June was full of good reads! Each book was enjoyed this month and kept me thinking still to this day. Hope you enjoy or maybe check some of them out!
NEANDERTHAL PLANET by Brian W. Aldiss
The cover of this book is undeniably awesome. In fact, it was the reason I even grabbed it off the shelf. I've been looking for some old school science fiction and this cover stuck out to me. Then I came to find out Brian Aldiss is quite a big name in the science fiction world and even wrote an introduction in an HG Wells book I have yet to read and I believe he wrote something about Douglas Adams. (Unless I'm mistaking Adams mentioning Aldis, I can't recall.) Either way, I was genuinely surprised by this book. It is comprised of four different short stories: Neanderthal Planet, Danger: Religion!, Intangibles Inc. and Since the Assassination. They are described as "a political puzzle, a stunning adventure, a philosophical quest and a modern legend. Four compelling ways of looking at ourselves and what we might be!" And it's a fair description. The reason for the four stars is because the first two stories (Neanderthal Planet and Danger: Religion!) were solid for me. Intangibles Inc. was interesting but not as gripping as the first two and the last one was confusing for me. Perhaps I missed a piece and it threw the entire thing off for me. Who knows. But the first two present worlds that explore Aldiss' vivid imagination and they aren't iterations of things I've seen before in television or movies. It felt unique and new even though they are from before ISBN's were given to books (the collection of stories was published in 1969, a year before the ISBN became official standard.) Neanderthal Planet explores a scientist's vision of how humanity could be on another planet which leads the main character down a path of inquiry of self. Then Danger: Religion! presents a multiverse where events have transpired differently or not at all and have created an entire different world. The main character finds himself in one where the church has taken over as the main power and some have become enslaved as a lower class. The way this plays out leads the main character to have to make some tough decisions which lead the reader on a fun ride. I'll leave it at that for the book before I ramble but it's worth checking out if you're into science fiction.
My gaze fixed on his face, with its tall lines, and the extraordinarily sensible relationship between various features. I saw that face, graven onto my sight, as a central point, a cardinal fact, a reference from which the whole universe might be mapped; for the influence of time and event lay in that face, until it in its time influenced time and event, and in that linkage I saw symbolized the whole wheel of life that governs me. Yes, I know --even at the time I knew--that already I was gliding under the influence of the drug Rastell had given me. It made no difference. Truth is truth, whether you find it or it finds you. (pg. 66, from Danger: Religion!)
"What are you saying? We have only done what we have done, fought as we have, for the sake of the poor wretches enslaved here. What else did we fight for?"
He was crouching beside me. his face set hard. His words fell from his lips like little graven images.
"I have done nothing for any slaves. What I have done has been against the Church."
"As far as that goes, I'm pretty startled by its conduct too. In my matrix, the Christian Church is a power for good. Although it condones war, its tenets..."
"Death to the Christian Church! It's the Christian Church I fight against!" He jumped to his feet. I leaped up too, my own anger awakened by his words, and we stood glaring at each other.
"You're crazy, Mark! We may not agree with the Church, but it has been the established church in Britain now for centuries. To start..."
"Not in my Britain! It's not established in my Britain! Christianity is the faith of dogs and underlings where I come from. When Rastell started to tell us his history, he talked about the Roman Empire being established in the East by Constantine the Great, and he said that Constantine, followed by an emperor he called Theodosius, installed Christianity as the official creed of the Empire. Did it happen that way in your matrix?"
"Yes, just as Rastell said."
"Well, it didn't happen that way in mine! I know of this man you call Constantine; we call him Falvius Constantinus. Of Theodosius I have not heard. Constantinus was killed by his father-in-law Maximian and never became emperor. Maxentius the Great became emperor after Diocletian."
I was puzzled now, as well as angry. Gibbon no doubt would have been delighted to hear of this setback for Christianity, but its implications left me baffled.
"All this was seventeen centuries ago. What has it do with us?"
He was rigid with hostility.
