Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday morning thoughts from Clifford Simak

This week, I have been plugging my through the final 40 pages of this edition of Clifford Simak's 1953 novel Ring Around the Sun. It's my fourth Simak book in the past 20 months, and I don't think it's going to end up as one of my favorites. It's more of a thought piece/philosophical rambling hanging on the bare bones of a plot outline than a gripping story, and while I understand that many of his novels veer in this direction, this book — one of his early works — seems particularly egregious in that regard.

That said, Simak's philosophical ramblings on civilization, technology and politics are always insightful. So the book is still worthwhile, and, as an aside, it also introduces a spinning top as a key plot point that might just have inspired that same element in the movie Inception.

Anyway, as I was dozing off last night, I came across this passage by Simak, which I think both reflects the tone of the novel and serves as a notable passage for us to chew on, here on this Friday the 13th in October 2017:
"And it was then that he fully understood that even here, in the heartland of the nation, in the farms and little villages, in the roadside eating places there was a boiling hate. That, he told himself, was the measure of the culture that had been built upon the earth — a culture founded on a hatred and a terrible pride and a suspicion of everyone who did not talk the same language or eat the same food or dress the same as you did.

"It was a lop-sided mechanical culture of clanking machines, a technological world that could provide creature comfort, but not human justice nor security. It was a culture that had worked in metals, that had delved into the atom, that had mastered chemicals and had built a complicated and dangerous gadgetry. It had concentrated upon the technological and had ignored the sociological so that a man might punch a button and destroy a distant city without knowing, or even caring, about the lives and habits, the thoughts and hopes and beliefs of the people that he killed."
It worth noting again that this novel was published in 1953, at the dawn of the Cold War. And it's a science-fiction tale that's set in the future year of 1977. Simak thought, perhaps, in the wake of World War II and in the fledgling moments of the atomic age, that it might be possible to stave off another nightmarish worldwide war for decades, but it would probably not be possible to stave it off forever.

Let's hope he was wrong.

Peace, everyone.

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