This novel charts the changes in the lives of a society as the conditions on its planet slowly changes due to a change in its orbit. It is a beautifully written and paced story in which the whole fabric of the society and the relationships of its members are stretched beyond their limits. Unlike much Sci Fi it is not an escape to another world but a window into the deeper realities of our own. Apart from a slightly long middle section I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to anyone.
This novel is a catastrophe story that gets to the heart of the question of how and why great civilisations strive to explore, develop and learn about themselves and the real Universe, sometimes against great odds, and the idea that sometimes we need assistance with these significant challenges, which is forthcoming. As the situation reaches crisis point the community learns how to transform consciousness and let go of their pains and move on to the next reality, patiently guided by Canopus who suffers alongside them until they arrive.
The most beautiful story I have ever read. I first read it in the early 1980s, and I do return to it every five years or so. I also enjoyed the Glass opera based on the story, back in the 1990s I think it was.
At one level, it is the simplest story of all. Where there is, after a terrible collective struggle, a sort of triumph over adversity.
And at another, deeper level, just under the icy surface of the metaphor, it speaks of what we are, and what will become of us all. Our bodies, our minds, our spirits ... and our societies and the social roles they contain.
It's admittedly not for everyone. Some people will read it just as the surface story, and at that level it's perhaps not as interesting, subtle or exciting as some thrillers or romances. But for those who can see, understand, and respond to the ideas that it references - and they aren't made hard to find at all - it is by far the best way of spending some hours reading.
This book is the fourth in the Canopus in Argos series. The series concerns the influences on the human psyche and the way we interact with each other and react to internal and external influences. Lessing has created a universe with three interstellar empires, Canopus, Sirius and Puttoria. Canopus is advanced and spiritual - their approach to the universe is in terms of stewardship and alignment, intervening where necessary, and by any means, to maintain universal harmony. Sirius is a younger empire and view lower lifeforms (including us) as animals for experimentation - they are very practical and not particularly motivated by higher spiritual matters. Puttoria has a community within it known as Shammat - this community have learned how to feed off disharmony and are a very negative influence throughout this quintet of novels. The 5 books are: - Shikasta - Re: Colonised Planet 5 - The Marriages Between Zones Three Four and Five - The Sirian Experiments Report by Ambien II of the Five - The Making Of The Representative of Planet 8 - Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire
In this fourth book Lessing explores a dying planet that is advancing into an ice age due to a cosmic disturbance. The planet was a perfect Eden, warm, peaceful and colonised by a race that has been engineered by Canopus. After the disturbance, the intention was to move the race to Earth (Rohanda / Shikasta), but due to the problems there this proved impossible and so the inhabitants of planet 8 had to stay put. Canopus came to give them instructions on how to minimise the impact of the changing climate for as long as possible and to provide alternative foods that could grow in the much colder climate. These are delaying tactics as the ice-age would be so deep that nothing can survive and even the ocean would freeze. The emissary Johar is sent to the planet to stay with the people until the end, to help them as much as possible, but to ensure the survival of the Representatives. The story charts a struggle for physical survival, the despair of a race when they are forced to live in the most unpleasant conditions and the ultimate failure of the mission to save the people. Of the many people on the planet, a few Representatives grow in understanding during these trials and continue to struggle for survival until the very end. This is a moving and deeply disturbing book. As usual Lessing tackles many aspects of human nature and its indomitable spirit and ability to adapt, it is extremely well written. Personally, I found this book very dark and it left me very sad for the waste of life and hopelessness of this struggle. I am so pleased that the next book in the series has a much lighter tone.
A slow to start but intriguing insight into communication between different species, and awareness of space, ecology, and architecture. Doris Lessing has an almost ethereal way of capturing another world atmosphere. This style of writing takes a bit more effort to get into, but it nonetheless, makes a fine read.