Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I *heart* reading over Christmas

Finishing an Asimov book, Robots and Empire, concludes my 5 week reading of Asimov books, fourteen books in all around the Foundation idea.

I began with Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation – the original trilogy of classic episodic stories about the fall of the galactic empire. These stories are all ideas and talk, and almost no action, and they are riveting in their brilliance and importance. They rate at the level of Shakespeare and Dickens of great literature, rewarding multiple readings.

Then I reread Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth, the two novels written much later on. They read as one novel. They are dull but engaging, in a strange way. Golan Trevise discovers and chooses Gaia in Foundation’s Edge, a rather brilliant ending; then in Foundation and Earth Trevise discovers robots, which is less interesting frankly.

I then moved onto the Caves of Steel and the Naked Sun, the pre-Foundation novels. These little sub-masterpieces are elegant and tidy, and in fact are brilliant as detective stories but a little dull and thankfully brief. Then The Robots of Dawn and Robots and Empire, reflecting Asimov’s latter longer style, are movingly constructed but again somewhat plain and narrow in their views, not broad and universal as the Foundation novels can be said to be.

I also read the New Foundation series, by Benford, Bear and Brin. The first book, whose title eludes me, is about simulation intelligences. The second, Foundation and Chaos, by Bear, develops the idea of chaos versus psychohistory. The third book really pulls the stops, taking Hari Seldon to Earth and threatening to time travel him into the future of Foundation’s Edge. Sadly, it flinches and ultimately annoys with its lack of adventure.

The beginning and ending of Hari Seldon’s life is recounted in Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation. The first book is pulp, frankly, it seems to me. The second, however, is canonically Asimov’s last word. The moving final chapter is pure beauty to me.

I moved back to Dean Koontz novel’s. I read Koontz so fast that it only pays to read his work every few years to catch up with the novels. I read From the Corner of His Eye, and Odd Forever, both of which were okay.

Now I am deep into the great fantastists… Lord Dunsany, Jorge Luis Borges, and Michael Swanwick. Here are the stories I have read of theirs over the past week, in the order I have read them:

1. Dunsany, Time and the Gods. Time tricks the Gods by destroying their dream city.
2. Most the stories of Garden of Forking Paths. Tlon, Babel, Babylon, and much sublime exotica from Borges.
3. The Gospel of Mark. Rednecks crucify a young man as Christ.
4. Mother Grasshopper. Mortality comes to the surreal world that is a gigantic cosmic grasshopper.
5. Microcosmic Dog. A woman finds her New York is a fantasy and she’s actually on a space ship.
6. North of Diddy-Wah-Diddy. The train to hell becomes the site of a court case between good and evil.
7. The Mask. Weird sex corporate fantasy.
8. The Sword of Welleran. Gorgeous heroic tale of the souls of dead heroes returning to save their city.
9. The Bride of the Man-Horse. Sexy strange centaur fantasy.
10. The Gods of Pegana. Creation myth.
11. Of Skarl the Drummer. As above. Dunsany seems to like his creation myths very much!

What shall I read next? Hmmm! What a pleasure!


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