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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And I stood upon the sand of the sea
and Saw a Beast Rise up Out of the Sea.
This apocalyptic vision is a fitting introduction to Karel Capek's dystopian masterpiece, War With the Newts. Capek described in an interview how the idea for War With The Newts came to him and serves as a good synopsis of the book:
"I had written the sentence, 'You mustn't think that the evolution that gave rise to us was...
Published on 26 April 2005 by Leonard Fleisig

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Clever but hard going at times
The first part of the book is excellent. Merchant sea captain discovers huge newt in remote location where he goes to look for pearls; discovers the newt can understand him, learn to use tools, and eventually speak. All this is facinating stuff and highly original. What follows thereafter is that man starts to exploit the newt as cheap labour, the newt population...
Published on 18 Jan 2011 by Adrenalin Streams


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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And I stood upon the sand of the sea, 26 April 2005
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: War with the Newts (Paperback)
and Saw a Beast Rise up Out of the Sea.
This apocalyptic vision is a fitting introduction to Karel Capek's dystopian masterpiece, War With the Newts. Capek described in an interview how the idea for War With The Newts came to him and serves as a good synopsis of the book:
"I had written the sentence, 'You mustn't think that the evolution that gave rise to us was the only evolutionary possibility on this planet. . . . that cultural developments could be shaped through the mediation of another animal species. If the biological conditions were favorable, some civilization not inferior to our own could arise in the depths of the sea. . . . Would it do the same stupid things mankind has done? Would it invite the same historical calamities? What would we say if some animal other than man declared that its education and its numbers gave it the sole right to occupy the entire world and hold sway over all creation?" Out of this thought process War With the Newts Was Born.
The plot is straightforward. The master of a steamer, Captain van Toch, comes across a rather curious breed of newts in an isolated lagoon near Sumatra. He discovers that they are intelligent and capable of communication. They lack, however, the ability to open easily oysters for food because of their short arms. He takes a knife and shows them how to use it. Next thing you know they have used his knife to open thousands of oysters, enough to provide the newts with food and the Captain with a large supply of pearls. Captain van Toch takes groups of newts and plants them in lagoons across the coastlines and lagoons of Asia. They are extraordinarily industrious. Before long newts become a worldwide rage. Every nation in the world uses newts to perform Herculean tasks of underwater and coastal development. The newts do not demand salaries. They merely ask for heavy equipment and munitions to facilitate these underwater projects. In short order the manufacture and supply of arms and equipment for newts becomes the single most important part of the world's economy.
Despite some increasingly violent skirmishes between newts and man no nation is willing to cease providing weapons to the newts. Before long the newts revolt, led by the Great Salamander (an apparent parody of Hitler), and announce that they will start destroying the earth, continent by continent in order to provide more coastline for the growing newt population. Despite this threat the nations of the earth continue to provide arms to the newts. The resultant battle is over quickly. Mountains are leveled, continents are turned into a series of islands and what is left of man finds its way to the Alps, or Rocky Mountains, or Himalayas.
As the story concludes, the author engages in a dialogue with himself and asks himself whether this is the end of man. After a great deal of soul searching he responds that perhaps the newts will take on all of the characteristics of the human race and find a way to destroy themselves. When that day occurs, perhaps humanity will recover what it gave away so readily.
War With the Newts is a fascinating book on many levels. The idea that the story is premised on the notion of concurrent evolutionary trends predates much landmark work that has been done since the book was written. It is also important to note that War With the Newts was written in 1936. The Nazis had obtained full control of Germany, Mussolini's fascists ruled Italy, and Stalin's purges were in full swing. Capek was devoted to the new Czech Republic and was an ardent proponent of the ideals of democracy. By 1936 the rest of Europe had already taken many strides down the road to appeasement. Capek's pessimistic vision of the fate of humanity is well grounded in contemporary events. War With the Newts may be viewed as much as a parable of contemporary events as a foretelling of a dark future. Finally, Capek is an excellent writer. His prose is full of wit and wry diversions. His chapter on the mating habits of the newts struck me as a classic parody of the human mating habits of his contemporary Aldous Huxley in Brave New World.
The following excerpt from a poem written by Capek after the bombing of the town of Badajoz during the Spanish Civil War serves as a fitting summation of the world view that permeates War With the Newts.
When this century collapses, dead at last,
and its sleep within the dark tomb has begun,
come, look down upon us, world, file past
and be ashamed of what our age has done.
Inscribe our stone, that everyone may see
what this dead era valued most and best:
science, progress, work, technology
and death - but death we prized above the rest.
Almost seventy years after its publication the message of War With the Newts still resonates.
Capek's War With the Newts is a wonderful, thought provoking book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No newts is good news..., 9 Aug 2010
By 
Sporus (Yorkshire, England) - See all my reviews
"What's it about?" everyone asks when they see this book. For once it's what is says on the can: it's about a war with the newts. They're large newts, of course, and smart with it. It's even rumoured that they can talk; but then so can parrots (so there's no reason not to dissect them). Capek (1890-1938) has something of the aloof, surreal and slightly dark humour that is a Czech trademark. An impressively balanced and informed soul, he should have had a place in the pantheon of 'serious' writers who dabbled in Sci-fi (Wells, Huxley, Orwell... even E.M.Forster) before it fell out of favour with the literati. Renowned in his day, Kapec's legitimate call on posterity was rejected by the Nazis and ignored by the Communists. He's referenced in 'Star Trek' because he was the first writer to use the word 'robot' (although evidently it was his painter brother who suggested the word). Well done to Penguin, then, for resuscitating him in this sturdy (ie slightly mechanical) translation. It begins as an attractive Conradian narrative; then mutates into a record (told largely in press cuttings and 'historical' synopses) of the way that the world's