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Shikasta: Re-colonised Planet 5 (Canopus in Argos) [Paperback]

Doris Lessing
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

14 May 1981 Canopus in Argos
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 Canopian archives. For eons, galactic empires have struggled against one another, and Shikasta is one of the main battlegrounds.Johar, an emissary from Canopus and the primary contributor to the archives, visits Shikasta over the millennia from the time of the giants and the biblical great flood up to the present. With every visit he tries to distract Shikastans from the evil influences of the planet Shammat but notes with dismay the ever-growing chaos and destruction of Shikasta as its people hurl themselves towards World War III and annihilation.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Grafton; New edition edition (14 May 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0586053107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0586053102
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 419,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2007, is one of the most celebrated and distinguished writers of recent decades. A Companion of Honour and a Companion of Literature, she has been awarded the David Cohen Memorial Prize for British Literature, Spain's Prince of Asturias Prize, the International Catalunya Award and the S. T. Dupont Golden PEN Award for a
Lifetime's Distinguished Service to Literature, as well as a host of other international awards.
Doris Lessing died on 17 November 2013.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars how we are 12 Jun 2009
By lloyds
Format:Paperback
For some reason this book has been recommended to me by people for the last 30 years, I have not untill now thought of buying it.
The book is all my friends said it would be and conveys a picture of the human and its journey with the planet over many thousands of years.
Its instintive, emotional, connective, and locating for anyone who has pondered the great questions that life offers us all.
A classic to all free thinking people.
It may haunt you in those quiet moments one has when all is still and time seems to stretch and allow a bit of normality to enter.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Last and first men 21 Oct 2001
By Philip Challinor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Shikasta is the first, the largest (in bulk and in scope) and the most epic of the quintet collectively titled Canopus in Argos: Archives. It's a stunning work, one of the very few science-fiction novels to show any awareness of the cosmic perspective of Olaf Stapledon (Last and First Men, Star Maker), let alone adapt it into another, wholly independent vision. Shikasta is the name Canopus use for Earth; the word means broken, wounded, suffering. The book falls into two parts. The first is a science-fiction revision of the Old Testament, an astounding overview of the Canopean Empire's colonising efforts over vast forgotten tracts of time which have come down to us as fossilised, distorted myths. It makes for a breathtaking two hundred pages, rivalled for sheer dizzying cosmicism only by Stapledon, the best of Lovecraft and some of Stanislaw Lem. The second part of the book is the story of the Sherban family during the last days of Western civilisation; and particularly the story of George Sherban, an agent of Canopus who (as many times before) has taken on human shape in order to guide the evolution of the human race. Sherban's efforts, observed through the bewildered but movingly sympathetic eyes of his sister Rachel, and later by a thoughtful and humane Chinese colonial administrator, culminate in a vast show trial of the white races (the natives of what the Canopeans, with a fine sense of perspective, call "the Northwest fringes") for thousands of years of horrific oppression. Despite the glorious writing, admirable originality and a total refusal to settle for easy answers, I'm not altogether sure this second part quite comes off - after the merciless dissection of human frailties in Part One, it just doesn't seem credible for Sherban's scheme to work. And the ending comes perilously close to suggesting that if we could only kill off nine-tenths of the population and live in geometrically perfect cities, all our problems would be over. That said, however, Shikasta remains a great and compelling work, always fascinating and often deeply moving - an amazing synthesis of the cosmic perspective with the political and the personal. Small wonder that it took Lessing four more books to work out the implications as fully as she wished.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most influential books in my life 26 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I've read this book so many times over the years that by now I'm quite astonished to find it never loses its impact. It seems very much alive and growing to the challenge of a better understanding on my part. You may not like the perspective. However, accurate observation and a profound knowledge of human behavior and aim will disregard the wrapping they are delivered in. To call this a "Science Fiction" book is misleading. It is easier to read a newspaper at a certain distance from your face - and so it is perhaps easier to accept and digest the most uncomfortable facts about human society (and yourself) if the author goes about her business describing those from an outer-space-view. It's too close for comfort - and a most exciting and rewarding read.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like the series, but ... 15 Oct 2005
By wiredweird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Lessing's criticism of the twentieth century is pointed, somtimes funny, and ultimately hopeful. The other four books in her 'Canopus' series are much stronger, though.

Shikasta - the outsider's name for Earth - is presented in a series of vingettes, case studies, and partial exchanges of letters. Perhaps the intent was to create a mosaic from those many pieces. I just found it fragmentary; somehow, it never formed a whole, coherent image for me. Also, this book is longer than the others in the set. In those, Lessing makes her points concisely; this book's increased length just gave more of the poor organization.

I recently re-read the other four books (not the proper order of the set of five), and came away more impressed than ever. Singly and as a set, they are wonderful. I'm glad I read this one last. If I had read this before the others I might not have bothered with them - that would have been a true loss on my part.

I recommend the Canopus series most highly. The other books are among the finest literature I know. It is unfortunate that Shikasta does not rise to their standards, and it would be sad if a new reader judged the series by it's first member.

//wiredweird
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most influential books in my life 26 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I've read this book so many times over the years that by now I'm quite astonished to find it never loses its impact. It seems very much alive and growing to the challenge of a better understanding on my part. You may not like the perspective. However, accurate observation and a profound knowledge of human behavior and aim will disregard the wrapping they are delivered in. To call this a "Science Fiction" book is misleading. It is easier to read a newspaper at a certain distance from your face - and so it is perhaps easier to accept and digest the most uncomfortable facts about human society (and yourself) if the author goes about her business describing those from an outer-space-view. It's too close for comfort - and a most exciting and rewarding read.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars far away so close 8 Jun 2001
By J Kevin Doyle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I don't read a whole lot of novels, and truth be told I've never been able to read anything else of Lessing's. Yet this book remains indelible and forever in my heart. Lessing herself said that this work felt born through her as much as from her, and considering the discrimination and intellect of the woman, I take that as a powerful statement.
And truly visionary this work is- it's able to zoom into the heart and process of darkness in our contemporary world without comprimise, then give the reader a view from above without sentiment or easy platitudes, with compassion and true insight.
This is a true work of spirituality- that is bringing the heart and the intellect together, without resorting to easy answers. May each one of us aspire to the dedication and tireless compassion as does Johor in order to benefit beings.
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