"Everything, my friend--everything! In your matrix and in this one, Christianity was imposed on the West by your two misguided emperors. In mine, Christianity was stamped out, though it still survives among the barbarians and slaves whom we rule in the East, and the True Religions was fostered and grew, and flourishes irresistibly!"
"The True Religion?"
"By my shrine, Sherry, have you never heard of the soldier's god? Then bow down before the name of Mithras!" (pg. 98-99, from Danger: Religion!)
THE LOST EMPIRE OF ATLANTIS by Gavin Menzies
There's something about Atlantis that immediately draws interest in me--many others as well. For the longest time I've always thought it was this fun thing to think about and think of the crazy possibility of these sea people who lived mysteriously long ago. Growing up you hear and see film depictions of a scientifically advanced, under water sea world. In reality, there is some actual historical evidence of a real civilization that could very well be what this whole legend is attributed to. There are multiple theories, of course, but Gavin Menzies makes a case for the ancient Minoans to be the society of traders that Plato once wrote about--which a lot of this hinges upon considering Plato is one of the main and only sources we have references Atlantis. But Menzies slow and methodical breakdown of how and why Atlantis could actually be Santorini, Greece is extremely convincing (to a non-historian like me). The way he writes about history is enthralling and makes you think about where we are in our current world. A lot of this theory depends on the trading and excavating of metals like copper, tin and bronze. This gave me so much to think about considering while I was reading this I also worked in an area at my job where I was fulfilling orders of bronze all day. If you read this I would also recommend checking out the documentary on Disney Plus with James Cameron. It not only gives you visuals to some of this stuff in their proper ancient places but also explores different theories and options for who the Atlanteans could've been. All of it is so fascinating and fun to think about. Especially when you realize it isn't the fairytales you thought growing up but rather could be based on a historical group. Obviously the reality is not like the fanciful stories we heard growing up but rather an advanced society with innovative circular architecture and engineering, far travelling trade and ahead of its time seafaring ways. This book is well worth your time and exploration. (I don't have any quotes because no line was specifically stunning but the entirety of the argument is excellent.)
THE BUTCHERING ART by Lindsey Fitzharris
This was another fantastic non-fiction read. I first heard Fitzharris on Joe Rogan a long time ago. Her talk was deeply interesting and drove me to want to know more. I ordered her book and it sat on my shelf for a loooooong time. Not for any specific reason but just that's how it went. But I'm so glad I finally picked it up. Learning about the world of Victorian medicine and the beginnings of surgery was fascinating. Once again, it teaches you where we are today and how things have evolved and developed with human innovation and thought. To think they didn't know about germs back in the day is stunning. Fitzharris describes how they would use the same knife for multiple surgeries without cleaning it. Some would hold the bloody blade in their mouth while they worked. It's astonishing to read and incredibly informative. To see there was pushback for the idea of germs as superstition just goes to show we have no idea what's going on here. We are all trying to figure it out and truly don't know what we don't know. This is another big recommend because it's not only fun subject matter but gives you a history of something you never really thought about.
Domestic abuse was not a rarity in Victorian Englad. Wife-beating was a natinal pastime, and women like Julia were often treated like property by their husbands. Some men even put their own wives and children up for sale after they tired of them. (pg. 58)
On the day of the operation, Penman was seated upright in a chair, with his arms and legs restrained. Because neither ether nor chloroform had yet been discovered, Penman was adminsitered no anesthetic. The patient steadied himself as Syme stepped forward, knife in hand. Most jaw tumors were gouged out during this time, beginning at the center of the growth and extending to the periphery. Syme had a different approach in mind. He proceeded to cut into the unaffected part of the man's lower jawbone, in order to remove the tumor and some of the healthy tissue around it, and ensure that it was completely eradicated. For twenty-four excruciating minutes, Syme hacked away at the bony growth, dropping slices of tumor and jawbone with a sickening rattle into a bucket at his feet. It was incredible to those watching how anyone could endure such a horrific ordeal. And yet, against all odds, Penman survived. (pg. 92)
Thanks for reading and if you take any of these recommendations I hope you enjoy the read!