Today’s topic is Engleby by Sebastian Faulks.

Engleby is a strange book, a combination of psychology, adolescentine themes, love, loneliness and despair. Most part of the novel is the first person view of Engleby, which tells us his story, starting from his young age to present day.

Engleby is the model of the lonely, the not understood, the enigmatic. He starts with a poor childhood, with a deviant father, with a full of despair mother, and only with a little sister to care about. Engleby has a horrifying high school experience, where he attends a famous school, but living in a common house with all other students, he suffers from exploitation, abuse in different manners: being called names, laughed at, made fun at, asked to perform humiliating tasks for the older students, like having a cold bath in the middle of the winter. Engleby’s response to all this is only ignorance, he only lives in his mind, presenting autism symptoms. Although on the outside he looks normal, on the inside he lives a life where he doesn’t care too much about the others, or even about what happens to him. In order to live, he begins stealing and conducting drugs merchandise. He also intoxicates himself with medicines, whatever he can get from pharmacies, he combines with alcohol to live a deprived life, where he is mostly drunk, junkie, and with a mind disorder. He acts under drug and alcohol influence, and his own personality is stranded by his addiction to all this stimulants.

Engleby has also glimpses of a normal human being: he is very erudite, reads a lot, knows a lot of stuff, and he spends a summer helping out his college to shoot a movie. Here, we are introduced to Jennifer Arkland, who quickly becomes his obsession. His life starts revolving at some point around Jennifer, he goes at her classes, tries to get in contact with her, but he doesn’t have any ultimate goal. His attempts at friendship or seduction are poor and without success.

Engleby’s diary is full of gaps, and we are confronted with the situation of Jennifer’s disappearance. Engleby is confronted by the police, but no evidence is found. He tries to continue his life without Jennifer, at first hard, but he soon manages to forget her by using again drugs and alcohol.

After a few years, Engleby is found working in journalism business, with not such great success. He tries to start a relationship with a woman from his work, but this is doomed from the start, when he tries to move in with her. His lack of social skills and empathy destroy his relationship.

A turning moment represents the finding of Jennifer’s buried body after many years, and with the help of modern technology, evidence indicates Engleby as a murderer. In the end, he admits his crime, and is sent to a psychiatric hospital, where he lives to the present day. His memories begin to surface, showing that the gaps produced by drugs also hide several murders and other toxic behavior.

Engleby does not indulge pity, he is a man that seem capable of controlling his actions, but through the book he only let me feel disgust. He is misogynistic, anti human, full of himself, even though in the start his early life deserves empathy. His punishment is completely worth, even after remembering his crime, he does not have any remorse nor does he blame himself for his actions. The only responsible for Jennifer’s death is Jennifer herself.

Engleby is a model of a naturalist sound psychopath, and the author tries to introduce us in the world of such a man, trying to make us understand how such crimes are possible, offering himself an analysis of Engleby’s psyche, through the forms of the papers written by his doctors.

Jennifer is the helpless victim, in her prime, and we can see through glimpses of her first person story diary, that she has a normal student life, only to be terminated by Engleby’s erratic act.

The novel itself leaves me with a bitter taste, hoping that there are not many Englebys out there, but knowing that the human mind is very complicated and still full of mysteries that we can possibly solve.

The orange girl

Today’s topic is Appelsinpiken ( The orange girl ) by Jostein Gaarder.

The orange girl is a very beautiful short novel, about love, life, purpose of living, universe and the human condition. The story is depicted as a letter to a 14 year old boy from his deceased father, which he barely met until he passed away when the boy was 4. His father wrote this letter to Georg, in order to tell him the main story of his life, so it could help him when he grows up, knowing that he won’t be there for him anymore.

