Friday, January 18, 2013

Doris Lessing's Shikasta

I am wrapping up my Female Sci-Fi/Fantasy writers. I had Doris Lessing and Marion Zimmer Bradley left. They were both large books, and I decided to hit my 100 book goal rather than finishing out my F SF/F list by the end of 2012.

So, on to Shikasta. The beginning of this book was a huge struggle for me. It's not the type of book that I usually enjoy. I usually stray more to Fantasy than Science Fiction. Shikasta, was more Science Fiction, with a lot of social commentary thrown in.

Lessing's book tells the story of Earth, named initially Rohanda by the aliens who have taken it as one of their colony planets. Life had already started on this planet, but they bring some giant aliens from another colony to help speed the evolution on Rohanda. Everything is going along swimmingly until something in the cosmos upsets the harmonious balance on Rohanda. This give the aliens affiliated with Shammat a chance to disrupt the harmony and create a destructive force that they feed upon. So begins the history of Earth that we are familiar with, and the planet's name is changed to Shikasta.

From there we are given a history of earth through the eyes of the Canopeans, the aliens who initially colonized the planet. Johor has been to Shikasta several times, often thousands of years apart, and he is the main Canopean player in the last portion of the book. But, the book really looks at humans disregard for our planet and each other, except this book makes the problem out to be caused by this problem in the cosmos and the encouragement of the Shammat aliens of our most destructive tendencies.

The book was slow to get going, and then when I was seeing Bible stories played out with aliens acting as the word of God, I really started to wonder if I was going to finish the book. I was not offended by these Biblical references, I just wasn't sure if I wanted to read a book full of them. Luckily, the tone of the book shifted a bit. Once it hit the period after WWII, and got into some of the speculation portion of what the near future would hold for our planet and its people, it got more interesting.

This book was written in 1979, so there are a lot of doom and gloom predictions for what the Earth would be like during and after the 1980s. I remember, as a child there was always speculation that WWIII was just around the corner. This book has that, although doesn't give much in the way of detail about the war itself, just some of the lead up (told through journals, letters, and alien reference book chapters), and then ultimately what the planet would be like once the harmonious balance was restored.

Shikasta was a challenging read, but it was worth reading and finishing. I'm going to give Shikasta by Doris Lessing 3 Stars

The last book on my F SF/F writers list is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Let's more thing here is a quick list of my favorite reads from November and December 2012:

The Woman Who Died A Lot (Thursday Next #7) by Jasper Fforde
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Grave Memory  (Alex Craft #3) by Kalayna Price
Nightshifted (Edie Spence #1) by Cassie Alexander
First Grave on the Right and Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones
Cold Days (Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher
Nightshade on Elm Street (Flower shop mystery #13) by Kate Collins
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
Lethal Outlook (Psychic Eye mystery #10) by Victoria Laurie

All of the above were books I rated 4 stars or higher on Goodreads. There were others, but mostly romances, these were the standouts.