Fiction Read 2020

Milton by William Blake. Wild bright eyed prophetic mythopoesis by the great seer of the Romantic era. Illustrations by the author are grand and delightful.
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. With the first chapter featuring the persecution of a physicist during the Cultural Revolution in China, we have the set up of a solid novel. Coming from the perspective of an author whose country has come from killing scientists to enthroning them within a generation, optimism and belief in the possibility of progress pervades the story. This novel can stand alone without reading the next two books! Thus it’s not a huge commitment.
There Once Was A Mother who Loved Her Children Until They Moved Back in by Ludmilla Petruvaskaya. From a Russian translation, comes three stories about the depressing psychology of desperate people. My wife and I read this in the hospital after childbirth. Our child has moved in, may he not move back in!
The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu. The megalopsychoi war against decadence.
Death’s End by Cixin Liu. What is progress? We begin with environmental degradation on earth and end with environmental degradation of the universe. “Make time for civilization, because civilization doesn’t make time.” A wonderful meditation on the relationship between progress and civilization. In our novel, the quest for unyielding progress can diminish civilization. But civilization without progress leads to decadence. Ultimately only self-gift can save us.
The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse. Inspiring philosophical novel blending music and philosophy into a rarefied community. Since I am a total sap for intellectual coming of age stories and this one is framed in the ironic mode of a well-researched biography, from the onset the philosophical musings of the book pulled me. The dialogue form did not survive Plato, instead it was elevated into the philosophical novel. Here is a philosophical novel without reservation. The book also features some wonderful poetry, translated from German, such as “After Dipping into the Summa Contra Gentiles.” This was the best novel I read this year.
The Man in the High Castle by Phil K. Dick. Unsettling escher-like look at the reality of history. Ultimately, however, I found the most interesting part of the book to be PKD’s notion of economics. He presents a world in which Nazi economics is doomed to inefficiency caused by centralization but stands superior to Japanese traditionalism. He also thinks New Deal economics would have worked well, or does he? That’s the question.
The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Want to be punched in the gut by depressing and potent visions of a failing America? This is your book, though it’s ultimate message is hopeful. I enjoyed it, but really stopped feeling strong emotions after the first half of the book, when circumstances improved. I am undecided on whether I will continue to the next book, Parable of the Talents. Though, I do love a good parable.

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