The mysterious orange girl is his father’s love of his life, a girl which he meets in a public transport tram, carrying a bag of oranges. Because of him, she drops some oranges, and it’s lost on the streets, but somehow it marks the young Georg’s father for life. The orange girl becomes his obsession, and he desperately tries to find her. The theme of the young boy in love is depicted, the desperate search, the dreams and ideas that come to mind, the play of the mind and body. He takes the same tram over and over trying to see her again, wandering the streets imagining every person is her. The adolescentine and naive love is cheerfully colored, with a happy ending: he finally finds the orange girl, only to leave him eyes in the sun again, being mysterious and disappearing once again.

Another part of the story is depicted in the letter in the father’s present time : he tells the story of the child Georg, and the mirage of the Hubble telescope, a wonder of science that allows us to see past our current condition and into the greatness of the space and Universe. Georg’s father knows that he won’t live forever, and tries to teach his future older boy about his experience, about the meaning of life, and the gift that is only once given to us.

Georg realizes that the orange girl is really his mother, now widow and remarried, and with a new little sister for him. He begins to see something in his mother, something that his father was crazy about, something which completely changed his life for ever, and something which does not regret a single moment, even though it brought so much pain and so much happiness in the same time.

The letter changes Georg’s life as well, being now more mature of a sudden, and being more brave to speak with a girl himself dreams about. He begins to value other things in life, and tries to follow his path, as the most important result of a pure love between his father and the orange girl.

The novel depicts these strong themes, love, life, death, although it has a sad ending, the future does not sound bad at all, and life cycle begins again, with a new love, a new tomorrow, and new things to discover, for each of us. The experience of love is lived again and again, and our place in the Universe is well established, although very volatile and passing.

Wonderfully written, The orange girl leaves you with a bittersweet taste, one of found love, fulfilled love, but still, with an emptiness inside, that one needs to fill it in their own lives as best as they can. The author invites us to listen more to the stories of our parents, of our closest persons, and learn from their experiences.


Today’s topic is Hunger by Knut Hamsun.

Hunger is a kafkan novel about the misery of ultimate human condition, in contrast with a civilized and high order culture. The novel has a main character who lives with the least amount he can get, surviving each day with the hope of a better tomorrow.

Main theme exploited by the author is the basic human need, nourishment, which lacks severely for the character. He is caught in a trap of society, where he cannot provide himself with the least necessary, but has an ego that stops him from asking for help from authorities or other people. The character prefers to suffer, without indulging penalties on the society or other people, struggling to survive. He begins to write something for a publishing house, but his condition itself is stopping him from achieving his goal. Living only with change and sometimes selling some of his minimal properties, like his jacket, keeps him alive every day. During the novel, he manages to get some money, only to spend them on a poor rent or by helping other homeless people, but not getting anything in return.

The main character is an intellectual, faced with the misery of needing to procure his meal and day by day needs without having any money or means of sustain. He could get out of this problem if he could sell his work, but the problem is it takes so much time until his work is sold, such that he cannot live by then. The intellectual is forced to live with the means of a low class pover, which is the contrast of the book. The author depicts the condition of hunger, lack of minimal life conditions with a character that struggles in waving sands, by his moves only getting himself deeper into the mess. Being unable to scream for help, he keeps all his suffering for himself, only praying that a higher power will save him. His fall is strong, and he somehow realizes that the world is unable to keep him.

Hamsun depicts his story in strong observations, giving me the feeling of hopelessness, of futile life and attempts to revive. The story is sad, however, it makes us appreciate more the simple things in life, and gives a role-model of poverty and generosity.


Today’s topic is Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte.

Kaputt is a very realistic novel, written by a person who was really there in the depicted landscape. Curzio Malaparte was an Italian diplomat in the second world war, and he had the chance to be on the eastern front, starting from Ukraine, Romania, Poland and ending in the Scandinavian countries.

His style is very frank, ruthless, and without mercy. Facts are depicted so naturally, which makes me consider him a part of the naturalism current from the early 1900’s. Kaputt presents the horrors of the war compared with the indulging and falsehood of the high ranked German society of the time. Malaparte depicts the story from his own perspective, of a man who waged wars before, who visits all the front line during the war years, who is friend to all nations, and enemy to all nations in the same time. Malaparte, acting as a main character as well, is ashamed by his condition of a dying European as a society, and as an axis ally, as a man, as a friend, as a soldier.

