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Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta (Canopus in Argos #1)

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,452 Ratings  ·  157 Reviews
This is the first volume in the series of novels Doris Lessing calls collectively Canopus in Argos: Archives. Presented as a compilation of documents, reports, letters, speeches and journal entries, this purports to be a general study of the planet Shikasta, clearly the planet Earth, to be used by history students of the higher planet Canopus and to be stored in the Canopi ...more
cloth, 365 pages
Published 1979 by Alfred A. Knopf
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Community Reviews

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My favorite quotes from this book both come from the introduction:
"Shikasta has as its starting point, like many others of the genre, the Old Testament. It is our habit to dismiss the Old Testament altogether because Jehovah, or Jahve, does not think or behave like a social worker."

"I do think that there is something very wrong with an attitude that puts a 'serious' novel on one shelf and, let's say, First and Last Men on another."
And, indeed, the overall effect is rather as though Olaf Stapledo
Jun 06, 2008 Kersplebedeb rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people with a tolerance for preachiness and slow plots.
Shelves: science-fiction
i first read Shikasta fifteen years ago, and found it fantastic but very difficult. Rereading it now i felt differently, it was both a lot easier but also a lot less impressive.

A white woman who grew up in Zimbabwe back when it was Rhodesia become a nobel laureate in literature last year. Amongst her reactions were something like "what took you so long" and "my science fiction was my most important work."

Shikasta is the first book in Lessing's science fiction series, and it is very much a long,
Nov 21, 2013 Zanna rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anarcho-feminist sci-fi lovers
First read January 2005

This book does three ambitious things.

1. It takes the Old Testament of the Bible as inspiration for its mythical geo-historical content, but instead of an angry bearded guy in charge, it has a super-advanced utopian-collectivist space-travelling civilization colonising Earth and then struggling to maintain a shadow of hope and stability through thousands of literally star-crossed years when the unfortunate planet is fed on and influenced by another, evil space-travelling c
Jun 25, 2012 Nathaniel rated it did not like it
This book is so terrible that I added a new shelf: "refused-to-finish". It has managed to supplant Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson as the worst book I've had the misfortune to encounter (and this includes Breaking Dawn!).

The main problem with this book is that the writing is bad. Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize in literature for this series, so I had high hopes that at a minimum the prose would be good. It's not. Not even a little bit. There have been precisely two moments in the 156 pages I
Nathan Titus
Feb 03, 2013 Nathan Titus rated it really liked it
This is absolutely the most janky book I have ever read.

from the 1st Dictionary of Nate:
janky--JANE-key (adjective); 1: thrown together at random; patchwork. 2: containing multiple elements, many of which contradict each other, and some that are mutually exclusive 3:top-heavy; lurching randomly in every direction at once 4:aspirations beyond achievement, and/or aspirations that are impossible to achieve 5:distinctive in being completely psychotic 6:something designed over the course of eons by a
Nov 30, 2008 Joe rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: mystics, conspiracy types, grouches
Recommended to Joe by: Nilary B
This is a very depressing book, an alternate take on human history, but I like being miserable so I dug it. It is very well-written and I don't feel it is slow-moving at all. Ms. Lessing does a great job of making such a ( seemingly ) far-fetched story believable.
One thing--Am I the only person who noticed the similarity to "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson" by G.I. Gurdjieff? The plot and even some of the writing style are so much alike. Since Ms. Lessing was a student of Sufism and Idries Sha
Kevin J Mackey
Aug 19, 2012 Kevin J Mackey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book shortly after it was first published. I've since finished re-reading it in its eBook form.

It was hard. But then, Lessing's "Briefing for a Descent into Hell" was hard, and worth the trouble.

Shikasta was then, and remains, a book of huge scope. It runs across all of human history, adding in pre-history and moving forward beyond today and into the future.

As I read it I fancied I discovered echoes of "The Four-Gated City", the final book in Lessing's Children of Violence series. I
Jan Rice
I am including this book in my "favorites" because of the unusual impact it had on me for about 25 years. I have the 1981 paperback image that's shown. I read most of the book sometime soon after that. It's a rather old book, but, still, I'll use the spoiler alert since what I'm going to say reveals something not that far from the end.

(view spoiler)
David C. Mueller
Sep 05, 2010 David C. Mueller rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-misc-authors
This novel is the first of Lessing's classic "Canopus in Argos: Archives" series. It differs from much modern science fiction in that is defies classification. In part science fiction, in part psychological-religious exploration, in part modern doomsday tale, in part pseudo-historical documentation, the story follows the earthly life of Geoge Sherban, human incarnation of the Canopan being Johor. George/ Johor visits a near future Earth where human society is on the brink of total breakdown. Joh ...more
Jessica Andersen
Dec 03, 2013 Jessica Andersen rated it really liked it
Shelves: dystopian, sci-fi
I went back and forth over whether I liked this book. It was slow to get going, and once it got going was not necessarily heavy on plot as much as heavy on social commentary. It tells the story of Earth, from a science fiction worthy beginning (the planet being stewarded by a benevolent alien race), through the horrors of war in the 20th Century.

