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The Thing Itself

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  965 Ratings  ·  171 Reviews
Adam Roberts turns his attention to answering the Fermi Paradox with a taut and claustrophobic tale that echoes John Carpenters' The Thing. Two men while away the days in an Antarctic research station. Tensions between them build as they argue over a love-letter one of them has received. One is practical and open. The other surly, superior and obsessed with reading one boo ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published December 15th 2015 by Gollancz
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Scott
Sep 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Adam Roberts is the wielder of a megaton-range imagination, allied to a nano-sharp ability to fashion engaging stories populated with interesting characters - he is an author unafraid of taking a concept to the edge, of exploring genuinely challenging ideas.

The Thing Itself continues this conceptual exploration, and while it isn't as brilliant as Roberts' Bete or Stone its still a damn fine novel, with some very interesting things to say. I love stories that explore the Fermi paradox (Cixin Liu'
...more
Brendon Schrodinger
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
What a troll!

If you have read my reviews for a while, you'll know my hate of book blurbs and how they often spoil a book. Adam Roberts is not quite on my buy-it-without-reading-the-blurb list (not a real list, but I should make it), so I did read this blurb. And it completely spoils the first two pages! And it sets the book up to be an homage to 'The Thing' which it isn't at all!

Yes, it starts with two scientists doing a SETI project during the long Antarctic night. But that is soon left behind
...more
Terry
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror, sci-fi
3.5 - 4 stars

At first glance this book seems easy to characterize with a catchy tag line, to wit: the philosophy of Kant meets the cosmology of Lovecraft in a story inspired by John Carpenter's 'The Thing'. Fun, no doubt, even if it was simply that, but once you've made the journey through the book you will find that Roberts is doing something a little more subtle than that tag line implies and even turns many of these tropes on their head.

The main story thread takes place in the present and det
...more
Ellie
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
Wow, well I’ll try and do The Thing Itself justice, but you’re better off just reading it and marvelling in its mind-blowing awesomeness. The blurb would have you think it’s a version of John Carpenter’s The Thing (a film I love) but really only the first part deals with the isolation and ensuing madness of Antarctica. There’s philosophy, a shady organisation, artificial intelligence, a shoeless man on the run and whole raft of stories throughout time.

At the heart of the book is the theme of how
...more
Thomas Wagner
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
One might think of philosophy as a vital intellectual endeavor, or little more than fodder for rambling late-night conversations in a college dorm, enhanced by assorted chemical stimulants and some Pink Floyd dialed up on Spotify. But it has provided a dazzling fever dream of a foundation for The Thing Itself, a book in which Adam Roberts quite possibly achieves Peak Adam Roberts, mixing such elements as mad scientists and helicopter chases over Arctic wastes with the curious spectacle of a time ...more
ashley c
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love it. What a marvelous mash-up of things any reasonable person will probably enjoy. Okay, that may be a bit too presumptuous, but really, Roberts made this action-packed, cosmic horror take on the Fermi Paradox - with a hat-tip to our dearest Kant - work wonders. It all ties in together - Kant's rationalism and relativism (? I only took one introductory module in university so please excuse me) as a way to explore the Fermi Paradox. I don't want to go too much into what these two ideas are ...more
Liviu
As the recent two Adam Roberts novels did not quite work for me for various reasons, I was a bit wary of this one though the general feeling from the description was positive as the book seemed to go on the "big philosophical" issues side and in most A. Roberts books, the thematic tends to determine my interest more than anything else (there are of course exceptions in his few adventure like novels).

The Thing Itself consists of a main narrative following Charles Gardner some decades after his t
...more
Edward  Goetz
I wanted to like this book more because it has such a great premise (which I won't spoil), but it just didn't totally click with me. Finishing it was a struggle.
Chris Berko
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The cleverest most mind blowing novel I've ever read.
Andrea
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Well, I started this book very dubious because of some negative reviews, but I trust Tudor's assessments and plus I've loved all of Adam Robert's other works.
And I was immediately drawn in, dazzled and delighted at the scope of this ambitious, and in my eyes, successful work on the nature of reality according to Kant. The narrative is puzzling at times, but all becomes clear and relevant eventually after many twists and leaps backwards and forwards in what we experience as time and space.
We star
...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Another great Adam Roberts' novel. The first 100 pages will be a real surprise for the reader because The Thing Itself certainly defies expectations. Among others, this extremely clever novel, written by an atheist, tries to prove the existence of god. Let's say it partially succeeds, but in order to do this, Roberts uses some of the most crazy science-fictional ideas I have ever read. And I'd say that if you need to use extreme speculative ideas in order to prove the existence of god than certa ...more
fromcouchtomoon
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure anything will ever be as rich as the splendid and insightful Bete-- which is something completely different and one of my favorite SF novels ever-- but this satisfies that craving for something smart and funny and full of SF and literary love, which is what I've come to expect from Roberts.
Gray
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-reads, favorites
5★ for me, and I don't hand these out often.

