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Hello everyone, I've recently joined and am hoping to have a good read of the forum over the next few weeks and get to know some of you. However my first post here is to alert anyone who's interested in philosophical fiction, or even slightly bizarre but meaningful fiction :-D that I am the author of 'Ox Herding: A Secular Pilgrimage,' available on Amazon as both an ebook and paperback. It's an adventure story akin to 'Alice in Wonderland,' but for grown-ups, and with meaning. :-D Incidentally, if anyone wants to write a review (which doesn't have to be long or particularly detailed, but must be honest) then I'll happily provide a free copy of the book in whatever digital format suits you best. Ok, that's it from me for now - just a brief introductory post. Jackie.
Mr G is the story of Creation. Mr G is God (Hello God) and is living in the Void with his Aunt Penelope and Uncle Deva. One day when he is bored, he creates matter. This sounds like the pretext for a comic novel and that was the spirit in which I approached it. Alas, what followed was a pretty serious piece about how matter might have evolved into universes; how elements might have been created from energy; how life might have formed, etc. We have the creation of time, and then the ability to measure it through atomic pulses - always in exact powers of ten. We have much philosophical musing too about how time enables perspective. There is the creation of evil - Belhor - as a counterweight to the creation of good. Belhor and Mr G spend time conversing and discussing more philosophy. Meanwhile, universes are created and squished with gay abandon. Alan Lightman never seems to know whether he is writing a novel or a philosophy text. The set piece monologues and, even worse, dialogues, are staged and stilted. Their sole purpose seems to be to convey real theory in an anthropomorphic fashion so that people can understand it better. They do not seem to be intended to entertain. There is the occasional light moment - Belhor going to the opera comes to mind - but it's not enough to sustain interest. Most of the narrative is drab and interwoven with lots of numbers and lots of lists of things. To add to the frustration, the basic questions of what The Void actually is, and how Mr G came to be in it, and why he decided at a particular moment (before moments existed) to create things are not addressed. If you were a teacher of quantum physics (which I am not) you might want to offer Mr G to your students as a light introduction to the concepts. But for an average reader, this is not going to deliver on mismanaged expectations and is unlikely to do more than take away a few hours that could have been spent doing something more useful. **000
G. K. Chesterton’s ‘The Napolean of Notting Hill’ was one of those free books that I downloaded in the first enthusiastic flush of having a Kindle. I enjoyed ‘A Man called Thursday’ a while back so decided to give this a go. For me, it didn’t measure up to ‘A Man Called Thursday’ but it has its place in time. Written in 1904, Chesterton set the book in the future, in 1984. He is reputed to have given George Orwell (Eric Blair) a break by publishing an essay in in his magazine. Most of us are familiar with Orwell’s 1984. Chesterton’s future, though, includes no major technological differences and life on the surface seems very much the same as his own in 1904, but there are political and sociological differences. Chesterton ridicules the politics and philosophies of his time by exaggerating them, showing the absurdity of their extremes. People have not changed, but in some respects they have given in. Democracy has not been attained and most have given up trying for it. Government is run smoothly by the middle and upper classes without any disruptions from party politics or elections and most of the population are indifferent to it all. The monarchy is no longer hereditary, but a king as still necessary, as a figurehead, to get legislation through. He is chosen randomly from the people. Life is mostly peaceful, respectable, boring, dull and apathetic and anyone with a little colour to them stands out. Auberon Quin is one of these. He longs to break free and have fun, just to have a laugh. Then, just as he starts to do this, a new king is chosen and life changes for a large part of London, not least a redefining of the place-names. There are several battles, but, although they are bloody and people die, they are not really gory, they read more like play scripts, including a few Shakespearian-type speeches or campaign notes, dealing with strategy rather than feelings, emotion and pain. There is a map in the book, but it wasn’t very clear on my kindle so I looked it up on computer several times. Chesterton writes eloquently and his prose flows making the reading a pleasure. I enjoyed the humour and I liked the absurdity of the whole thing. In the past I have read that he wrote in paradoxes and I have also read that that statement belittles Chesterton’s thinking. I haven’t studied him enough to know, but I did find that he set me thinking in paradoxes. For example, I usually hold that I don’t support patriotism or regionalism and nationalism on the grounds that they foster arguments and wars and indeed we see a microcosm of this in the book, but then I do support free thinking and free speech and if that had to be sacrificed to get peace. Would I be looking for new colour in the grey world? Interestingly there are no women as main characters in the book. Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’ acknowledges Chesterton as an influence by opening with a quotation from ‘The Napolean of Notting Hill’. He too has a London shaped by place-names and gives a social comment of his own.