17 January 2017

So Many Things: A Review of The Thing Itself, Adam Roberts

It's gross outside - grey, rainy, cold, the perfect day for writing. Yet here I sit, barely able to cohesively construct a single sentence delaying this post with tedious chores. Once in awhile a book comes my way that seems impossible to review. With bashful chagrin, I simply might not be wily enough to express what the hell is going on in The Thing Itself.

Megan from Couch to Moon  insisted that Adam Roberts novel is the book I needed to read. Not one to ever ignore that lady's perception of a good read, I put it on my reading gift list this past holiday season. With a no-book buying policy, Christmas has become that day in December when books seem to fall from reading heaven. It is a glorious day made complete because of my husband's willingness to buy his geeky wife all her nerdy SF books. It's nice having a husband support your geeky ways, even knowing his life is in jeopardy if he were to crack a book spine or leave a copy splayed open. Our happy marriage hinges upon good book care and a willingness to hear each other's relationship with UFOs. He, being the intense believer, scanning the internet for new sightings and me, the woman who has agreed to move to Newfoundland the moment the invasion begins. 

But what about Kant....

Much to my puzzlement The Thing Itself's cover and synopsis desperately attempt to align to the cinematic horror, The Thing. Not surprisingly, The Thing so happens to be my husband's worst nightmare having imprinted a deep hatred for snow and psychotic aliens on him as a wee lad. Let me be clear, the novel is not an ode to the movie - for that read Peter Watts short story, The Things. Then once you have read that nightmare, drink some herbal tea while watching The Wizard of Oz. You will need a yellow-brick road to pull you from out of your catatonic state of terror. 

The Thing Itself familiarly opens to a research station in Antartica with two astrophysicists on a long-term contract to monitor SETI. This has got to be about The Thing, how can it not! But here is the thing, Adam Roberts may happen to be one of the best writers I have read in years. By relying upon the reader's attachment to the film, he masterfully displays Kant's theory of reality. It's brilliant but only conceivable once you have read the book. 

But really, what about Kant...

Immaniel Kant, an 18th century philosopher argued that humanities perception of reality is constructed by the mind. Space and time is not an objective universal constant but a reflection of our sensibilities. The world as itself is independent of these concepts and nearly impossible for humanity to even properly discern. It is heady stuff, not one for this girl to in any way proclaim proper understanding. Thankfully, Kant's  The Critique of Pure Reason  entwined with the Fermi Paradox is entertainingly confined within a possible first contact/suspense story. The very thing itself becomes slightly less murky because Adam Roberts is a writing genius.

I like this book quite a bit, so much that I believe that it is the book you need in your life. Have you ever wondered why SF readers enjoy SF so much? The Thing Itself quantifies all that is exciting in current science fiction. While I most definitely am getting beyond myself, The Thing Itself is this girl's read of 2017.

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