The book was written in 1979, so much of the last part of the book is speculation, and reasonable speculation based on what was happening in the world
Artnoose Noose
Jan 27, 2012 Artnoose Noose rated it liked it
Recommended to Artnoose by: Ian Mayes
This is the third Doris Lessing book that I've read, and I feel now like I kind of have a handle on what her work is generally like. She has recurring themes and settings. I started reading this on a trip, and it was probably only because I was on a trip that I powered through it. That is to say, I didn't have anything else to read. When I got back, I put it down and didn't touch it for a month, when I finished it while on another trip.

That's not to say that this is a terrible book. It's just ve
Corie Ralston
Jan 20, 2012 Corie Ralston rated it it was ok
I've read some critics's reviews of Shikasta which suggest that the book is different from most science fiction in that it has well developed characters and a deeply meaningful plot. (!) Of course, the critics still hated the fact that Doris Lessing "demeaned" herself by writing science fiction at all, so I guess no one can win. I really wanted to love this book because it is so highly regarded and a friend of mine loved it, but those were in fact the only reasons I finished it. The first hundre ...more
Apr 20, 2014 Simon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, sf-mistressworks
I really wanted to like this but it was just too dull. I really wanted to finish this but life is too short. I got nearly two hundred pages in and just found myself dreading reading time because I knew I would have to pick this up.

There's no plot for the reader to follow. There are no characters for the reader to engage with. There is no point to this narrative other than to show how stupid and corrupt humanity is. Yeah, well, I already know that and this is not what I call entertainment.

This is
Mikael Kuoppala
Nov 18, 2012 Mikael Kuoppala rated it liked it
The first volume in Doris Lessing's much praised sci-fi quintet is a truly curious piece of literature. I almost hesitate to call it a novel, due to its erratic structure. Lessing's style here brings to mind Virginia Woolf, early Jack Vance and most of all William S. Burroughs. "Shikasta" is very much like "The Naked Lunch" even though its sci-fi setting creates a bit more congruence between the individual stories, manifesto's, apologies and philosophical as well as mythological deconstructions ...more
Dec 10, 2012 Mel rated it liked it
I borrowed this book from the library, I noted that while it had been borrowed on at least 10 different occasions (going by the date stamps at the front) no one had seemed to have gotten further than the first 100 pages or so! (judging by the creases in the spine). I have to admit I found the first half of this book really annoying. The first 100 pages or so were quite confusing, the different levels of the planet and the different forces, once it became clear that it was Earth it started to mak ...more
Erik Graff
Aug 02, 2011 Erik Graff rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
Doris Lessing was first recommended to me by Karen Spilke, my next-door neighbor in the senior year at Union Theological Seminary, who read part of her Golden Notebook aloud while I was driving her car up to visit her parent's summer house near Leeds, New York. I had certainly heard of Lessing before and this reading put it back in my head to get down to reading her fiction.

Then, Shikasta came out, a science fiction novel by the intended. Great! I bought it in hardcover and two of the subsequent
Rating 1 of 5 stars.

I had to abandon this book!

I read about half of it and skimmed the other half, reading some pages here and there. It just didn't work for me. I was bored almost all of the time. The writing style is way too wordy to me, the sentences too long where they don't necessarily have to be.

I neither found a coherent story, nor any characters to care for, and parts of it is too much of a lecture to me. This, combined with the biblical/mystical/esoteric undertones was enough to finally
Paul Kieniewicz
Mar 24, 2012 Paul Kieniewicz rated it really liked it
Shelves: great-novels
I know that a book is exceptional if I’ve read it more than once. More than twice, and it has to be extraordinary. Doris Lessing’s Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta (the first in a series known as Canopus in Argos) is one of those. Known for her extensive corpus of mainstream, left-leaning fiction, Shikasta represents her first foray into science fiction., and into mysticism. Her die-hard fans hated her new direction and hoped it wouldn’t last. She’d already tried their patience with Briefing for ...more
Stephanie "Jedigal"
Jul 26, 2008 Stephanie "Jedigal" rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
Wow. I am happily surprised how much I liked this book. My 1st try at D. Lessing was THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK, and I could not get myself into it, gave it up pretty quickly. When I was researching her work, I was curious to hear she had written a series of sci fi titles.

