept or another. The story overall points to stress points in the way we handle change and the interaction of very different cultures. The world is full of less extreme examples, but sometimes it takes the extremes to get us thinking.

This book is certainly deserving of all the awards it has received, and I rate it a 5 myself.

Book: Will the Last Person to Leave the Planet Please Shut Off the Sun

This is a lovely collection of 28 short stories by Mike Resnick. I blogged previously about getting the inspiration for a devotional from one of them, but I’ve now finished the whole collection. It’s available in a Kindle edition, hard cover, and paperback.

My favorites were <em>Kirinyaga</em>, <em>For I Have Touched the Sky</em>, and <em>Watching Marcia</em>.   That’s a weird selection, I suspect, but the first two I find particularly challenging.  The concept is simple, but it has very profound implications.  It sets me to thinking what the universe they are set in would be like and how well it would work.

Novels are great, but short story collections work so well as bedtime reading.  I heartily recommend this one – numeric rating of 5.

Resnick Inspired Devotional

It is perhaps a bit humorous that my devotional this morning, Sticking with the Familiar was inspired by Michael Resnick’s short story “Over There” which I read just last night from his collection Will the Last Person to Leave the Planet Please Shut Off the Sun?. The thought came to me how often we go with who we are and what we do even when all the indications are against it.

I like short stories, and Resnick has that wonderful quality of writing stories that I don’t entirely like, but are so good that I have to read anyhow. I’m not sure just how to express that properly. I felt that way before about his book A Hunger in the Soul, and he even dropped by to comment and explain, but the thing is there was nothing wrong with the book. In fact, it was superbly written as one would expect of Mike Resnick. Yet I really didn’t like the story.

In any case, there are any number of short stories in this book that annoy me while at the same time are really wonderful. That may indicate some sort of mental problem. The Kirniyaga stories, of which I’ve read two so far are no fun at all and yet superbly set and written. In case you’re wondering, I recommend this collection, even though it is only available used. There are plenty of used copies. Look one up.