The Thing Itself is a science fiction thriller about two men working for SETI on an Antarctic research base in the 1980s. It tells the fascinating story of what happens to them one long south-polar night, and the repercussions of this event. It does this through the intertextual lens of Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’, the Fermi Paradox, a dash of James Joyce, some H.G. Wells, a sliver of John Carpenter, and more. (A lot more references than
...more
Evgeniya
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Категориите на Кант като рамка на история за строго-секретни супер компютри, извънземни, преследване във времето, антиутопичен секс, Джойсов монолог, английски от 17-ти век и хиляди препратки към какво ли не? Ъм? ОК, да, първият рефлекс е човек да преглътне на сухо и се запита каква ли огромна локва с лепкава кал е всичко това. Но то не е. Този роман е мек и забавен, бих казала "кич" в най-добрия смисъл на тази дума.

Разбира се, виждам основанията зад сравнението с Дейвид Мичъл. За мен обаче Clou
...more
Brian Clegg
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This latest book from the master of intellectual science fiction, Adam Roberts, is a mind-bending delight - and nothing like the combination of the title and the cover suggests (yet even this deception is not entirely straightforward). Anyone versed in the genre would instantly make the leap, with the combination of 'The Thing' and a polar setting, to the classic science fiction film The Thing - and indeed Roberts does make a passing bow to this in the opening of the book. However, the monster i ...more
Alisha A
Dec 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
A book filled to the brim with interesting concepts, as all good Science Fiction should be. Within these pages, Adam Roberts takes us on a wild ride that leads from 18th century philosophy to Artificial Intelligence, time travel, aliens, telekinesis and a plethora of other off-the-wall topics. The downside is that there's no heart to the story. While we may love the ideas, we do not love the characters. This, along with the disappointingly forced experimental style of the historical narratives w ...more
Andreas
Aug 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
What I thought I would be getting from this book: slow, creeping, crippling cosmic horror bathed in a deserted, inhospitable and cold landscape.

What I actually got out of this: a slow and boring over explanation of Kant’s philosophy wrapped in a poor David Mitchell “lots of narratives converging” facsimile.
B. Rule
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this highly entertaining. It's a kinda funny pitch, in that it's basically Eli Cash saying, "Everyone knows Kant's metaphysics of the Ding an Sich is a metaphorical attempt to describe reality; what this book presupposes is: maybe it's literal?" Roberts then turns that into a twisting, turning, philosophically spitballing SF/eldritch horror story about AI, (maybe?) aliens, time travel, Arctic madness, and crazy reality-warping super-powers. It's also very funny, mind-bending, and ultimat ...more
Robert Spencer
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Astounding novel. I didn't expect too much because it was such an unusual premise for a sci-fi novel, I figured he would wring 400 pages out of that and job done. But there is so much richness to the storytelling here, great inventiveness in prose style throughout and genuine humour peppered across the present-day storyline particularly. Then throw into the mix an explanation of Kant that I actually felt I understood properly for once, and you get a very satisfying experience. I hadn't read Robe ...more
Kate
Such a fabulous clever novel. While I can't claim to have understood every bit of it (at least not on this first reading), Adam Roberts' wonderful, wonderful writing made sure I enjoyed every page of it.