The "sci" in this sci fi is on the light side. As is the case in much of the finest science fiction, distancing us from the known world can help an author frame a story the better to make points about that same world. The basic point
Oct 18, 2010 Isa rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this; science fiction rather in the direction of Stanislaw Lem. Lots of diplomacy and secret agents involved as well, hardly any sci-fi-typical technology. A little dated now in some aspects, perhaps. but the general concern about humanity is hardly ever out of time.

Somehow the book also presents a kind of theodicee, in that the reason of Man's depravity is due to 'cosmic forces', beyond the control even of the 'supervisors'. The foreseeable resolve of the story into a kind of Happy
Ted Child
Mar 08, 2015 Ted Child rated it did not like it
I don’t recommend this book. Actually I don’t think it should have ever seen print. Don’t get me wrong, I like slow, deep books with profound spiritual and political messages, especially if their science fiction. I don’t recommend this book for one reason: it is inexcusable boring. Let me explain. I liked the three page introduction, where Lessing makes some important comments about science fiction. The first half of the novel, a retelling of the Old Testament with SF elements, is kind of intere ...more
Aug 15, 2008 Dev rated it it was amazing
This is one book of a 5 book series (pentalogy) and each book is an extraordinary work. Lessing strikes me as a complex, imaginative and searingly honest writer. This particular series was a life changing reading experience for me. In particular the first of the series, and the Marriage Between the Zones Four and Five, a gripping story on relationship. Lessing is a brilliant writer and this series in particular is powerful and sustaining.
Nov 08, 2015 Almathun rated it liked it
The first third was rather slow and tedious due to the omniscient, paternalistic narrative voice as it can be found in ancient historical or religious texts. the story is taking up speed after that including different sorts of perspectives (letters, diary entries) which liven up the whole thing. I think it's rather the narrative structure than the content which is of importance in Shikasta: Lessing is kind of presenting an ontology of historiology thus including more modern "historical" sources ...more
La mayor parte del libro carece de una trama concisa. Es más bien un ensayo disfrazado de ciencia ficción mística, una serie de reflexiones sobre la condición humana y lo que nos depara el futuro, con una trama difusa de fondo. Muchas de estas reflexiones se hacen un poco repetitivas pero hay algunas realmente interesantes que dan que pensar.

Al principio el libro resulta muy confuso, porque la verdad es tiene un planteamiento bastante raro. Shikasta es la Tierra y al parecer hay tres imperios d
Sep 09, 2015 Beatriz rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
No pude terminarlo. Cuando iba por el tercio del libro (que se me hizo eterno) decidí abandonarlo. No quise seguir perdiendo el tiempo en una lectura que no va conmigo porque, siendo honesta, el libro no es malo, su planteamiento es bastante interesante. Propone que la evolución de la vida en los planetas es controlada por tres milenarios imperios galácticos rivales, quienes, a través de pequeñas intervenciones, en equilibrio con los diferentes eventos astrales, van dirigiendo el destino de las ...more
Kenneth Haag
Nov 28, 2015 Kenneth Haag rated it it was amazing
This is my third time revisiting the five "Canopus in Argos" volumes since first discovering them in the 1980's. At that time I had only recently finished reading Idries Shah's book, "The Sufis", and from one reading to the other seemed to me a connecting path of natural serendipity. Although "Shikasta" and the other volumes in the "Canopus" series can be read and enjoyed entirely for their entertainment value, other levels of significance reveal themselves when studied in the light of those Suf ...more
En el prólogo habla bien Lessing de la ciencia ficción. En este libro el universo está dominado por dos o tres ¿civilizaciones? ¿potencias? ¿organizaciones? (Canopus, Sirius y una tercera malvada) que influyen y se mueven en el universo mediante radiaciones u ondas apenas explicadas. En fin, una cuestión casi mística más que científica.
Hay un origen en el cual estas potencias experimentan en planetas para crear especies inteligentes y espirituales. Digámoslo ya, Shikasta(view spoiler)
May 24, 2012 Nora rated it did not like it
I think I'm just reading the wrong Doris because I know people love her but this was the boringest thing ever. Just a dull froth of myth + sci fi. IT'S EARTH THE PLANET IS EARTH OMG. Hated it. Forget why I started it. Not finishing it.
Mar 19, 2012 Geoffrey rated it it was amazing
Really, unlike anything else I've ever read, and then when I got done I was so fucking moved I could barely breathe. Based on just this one novel, that Nobel Prize was clearly warranted.
A prescient novel about a cosmic history of the Earth (Shikasta) offering a profound and facinating perspective on the forces that may be operating in the universe.
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Both of her parents were British: her father, who had been crippled in World War I, was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia; her mother had been a nurse. In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Like other women writers from southern African who did not graduate from high school (such as Oliv ...more
More about Doris Lessing...

Other Books in the Series

Canopus in Argos (5 books)
  • The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five
  • The Sirian Experiments
  • The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
  • The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire

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