47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
An acquired taste,
By A Customer
This review is from: Shikasta Re: Colonised Planet 5 (Paperback)
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 imagine how an alien race would think, given a head start on humanity of a few million years. Here Lessing recounts a spiritual evolution of mankind watched by such an alien race, from our earliest alien-doctored roots until the near future, in which a growing crisis comes to a head. Incarnation is tool for learning and development, and a stricken Earth (the ‘Shikasta’ of the title) is bursting with human souls imprisoned by an astrological accident that has left us at the mercy of our materialism and self-obsession.
Shikasta showed me many things that I had taken for granted were in fact very flimsy in substance. I love in particular the offhand way in which many things we see as important in our civilisation are viewed as trivial – and that we perceive such massive differences amongst our species purely because we have become so highly attuned to spotting those differences. Lessing’s colonial roots may account for the theme of guilt that the Western races are forced to face in this book, but I have to agree with her, and it is handled well. This is no tight, fluid narrative however, and you will find that the journal extracts, letters and reference materials that comprise the book need focus from the reader, but it is worth it.
The spiritual theme does not make it religious as such, so I wouldn’t worry about that if you are a hardened atheist. I would say however that the rest of the series is for committed fans only – if you like Shikasta, you may like the others, but this novel stands alone if that’s as far as you want to take it. For me, this was the Right Book At The Right Time, and not only fitted with the way my mind was going, but pushed it substantially in that direction. If you have a liking for the more exploratory sci-fi that makes you think hard about the now as much as the future, I think you will like Shikasta.