Zack Clemmons
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fun entry in the "What if x was right all along?" genre, in which x = an opaque/much-debated philosopher or spiritual guru. This time, x = Kant, and the result is an inventive, perspicacious exposition on apperception and die (der?) Ding an Sich. The structure was interesting (Kant's 12 categories), and probably deserves more thought + attention, but I'm not sure it'd be wholly rewarding. The tacking back+forth between the main strait of the story and the formally disparate coves was, again, i ...more
Steve
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Let me state up front that there were times when I said aloud that I wasn't smart enough to be reading this book. Part sci-fi speculative fiction in the mold of the Amy Adams' film, "Arrival," part meditation on Kantian philosophy, Roberts' book gives you a lot to chew on. In fact, I even nerded out a bit and listened to a few lectures on Kant's ideas when I started the novel to make sure I had a glimmer of what Roberts was talking about. Apparently, the central premise of Kant's "Copernican Rev ...more
Victor Sonkin
Very good until some point when it deviates and starts to explore its philosophic agenda. However, still an interesting book that tries to deal with the existence of God (perhaps not very successfully, since the author is an atheist trying to make a different claim).
Jon Norimann
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
After a bright promising start this book comes to a screaming halt before it really gets started. It ends up being a rather poor novel jumping from storyline to storyline. The underlying theme trying and failing to tie it all together is the philosopher Immanuel Kant. Quasi intellectual nonsense is what it ends up being. An origianl concept is the only thing saving this waste of time from getting 1 star.
Em "Reacher"
Mar 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: not-jack-reacher
As it turns out, The Thing Itself is less of a thrilling read and more of a spoonful of sugar that helps the Kantian philosophy go down. But I prefer to absorb philosophy like Jack Reacher absorbs his coffee: no frills, no cream, and definitely no sugar.
Vladimir
Публикувано в списание Shadowdance

Нека започна това ревю, като отбележа, че независимо какво пише в анотацията на книгата в Амазон и Гудрийдс и какви асоциации навяват корицата и заглавието, тази книга определено НЕ е духовен наследник или реинтерпретация на филма на Джон Карпентър Нещото. Описаната от анотацията клаустрофобична и напрягаща обстановка заема точно една глава от многостранния нов роман на Робъртс. Което не значи, че той не изобилства от странни и напрягащи ситуации.

Всичко започва
...more
Anna
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, scifi, philosophy
Francis Spufford recommended ‘The Thing Itself’ to me in The Guardian, although it didn’t need a very hard sell because I’d read seven of Adam Roberts other novels. Roberts is a brilliant high concept sci-fi writer: his novels always have some deeply interesting conceit at their centre, and generally experiment with structure in original ways as well. On the other hand, too many of his narrators fall into the narrow category of Crap Men, who generally don’t treat women very well. In this case, t ...more
Guido Eekhaut
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
No, you cannot combine Kantian philosophy and speculative fiction. Unless, of course, you are Adam Roberts, who seems to be able to combine everything. His main character is on the look for the ultimate truth (not necessarily in the realm of metaphysics), and he's not the only character with fundamental problems. A very clever novel, perhaps his best to date (I would have to check that, Adam, if given enough time to read everything).
Anthony Rodriguez
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Woof. What is this? Sci-fi/philosophy/existential theistic propaganda? Yes? I don’t know. It’s wild though. I can’t properly explain this book to you and if I did, I’d probably get a bunch of stuff wrong. I’m certain I didn’t get about half of it. But I... I liked it? Yeah. I liked it.
Gino Filicetti
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great piece of mind bending perspective changes and thrilleresque plot twists.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Adam Roberts (born 1965) is an academic, critic and novelist. He also writes parodies under the pseudonyms of A.R.R.R. Roberts, A3R Roberts and Don Brine. He also blogs at The Valve, a group blog devoted to literature and cultural studies.

He has a degree in English from the
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“I eventually got a handle on the drinking. It happens as you get older. It happens, or you don’t get older. Drink hard in your twenties and you’re a regular, fun guy. Keep drinking hard through your thirties and you start to separate yourself from fun, health and indeed other people. If you’re still doing it in your forties it’s probably because you have unresolved stresses and problems which you are clumsily and destructively self-medicating. Drinking hard into your fifties means that you’re blowing hot and cold on ever seeing your sixties. I woke up a week after my fiftieth birthday unable to remember the previous three days, and decided to stop. I could say ‘simple as that’, except that it really wasn’t simple at all. There was a clincher, though, and it was this: my main rationale for drinking was to calm myself in the face of my night terrors. But although I drank a lot, the nightmares refused to go away. I tried a few weeks of facing them without the alcohol, and though the terrors were no better they were certainly not worse. So I quit drinking.” 2 likes
“Our habits of thought are stronger than strait-waistcoats. We walk about with habit-coloured spectacles before our eyes, and see everything as we are accustomed to see it.’ He” 1 likes
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