Why the West Rules—for Now – Ian Morris

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Why the West Rules—for Now - Ian Morris.

This is more a compendium than a book.

It takes us on a wide adventure across Earth and time in the last 20 thousand years since the last ice age, following mankind through its civilizations, its empires, the rise and fall of the currents of history meandering the way dictated by geography and climate, sociology and biology.

This not only tells us why the west rules, for now, but gives a most impressive and comprehensive history lesson; it’s been a while since I felt achieving something when finishing a book; <a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/425618-understanding-is-a-kind-of-ecstasy”>Understanding is a kind of ecstasy</a>, no doubt.

The human revolutions, the technology and thought that each era needs to surpass the empire’s fall and transform the meaning of geography, the challenges civilizations face, the driving forces of mankind (greed and lazyness!), all that mixed with an entertaining narrative of mankind’s passage through this planet.

The author, a superstar in his domains, has done a massive amount of research, invented qualitative methods for measuring men and gave a presentable face to his findings; the development index he came up with is fascinating.

Halfway through the book I began wondering if he would make the final jump and talk —in the final chapter(s), of course— of the <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity”>Singularity</a>. I expected him to do so, as technology is the means with which civilizations level-up, and it appears to be in our immediate future; He did so.

A grand book that should be required reading in the schools of the world.


Here’s the professor, archaeologist, historian and academic himself giving a conference about this on the Oriental Institute, think of it as the tl;dr:

This image pretty much sums up the importance of geography in human affairs:

The importance of geography in the currents of history.

The importance of geography in the currents of history.

The Conspiracy Against the Human Race – Thomas Ligotti

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The Conspiracy Against the Human Race - Thomas Ligotti.

The Conspiracy Against the Human Race – Thomas Ligotti.

I’m not sure… I mean, being alive is all well and nice!

Ligotti is a connoisseur of the horror genre(s), and just for that this is a worthy read. On his other subject, his main thesis, he doesn’t tell us anything new —for those of us with a basic grasp of things— to know: Life is pointless, the universe cares not for it, and consciousness has ruined the simple life for us forever while at the same time allowing us to be aware of it.

A quick and entertaining, if a bit too conscious of itself (see what I did there), read.

Also, Rustin Cohle from one of the greatest series of all time, True Detective (just season one, the other two aren’t in the same league), read the book too 😉


Elysium Fire – Alastair Reynolds

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Elysium Fire - Alastair Reynolds.
Elysium Fire – Alastair Reynolds.

Not as favorable as its predecessor, The Prefect.

We don’t get to see much of Aurora (she actually owes us, but I guess what she learnt in the turbines will be on the next novel), and we find out about this incredible thing the Voi can do, and they never use it! Picture the Second Foundation not using psychohistory. That would have been a much better subject than the adventures in the jungle of the two bland boys. At least Garlin is interesting when he’s preaching against the system.

Dreyfus, Sparver, and Thalia are dragged through the plot by the Voi, instead of actually doing any detective work. They even get told this in their faces by the antagonist; This detracts from the characters and makes them dumb. Granted, the antagonist is in a much more powerful position, but still, have them actually working out something.
Hestia turned out to be a much capable police officer than the heroes from Panoply.

A few loose ends, the primary being that some characters note that their intense hate towards Garlin almost seems like if they knew him from before. That doesn’t get explored further, it’s a lost opportunity.

Insipid, hasted, half-thought. And so very off the usual Revelation Space themes.

Reynold’s characters turn to one liners, stupid answers, and become incapable of thought under duress. Sparver does it here, Khouri does it in a RS novel… Alas, not every character gets to be Sylveste or Hausmann.


Strangest of All: War, Ice, Egg, Universe

[Tiempo de lectura 3 m]Empecé a leer una nueva antología de ciencia ficción, Strangest of All: Anthology of Astrobiological Science Fiction, editada por Julie Nováková, que iba a presentarse en la conferencia BEACON del Instituto Europeo de Astrobiología este año, pero por el COVID no se pudo, y decidieron sacarla de todos modos (descargable gratuitamente en el sitio).