On one side of the story, the soldiers and their life in the war is depicted: people away from homes, brave and fighting in a war they never wished for. The soldiers have little desire for battle, have little desire to save their countries. many of them just fear the inevitable death, or wish to find a solution of escape for themselves. There is no altruism in men’s thoughts.There is no mercy for any enemy, not for their own comrades.

On the other side, there are the women and the people behind the front line, suffering in silence, on both sides, allies and axis. German women work full day in order to supply their men with what they need to wage a war of complying Europe to the German needs, a war of settling German order through death and blood. Italian or Romanian women just live, full of fear, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. Life itself becomes a gift from above.

Another side is the dead people, who according to Malaparte, they have the best condition: cannot be harmed, it’s an eventual state for all the people, and they have so much power in affecting the living. Dead have a huge psychological effect for the living. Dead can kill the bravest of the soldier’s courage, dead can attack and suffocate the living.

Yet another category can be seen, the high ranked German society, who is full of ridiculous and falsehood. While the Jews die of hunger, disease and cold, the Germans enjoy in parties, with drink, music, joy, and wonder with ridiculous humor, why the Jews children die so much and are so bad educated? The Germans are a nation full of culture, with their children happy in homes with their families, studying and enjoying childhood, while Jews children have no parents, no home, no bed, no toys, no books, no clothes, just death to play with. The cold blood of the Germans and their complete lack of whatsoever empathy or feelings, makes their humanity condition not greater than a beast’s, and sends them to the lowest ranking humanity ever experienced.

The suppressed, the Jews in the Polish ghetto’s are the people who are the most human, and the most kind and empathic. Even though they live a miserable life, they are willing to donate all their clothes to their friends when the Nazis are taking them for execution, and willing to walk naked in the snow facing their death, knowing that a small piece of garbled clothing may help their friends and family live a more livable few moments.

Surprisingly, Malaparte finds a strange explanation for the German’s massacres, which is the fact that the Germans fear and repel the weak, the ill, the old, and destroy it. Inside their soul they are so scared of these people, that they are willing to kill them, putting them through more suffering, just to not have them nearby and face their fear. The real Kaputt, the victims of this war, are the Germans as they have gone below zero with their humanity, and face a more grave danger than the people who have already died.

Kaputt is cold, poetic in many situations, a death song for the suffering, a ridiculous pointed finger to a nation who has decided by it’s own means that it’s superior, a pointed finger to the leaders of all countries, a depiction of suffering in it’s most elementary and powerful ways. On the other hand, Malaparte gives the feeling that Europe deserved it’s fate, and by this war, all the blood washes all the sins, and the novel ends with an image of Napoli trying to rebirth from it’s ashes, with the sick, the dead, and living altogether, surrounded by the cold and immense sea, which should wash away the blood and suffering, bringing new hope and a new way of life for the people who witnessed the most destructive events of human history and society.

What is mine

Today’s topic is What is mine by Anne Holt.

What is mine is a pure nordic crime novel, a book that doesn’t make you think too much, but fun and intriguing to read. I am not a big fan of crime novels, but because I read what gets into my hands, I will present you my insights about “What is mine”.

The main character, Johanne Vik, is a teacher in her forties, divorced, with a small child, and rather strange relationship with her former husband. Unfortunately she is the model of partly life-loser, a woman who did not manage to achieve neither a great professional success, neither on her personal plane, the family. She is a model for the 21st century woman, pursuing so many things, career and family, and being unsuccessful in both. However, she has her aces in her sleeves, she is a good psychologist, a good teacher, and a good investigator.

The model of the villain is a troubled man, like in most crime novels, a justitiary, a punisher, a man who wants to pay back his former lovers for what he considers he was mistreated with. Most of them have a happy life, have a family and kids, while our villain has nothing that can please him. He is very ingenuous, knows a bit of medicine, deceit, and how to play with the authorities and the mind of the people.

