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The Absolute at Large (Bison Frontiers of Imagination) [Paperback]

Karel Capek , Stephen Baxter
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 10.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Jan 2006 Bison Frontiers of Imagination
In this satirical classic, a brilliant scientist invents the Karburator, a reactor that can create abundant and practically free energy. However, the Karburator's superefficient energy production also yields a powerful by-product. The machine works by completely annihilating matter and in so doing releases the Absolute, the spiritual essence held within all matter, into the world. Infected by the heady, pure Absolute, the world's population becomes consumed with religious and national fervor, the effects of which ultimately cause a devastating global war. Set in the mid-twentieth century, The Absolute at Large questions the ethics and rampant spread of power, mass production, and atomic weapons that Karel Capek saw in the technological and political revolutions occurring around him. Stephen Baxter provides an introduction for this Bison Books edition. Karel Capek (1890-1938) was an acclaimed Czech author of novels, plays, essays, political writings, and short stories. His works include R.U.R., the famous play in which Capek coined the word "robot." Stephen Baxter is the author of several science-fiction works, including the Philip K. Dick Award-winning Vacuum Diagrams, and the coauthor, along with Arthur C. Clarke, of The Light of Other Days.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Bison; New edition edition (1 Jan 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803264593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803264595
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 14 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 128,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Capek's skewering of human greed and faith is all the more impressive given that the novel was originally published in 1922."--Pedro Ponce, "Review of Contemporary Fiction"--Pedro Ponce "Review of Contemporary Fiction "

About the Author

Karel Capek (1890-1938) was an acclaimed Czech author of novels, plays, essays, political writings, and short stories. His works include R.U.R., the famous play in which Capek coined the word "robot."

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
ON New Year's Day, 1943, C. H. Bondy, head of the great Metallo-Electric Company, was sitting as usual reading his paper. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious and humane satire 9 Feb 2008
By Melmoth
When the brilliant scientist Professor Marek invents an atomic engine, "The Karburator", capable of producing abundant and practically free energy, the world is delighted. But the work of the Karburator comes with a byproduct: the engine releases the Absolute, the spiritual stuff of which God himself is made. Soon atheists find themselves appalled at their powers of miraculous healing, barge stokers become spiritual leaders and churches, temples and mosques find themselves homes to very real gods. With every belief and nation finding that it really does have God on its side, the world is soon plunged into conflict.

With a story that covers the whole globe and is filled with a wide-ranging and wonderful cast of characters - from Professor Marek, appalled at his own invention, to industrialist GH Bondy who fills the world with Karburators and bits of God even as he himself flees to the high hills, via bargemen, bishops, roustabouts and a humble French soldier who finds himself briefly King of Europe - the beak features all Capek's characteristic wit and humanity, The Absolute at Large is a brilliant, hilarious and prescient satire upon humanity's attitudes towards science, politics and God(s) while taking in religious war and energy crises. As such it is perhaps more relevant to the world we live in now than it has ever been. In the words of GH Bondy himself, "God is far too big ... everyone measures off a certain amount of Him ... and then thinks he possesses the whole ... In order to convince himself that God is wholly his, he has to go off and kill all the others".
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4.0 out of 5 stars For Capek lovers only... 28 Dec 2009
This is an interesting idea - and the book has some brilliant concepts and some amusing bits in the way that Capek brings off so brilliantly, but overall it doesn't shock and surprise as much as some of his books. Because I am a huge Capek fan, I really enjoyed it, but I think someone reading his work for the first time might find this a bit hard-going in places.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
47 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All books by Capek are required reading for civilised person 18 Sep 1999
By jan - Published on Amazon.com
Perhaps as a companion piece to War with the Newts this one should have been titled War with God, since this book attacks religious intolerance with the same gentle, sad, hilarious ridiculousness that he employed with devastating effect against racial intolerance in Newts. As a novel it violates most every rule of how a "good" novel should be written, in terms of structure, plot, cohesiveness, restraint, character development, etc and as such it is a fine book. And, of course, it is very very Czech.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Social commentary as science fiction 1 Dec 2011
By L. M. Crane - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First, buy the paperback instead of the photoprinted hardcover. Easier to read and much cheaper.

Science fiction is at its best when well constructed with futuristic visions based on predicted fact and a novel point of view (no pun intended). "The Absolute at Large" was first published in the 1920's (remember Czech author Karel Capek was born in 1890), but uses remarkable futuristic telling that presages atomic fusion while commenting on the ethics and spread of power and mass production that Karel Capek saw in the technological and political revolutions occurring around him. In addition, he raises theistic-antitheistic arguments that are still going on today. And, lest I forget, he also includes comments on communism, national socialism, and free market capitalism.

But the real kicker is that this book is funny. The novel is written with a tongue-in-cheek style that will often have you laughing out loud. It's only when you finish the book that you realize just how much philosophy was covered while you were having so much reading fun. Humorous science fiction wrapped in a thoughtful core - just the right thing for the thinking reader.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, but poorly printed 24 Jun 2011
By Tim - Published on Amazon.com
I agree in part with both of the previous reviews. This was a very good book and I'll read more of Karel Capek. It has a very clever theme and is not only good fiction but a social commentary as well.

However, I would buy the paperback instead of this hardback edition. It has obviously been photocopied and has many defects, including almost no periods at the ends of sentences, very strange spacing and a few duplicated paragraphs. Some pages were truncated at the edges (copy machine), and there were many extraneous marks.

Note that the preview on Amazon is the paperback and does not display those defects.

That being said, it was still readable. If you can't get a better print copy, get this one. It is still readable and the content more than makes up for the defects.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Abolute at Large 24 Aug 2011
By FuelRack - Published on Amazon.com
Reading the The Absolute at Large, and knowing what we know now and what Capek(the best Czech author of the 20th century) could only imagine in 1922 was fascinating. Here was a man who had just witnessed the crumbling of the Austria Hungarian, German and Russian empires and the enormous waste of human life, especially of young men. Life in Central Europe in the early '20s was bitter and people saw a bleak future and their view of God "the Absolute" was hardly positive. Looking 20 years into a future four years after the end of "The Great War" and foretelling "The Greatest War" between 1944 and 1953 was amazing, and unfortunately very close to what actually happened. But it was Capek's biting satire on how man always believes he is right and others are wrong, especially when it comes to religion, that was especially interesting. The failure of man to think broadly and see the world through other's eyes is a story as old as man. Capek tells the story brilliantly. The book itself is poorly published and obviously photocopied from another source. Buy the paperbook instead of the hard copy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite Excellent 13 Oct 2011
By TheEngineer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is definitely worth adding to your reading list. The concept is quite unique. If every object is a portion of the great creation, then all objects contain an inherent remnant of the power/genius/God of creation. So what if a device, "The Kaburator" could consume matter entirely and in doing so release the "Absolute" held within it. And once the absolute is released into the world, what is its impact on us?

This question and its answers are what Capek weaves into a very entertaining read. I highly recommend and can promise a great read.
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