Strangest of All: Anthology of Astrobiological Science Fiction

La primera historia, War, Ice, Egg, Universe, por G. David Nordley, author and consulting astronautical engineer, Hugo and Nebula nominee, terriblemente infantil, como si fuera de la época de oro de la CiFi (¡pero fue publicada en 2002!): aliens con comportamientos humanos, nombres de objetos y conceptos que hacen alusión a las diferencias morfológicas entre ellos y nosotros (thorax pouch, abdomen belt, sistema numérico base 8), en vez de diferencias un poquito más pensadas. O sea, ¿de qué sirve tener una especie alienígena en otro mundo, si va a reaccionar y pensar idéntico a nosotros? Sloppy writing.

La historia narra una guerra entre dos bandos (aparentemente de la misma especie) de “arañas” Europanas (de Europa, la luna de Júpiter), y el contacto con nosotros.

All these worlds are yours except Europa

Siempre ignorando al Monolito en Júpiter.

El caso es que pudo haber sido la historia de una guerra entre dos bandos humanos cualesquiera, en cualquier momento de nuestra historia, y hubiera sido lo mismo. No aporta nada a la ciencia ficción que incontables autores no hayan escrito ya.

Al final, ponen las notas del autor:

«Are these aliens “too human” in character of not in form? At some point, one has to admit that one is writing a story for human beings to read and about beings to whom they will be able to relate. But I think there is an argument for a certain universality in the underlying motivational programming of intelligent beings; we see much of ourselves in the behavior if life around us, even that white last common ancestor lived hundred of millions of years ago. One might expect to see reciprocity, hierarchies, collective agression, and even sacrifice for the sake of the greater gene pool. Such trails have survival value here and may have survival value elsewhere as well.»

Que demuestran lo que digo, que es una común y corriente historia humana sin más, que el autor fue incapaz de imaginar inteligencias realmente diferentes a las terrestres… Y es esto justamente lo que hizo a Stanislaw Lem el más grande escritor de ciencia ficción alienígena que haya existido; él sí que podía salirse de nuestras limitantes antropocéntricas y escribir historias sobre aliens incomprensibles (los aliens, no las historias). Sus extraterrestres son realmente de ramas de la vida distintas a la nuestra (y por nuestra me refiero a toda la de la Tierra), sus motivaciones ilegibles, la comunicación con ellos imposible e inalcanzable, inútil.

Me sacó una sonrisa adolescente por su inocencia y transparencia, me recordó a tantas novelas y cuentos cortos que leía de niño. Pero no pasa de ahí, simple e inocente, para niños. Mala ciencia ficción.

Una estrellita (a esta historia solamente, no a la antología completa) y eso nomás por la nostalgia.


Revelation Space – Alastair Reynolds

[Tiempo de lectura 2 m]Revelation Space

Revelation Space es una gran historia universal, en el sentido más barroco y opulento posible. Nos lleva desde que la humanidad deja la Tierra, hasta el fin de la galaxia. Y del lado de la galaxia millones de años en el pasado a cuando dio sus primeras vueltas.

Esto es Space Opera de la mejor.

Como es usual con Reynolds (aunque este fue su primer libro que leí), rápido, interesante, trama orgánica y fluida, ningún deus ex machina, grandes y buenos giros inesperados, enormes naves espaciales, armas Hell-Class, ¡ULTRAS!  Y eso son mencionar que no es acción, es misterio con drama, bien pensada y escrita, buena historia.

Me enganchó, no hay suficiente Reynolds. Solo otra vez me había sucedido: con Asimov y luego con Sagan. Ok, y después con Stanislaw.

Así, varias y distintas culturas humanas, sitios arqueológicos antiquísimos, especies alienígenas extintas. No se puede pedir más de una novela de Ciencia Ficción.

Si apenas empiezas con Reynolds, lee este libro primero. En realidad no quieres arruinarte con spoilers si empiezas con otro. Después de esta tetralogía

Una catedral de novela.

Nostalgia for Infinity

Un lighthugger, el Nostalgia for Infinity.


Es de notar que el universo de RS influenció muchísimo el desarrollo, diseño y temas de Mass Effect. ¡Funcionan muy muy bien como complementos!