It wasn’t an easy book to read, neither the first time around, five years ago, when it took me couple of months to...moreThis is what I wrote five years ago:
It wasn’t an easy book to read, neither the first time around, five years ago, when it took me couple of months to finish it, nor now, even though I read it in a week. I cannot claim I got all the references, and understood fully everything… It is never the point, isn’t it? We are reading books through our personal lens that change as we change. Five years ago a different me read a different “Foucault's Pendulum”. The one I read now was about history, perceptions, and personal choices – the things that have a large place in my thoughts lately. (If my husband reread this book now, it would probably be about competition and productivity.) We want to make sense out the world, out of the life, and of the history – our personal and the big one. We want everything to make sense. Sometimes by this we mean to have a sense of higher purpose.
I love reading about The Plan. I don’t suppose it existed, but I enjoy reading the chapters about creating the plan as well as various conspiracy theories. They often seem so entertaining. In this I am a little bit like Kazobon – trying to fanwank history for the fun of it, but not believing in any of it, just enamored with the beauty of a well-crafted nonsense.
It is a little bit about being a demiurge - creating your own world out of the chaos of the real one. Only it is not a chaos, it is a life, going through its eternal conflict between chaos and order, because both perfect chaos and perfect order is an absence of life. Entropy. It is also about creation itself – paralleling the creation of the plan, with writing of a book, with conceiving of a child, with creation of oneself. And once again, does our life have a meaning? Is there a one perfect, sparkling moment that justifies everything, that brings everything to the single point, the only fixed point in the universe?
So, here goes a mistake of getting heads too high it the abstract intellectual clouds. And Belbo is telling about the plan to a wrong person for a wrong reason.
I was thinking about it for too long, and I am losing the connection with the book. What was about Belbo? It was important. I’ll have to read it again. Meet me here in five years, ok?
So, I guess, now the time comes to read it the third time...(less)
It got me immediately when the characters started discussing Hegel - and then it was getting better and better: main characters I love, revolutionary...moreIt got me immediately when the characters started discussing Hegel - and then it was getting better and better: main characters I love, revolutionary underground, mystery and intrigue, Engels (actually as a character in the action), more Hegel with Kant and Hume, and the lovely XIX-century epistolary style.
The genre is impossible to define - it is not fantasy, not really a historical fiction or a philosophy textbook... But then, probably all really good book defy the strict genre definitions.
Reading about Engels - as the regular character - seems kind of strange. They (I rarely can think of him in singular, without Marx attached as a Siamese brain-twin, even though I read each of them separately) feel like an older relative - that you know were young and did what all humans do, but never think about it. they are way too memorial. And this is one of reasons I enjoy seeing Engels there so much.
The main characters (Susan, Kitty, James and Richard) are delightful, and I savor every moment with them, too. They are far from perfect - they have their quirks and vices and secrets, and they can be difficult, but they are never annoying and flat. (less)
**spoiler alert** It is a very good book – it won Nebula award and is nominated for Hugo, both justly deserved. It is also a very difficult book to re...more**spoiler alert** It is a very good book – it won Nebula award and is nominated for Hugo, both justly deserved. It is also a very difficult book to read and love. One of the reasons is that I need characters to care about, and here... it is not that there were none of those, but none to carry the weight of a protagonist. The story followed fates of several: a businessman, an old Chinese refugee, a titular windup girl, and two corrupt Thai officials. It was not a character story, after all, it was a... situation story, I would say. Not unlike mystery novels in a way. Only the question was not who murdered X, but what the hell happened? Another reason why it was hard to love and painful to read book, because it is misery porn. Not because of actual porn involved (though there pages and pages of sexual abuse description), but because this is the world where things cannot get better, they only can get worse, and after a while I started to wish it all blew up already. And the book delivered. Now, for spoilers. The place is the Thai kingdom in a scary post-apocalyptic world, less than two hundred years from now. Thai kingdom is the only independent state in the world where big companies rule. The true rulers of the world are large companies who supply the world with genetically engineered food. And the other food doesn't exist any more. Well, almost. Ecological apocalypse at its scariest. The picture of our world is horrifying, because its is somewhat believable. More believable than a zombie apocalypse. Nature is all but extinguished by genetically engineered plants, animals and most of all – plagues. People are dying in troves from diseases unknown to us, most of them made by “calorie companies” to control the world. It is a bleak, miserable world. The book starts with a new shiny fruit on a market stall. New yet not engineered. Anderson, “a calorie man”, representative of THE BIG COMPANY undercover finds it and tries to learn where it comes from. Kingdom of Thai has closed its borders for those rulers of the world. Thais don't believe in free market. Anderson pretends he runs a factory that makes kink-springs – a staple of modern economy. Then we follow the problems of Hock Seng, his right hand on the factory, who hates Anderson and constantly scheming how to return to his fortunes. His life sucks badly, but at least he is alive, while all his family got killed in Malaya. I struggle through the book waiting for interesting stuff to start happening. The only thing that keeps me reading is that I am trying to find out what exactly happened here and how. Following the modern standard of writing, the author doesn't do infodumps and, as to not insult my intelligence feeds me the information in tiny pieces. I eventually start screaming silently, “Do insult my intelligence already! Just tell it, I am tired of picking up clues and doing that puzzle!” No, of course, after finishing the book, I can say that I know what happened on Earth. Just not why like that, not how. Oh, well. Why everything we know now stopped working except generipping and biotechnology? Then we finally get to see the titular character – Emiko, the windup girl. She wasn't born, she is genetically engineered in Japan to be a perfect companion. Except that she is not in Japan, she is in Thailand where she is illegal and she suffers a lot. Pages and pages of graphic suffering, starting with sexual abuse. I pity her, but starting with horrible abuse doesn't help to interest me in her fate. Then we see two Thai officials, who work at Environmental Ministry. They are corrupt and well-hated and not exceedingly nice people. Jaydee (male) and Kanya (female). I ended up rooting for them the most, because at least it is their country and they try to keep it alive. Even when they do wrong things. Then there is a new disease, government coup, more misery and suffering and death for everyone. But those are actually good and fun things, comparing to the rest of the book. I am glad I have finished this book. It was a worth-while endeavor, but my progress was so torturous, I am pretty sure I am not going to read it ever again.(less)