nations first exploit and then succumb to a rapidly spawning, salt water 'super-newt' that is discovered in the Batu archipelago. It's a satire, in fact, on science, business, and national politics. Like a lot of satires it loses pace as its scope broadens and eventually the dramatic element segues into whimsy as the 'message' is spelt out (which makes for a curious comparison with 'District 9' - a movie with related ideas - that does the opposite). The book's vision of the 'future' is marred by the values of early 20th C. Central Europe (the global significance of North America is under-estimated; while China is wiped out in a pen stroke!) but the story also gains a sad irony in the light of historical events. I was especially impressed by Capek's point that the newts - armed with weapons sold to them by competing nations - succeed not because they are exceptional, but because they are mediocre. This almost foreshadows Hannah Arendt's description of Nazi dominion as an exercise in the 'banality of evil'. At a time when people feel empowered to scream at shop assistants because they want more features on their mobile phones - even though most of them couldn't explain how sound travels down a taut string held between treacle tins - it still seems timely.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought provking read, 7 July 2010
By 
Mr. D. Swann "Doug Swann" (Staffs UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: War with the Newts (Paperback)
This is one of the most entertaining and thought provoking books I have read in very long time. What is so remarkable about it is that despite the fact it was written between the two wars, the concepts and terminology used by Capek could be straight out of the 21st century. It can be read on any number of levels from which various significant events or periods in world history easily spring to mind. These could include the slave trade of 18th and 19th centuries,the Nazi suppression of the Jews, the US civil rights movement, and the the runaway technological advances of the 20th and 21st centuries to name but some. Parallels to all of these can be found in the book, though at the time Capek wrote his novel some of them wouldn't even have happened. This is a satire at its very best in which colonies of giant Newts develop an intelligence to rival and even exceed that of mankind, who then attempts to exploit this for his own ends. Eventually it all unravels through man's own inability to realise what he is doing and as a result becomes truly unstuck. Capek has a go at capitalism, science, religion and attempts at social engineering among other things. Above all, he starkly depicts the futility of striving for the creation of a utopian society and demonstrates that even though nations may like to think they have the best and most altruistic intentions, in the end self interest and greed will always prevail. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes something a bit different.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And I stood upon the sand of the sea, 26 April 2005
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
and Saw a Beast Rise up Out of the Sea.
This apocalyptic vision is a fitting introduction to Karel Capek's masterpiece, War With the Newts.
The plot is straightforward. The master of a tramp steamer, Captain van Toch, comes across a rather curious breed of newts in an isolated lagoon near Sumatra. He discovers that they are intelligent and capable of communication. They lack, however, the ability to open easily oysters for food because of their short arms. He takes a knife and shows them how to use it. Next thing you know they have used his knife to open thousands of oysters, enough to provide the newts with food and the Captain with a large supply of pearls. Captain van Toch takes groups of newts and plants them in lagoons across the coastlines and lagoons of Asia. They are extraordinarily industrious. Before long newts become a worldwide rage. Every nation in the world uses newts to perform Herculean tasks of underwater and coastal development. The newts do not demand salaries. They merely ask for heavy equipment and munitions to facilitate these underwater projects. In short order the manufacture and supply of arms and equipment for newts becomes the single most important part of the world's economy.
Despite some increasingly violent skirmishes between newts and man no nation is willing to cease providing weapons to the newts. Before long the newts revolt, led by the Great Salamander (an apparent parody of Hitler), and announce that they will start destroying the earth, continent by continent in order to provide more coastline for the growing newt population. Despite this threat the nations of the earth continue to provide arms to the newts. The resultant battle is over quickly. Mountains are leveled, continents are turned into a series of islands and what is left of man finds its way to the Alps, or Rocky Mountains, or Himalayas.
As the story concludes, the author engages in a dialogue with himself and asks himself whether this is the end of man. After a great deal of soul searching he responds that perhaps the newts will take on all of the characteristics of the human race and find a way to destroy themselves. When that day occurs, perhaps humanity will recover what it gave away so readily.
War With the Newts is a fascinating book on many levels. The idea that the story is premised on the notion of concurrent evolutionary trends predates much landmark work that has been done since the book was written. It is also important to note that War With the Newts was written in 1936. The Nazis had obtained full control of Germany, Mussolini's fascists ruled Italy, and Stalin's purges were in full swing. Capek was devoted to the new Czech Republic and was an ardent proponent of the ideals of democracy. By 1936 the rest of Europe had already taken many strides down the road to appeasement. Capek's pessimistic vision of the fate of humanity is well grounded in contemporary events. War With the Newts may be viewed as much as a parable of contemporary events as a foretelling of a dark future. Finally, Capek is an excellent writer. His prose is full of wit and wry diversions. His chapter on the mating habits of the newts struck me as a classic parody of the human mating habits of his contemporary Aldous Huxley in Brave New World.
Almost seventy years after its publication the message of War With the Newts still resonates.
Capek's War With the Newts is a wonderful, thought provoking book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars First and foremost, it's still funny!, 25 Aug 2009
By 
Jason Mills "jason10801" (Accrington, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War with the Newts (Paperback)
This novel is a science-fantasy social satire from 1936. (Think Olaf Stapledon with a sense of humour.) It pokes fun at science, religion, international politics, art, elderly ladies, national stereotypes ("the terrifying discipline of a true Prussian Newt"!), militarism, fascism, economics, and a lot more besides - principally humanity in general. Discovering a small population of intelligent metre-tall sea-newts, mankind rapidly breeds and enslaves them to extend the continents, realising far too late that supplying them with explosives to do their work may have been a misjudgement...

