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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An acquired taste
Lovers of mainstream sci-fi will probably find Shikasta hard going. Many mainstream novels have a vision of the future as being pretty much the same as now, but with better gadgets. In truth, whilst humans will probably always love, lose, fight and seek meaning in their lives, you have to wonder how this will manifest in a thousand years, or a million. Now try to...
Published on 26 Dec 2003

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious, interesting but incoherent and dated
Shikasta has alot of big ideas. The novel takes in everything from a vision of Eden, several alien civilizations, a retelling of the trial of Socrates and a critique of post-war British policy in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia.

The problem is that all these ideas overcrowd the book. For the first two-thirds of the novel there isn't really any story. The character of the...
Published on 29 Mar 2009 by David Weatherall


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book Ever, 8 Nov 2012
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A very difficult read, not for the faint hearted, but has to be my favourite book of all time - must be one of the best sci-fi books ever written. Giving a comprehensive alternative history of earth over the last few millenia, and looking at mankinds development in a whole new way - really makes you think about the possibilities of how society works the way it does and gives a whole new perspective.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious, interesting but incoherent and dated, 29 Mar 2009
By 
David Weatherall "david_w111" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Shikasta has alot of big ideas. The novel takes in everything from a vision of Eden, several alien civilizations, a retelling of the trial of Socrates and a critique of post-war British policy in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia.

The problem is that all these ideas overcrowd the book. For the first two-thirds of the novel there isn't really any story. The character of the alien 'Johor' who's meant to make it all hang together never acheives any substance.

Nothing dates like science fiction and Shikasta's concerns place it squarely in the 1970s. It helps if you can stomach mystical ideas about stone circles and disregard lengthy, outdated discursions on cold war politics.

Having said that, this is nothing if not a novel with ambition. There is energy and vision and anger that shines through all the flaws. Lessing hates human beings' capacity for cruelty and really believes that the world can be made better, even perfect. That's kind of an interesting idea.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I tried..., 8 April 2012
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Roger Cawkwell (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Yes, I tried to read this - 2nd time around (I tried reading it maybe 30 years ago) and couldn't finish it any more now than then. It may have immense literary merits (just covering myself for people who think DL is a genius) but she can't write Science Fiction for toffee. I managed Joyce's "Ulysses" and quite a bit of "Finnegan's Wake" but this just makes me drop off as it's about as interesting as a Civil Service report (which is kind of what it's intended to be...)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too long and windy, 30 Aug 2014
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I never finished this book. I read about 3/4 of the way through. No great original ideas and it could have been half as long.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ... this several times and consider it one of her best works. Forget the critical bias about science fiction, 24 Nov 2014
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James C. Purdy "Millipede" (Newton MA) - See all my reviews
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I've read this several times and consider it one of her best works. Forget the critical bias about science fiction. How else do you recognize the contribution to civilization of the insane, or realize the life that goes on within refugee camps? This book is an affirmation of what we are capable of. If we were better at it, perhaps it wouldn't require this genre to express. Recommended!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly relevant..., 16 Jun 2014
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R. Griffiths (uk) - See all my reviews
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This is the most relevant SF novel ever written even though it's 35 years old - so much of it records and predicts the events of the last 100 years - in places one feels the author had a crystal ball - a grim dystopian one - and there won't be any happy ending for us as there is (kind of) in this book...
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5.0 out of 5 stars an underrated gem, 27 May 2014
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I chose 5 stars as I consider this whole series to be a great literary work, never mentioned by critics - and it needs to be recognised.

In these days of televised rubbish re UFOs etc and all the film sensationalism, this book brings a more placid attitude to the whole subject and shows Doris Lessing to be in the same class as Arthur C Clarke .
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual perspective., 25 Mar 2014
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The history of the world from the perspective of higher beings. A deep, philosophical tale for those who don't mind thinking a bit harder and be challenged by their reading. Lessing will not shy away from neither the moral nor ontological inconsistensies of the human existence and she certainly has the skill to make a great literature out of. Highly recommended reading for any thinking soul.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's good but it has dated very badly, 24 Feb 2012
By 
R. A. Davison (UK) - See all my reviews
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Shikasta is the first in a quintet of 'space fiction' novels by the highly respected author Doris Lessing who won the Nobel Prize For Literature in 2007, so great credentials there. The quintet is collectively known as Canopus in Argos : Archives, which are in the first novel at least a set of historical documents relating to the struggle of the Canopus Empire regarding the difficult planet Shikasta.

Shikasta first known to Canopeans as Rohanda, is seen as a planet of promise and brought into the Canopus Empire, were they attempted to colonise it and bring it in line with the rest of the Empire. When this attempt fails they leave the planet largely to its own devices and watch horrified as it devolves. Shikasta is revealed to be our planet Earth.

Canopus continues to send agents in disguise to Shikasta to help change the course of events, and improve the conditions of Shikastans but any improvements largely breakdown over time. These interventions are cleverly shown to mirror the events and covenant of the Old Testament, we don't realise but Canopus is our master and God.

By choosing to use observers from outer space as her primary voice in the novel, it has a sense of detachment and superiority, Canopus judges but is not to blame. The archive reports read as anthropology which as a writer is a different angle to take and for a reader makes a new experience.
Here Lessing uses the disgust and despair of the Canopeans to launch a blistering attack on 20th Century human behaviour and by doing so makes her novel something of a polemic.

This is for me what makes my response to the novel somewhat mixed. It was published in 1979. In that era and in the 1980's which followed many things occurred or were occurring politically: The Cold War, Feminism, the rise of Capitalism, and Thatcherism and the breaking of the trade unions. Lessing's writing in Shikasta is clearly heavily influenced by the current events of the day. I imagine that those who cared about those subjects or were involved in them politically or personally found the novel mind-blowing, exciting and massively important and relevant.

I, however, reading it in 2011 living in the Post-x era with the benefit of history know that much of what is predicted did not come to pass, and society has gone for good or ill a very different way. One notable "mistake" if you like is that those in the novel living in The End Times do not have and never did have computers. This kind of thing makes the novel dated yet it remains a curiosity.

I went up and down with this novel as I read it, liking it in parts more than others. I struggled with the last third, particularly The Trial, although the issue put on trial is very important and still a relevant question to this day, I found the notion of this issue having a trial itself and its written execution rather absurd. It would never happen.

Given that this book is part of a quintet I bought all five at once, and, I'm not sure if I regret that now or not, I certainly like the concept and am interested to see how Lessing applied it to different situations and characters but I am wondering if I will also find the ideas and themes of the other four books similarly dated. 7/10
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Shikasta: Re-colonised Planet 5 (Canopus in Argos)
Shikasta: Re-colonised Planet 5 (Canopus in Argos) by Doris Lessing (Hardcover - 15 Nov 1979)
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