As other reviewers here have noted, its themes particularly resonate with the time it was written, but everything it has to offer is still relevant. It suffers a little as a novel in having no central character to lead you through its decades, but Capek's wit is dry as burnt toast and I laughed out loud every few pages.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a classic, 3 May 2014
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Read this to find out about a Czech author you do not know, but who invented the word ROBOT and wrote many wonderful book. This book is a sci fi about the newts taking over the word temporarily. ALlegory to the soon to conquer Nazis. Written in the thirties. A fantastic book. Try it!
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4.0 out of 5 stars 'War With The Newts' by Karel Capek, 15 Feb 2012
Written in 1936, this is a wonderfully weird satire of the western world. Taking swipes at imperialism, science, journalism and international relations, Capek creates a narrative that is both funny and horrifying. Of particular interest is the author's use of form, blending his basic narrative with news reports, interviews, minutes from meetings, political manifestos, telegrams and encyclopedia appendices. As well as being a highly original and entertaining novel, it is fascinating to see how this Czech novelist inspired writers like Orwell and Vonnegut.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy without being dull, erudite without being turgid, 16 Dec 2011
By 
Mark Pack (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War with the Newts (Paperback)
Nominally this is a piece of science fiction from 1936, written by the man best known for introducing the word `robot' to our language. However this is not a book of Death Stars and phasers.

It is set in (then) contemporary times and is a satire on politics, society and humanity in general. Colonialism, racism, capitalism, Fascism, appeasement and more all get the satirical going over in a book that combines these serious themes with a fast moving and very readable plot. The book shows how you can be worthy without being dull, erudite without being turgid.

That makes it both a very enjoyable read and also one that is likely to appeal not only to science fiction fans but also people who are not normally attracted by the genre.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 13 July 2010
Great book, makes you think about the politics of the last century (and now). The newts end up as metaphors for the holocaust, slavery, human rights, social inequality, corporate greed, the military-industrial machine, environmental issues - the lot.

lots of styles of writing used too - e.g. narrative, documentary-style, histroical review, newspaper clippings.

A bit hard to get into, but once you get past the first 3 chapters it all starts to fall into place
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5.0 out of 5 stars A classic..., 5 July 2010
This is one of my favourite books ever. A classic, like G.Orwell's 1984. I would recommend to read this book to everyone.
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War with the Newts
War with the Newts by Karel Capek (Paperback - 10 Aug 2001)
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