In the landscape we also have Stubo, a man who has been badly struck by fate, both his wife and daughter died in a horrible and stupid accident, and he is stuck with a pity about himself and with a nephew he can’t grow alone. He finds Johanne attractive, but his pity of himself, advanced age and bad looks make him feel terrible only thinking about it. He finds an obsession with Johanne by truly believing in her being able to help him solve his case. Even though she consistently refuses to help him, he insists and in the end manages to get her helping him.

The last piece of the puzzle is an old convict, Aksel Seier based on a true story, a man who was blamed for other people’s actions, but not powerful enough to prove himself innocent, and not willpowered enough to deny what is happening to him, accepting the blame other people have been putting on his shoulders.

Everybody in the novel is displeased with themselves, tired of being oneself, having missed life’s great opportunities and never been able to achieve their dreams or fulfill their desires. Aksel is the victim, a man who pays for the future sins of his own son he never meets, Johanne is the losing woman, Stubo is a deception, a man struck so bad by fate that he can only find consolation by solving crime mysteries.

The criminal is found, and the atrocities one person can make, as usual, always make me ask how believable life is, how believable the facts are, if the world Anne Hold proposes is veridic, and if somewhere in the real life there are such kind of persons. You could call me naive, but I prefer not to believe in this, as I rather have a restful sleep. Otherwise, my nights would be terrible.

Las cuatro fugas de Manuel

Today’s topic is Las cuatro fugas de Manuel, by Jesus Diaz.

Literal translation of the title is “The four flees of Manuel”, which is a representative title for a young cubanese student living in Ukraine, caught in the demolishing of the Soviet Union, and desperately trying to escape his departure in his natal country.

Manuel is a promising student in physics, studying in Kharkov, Ukraine, at that moment under the Soviet Union. He has little knowledge about human behavior, but he is very good in science. He has a good experiment running and working on his thesis, that shows great potential. He also has a dream relationship with a girl, under the pink view of an adolescent, where he does not expect too much, and puts even less thought in it. He begins from a dreamer, worry-free adolescent. All this will soon fall apart, as the Soviet Union is disbanded, and he has to return to his natal country, Cuba.

He knows he cannot go back, as it would mean his destruction as a scientist, and return to a miserable life full of debts that his relatives are living. He has no means of continuing his studies and become what he wants back in his country.

Manuel’s run begins here, where he attempts to go to Germany, then Poland and Switzerland. During his kafkian initiation journey, he faces so many perils that a full grown-up should be capable to face, but he is too young, too naive to even think about people trying to do him harm, or not wanting to help him. He finds refuge in Ayinray, a chillian student who becomes his lover and protector. She tries to awake him to the real world, but she is too a dreamer, thinking that she can keep him for herself. Life’s demands are too strong for Manuel, he doesn’t have identity card, passport, liberty to work or follow his dreams. Ayinray soon realizes she cannot keep him for long, and decides to let him go.

In his life, the girl represents a hook point, where his falling apart life hangs on. She is the mean to keeping him sane, and with a desire to continue the struggle.

All his attempts to flee are a representation of growing up: he entrusts another person with the belief that they could both attempt to cross the border to Poland by foot in the snowy winter of Siberia. He entrusts the local authorities in Germany to offer him asylum and gives them his passport. The Europe at this time is too hurt itself to care for a poor cubanese student. Nobody wants to protect him, and he is too weak to protect himself.

Manuel grows from a simple adolescent to an adult, to a person who can look after himself, and manages to find a place to temporarily live. His dreams continue about his ideal platonic love, and to be able to help one day his poor mother living in Cuba, or his dream as a scientist. He hardly acknowledges that the one needing most of help is himself.

Manuel’s story is one of the helpless individual against the system, with the individual being unable to break through or reach a state of happiness. That’s why Kafka’s universe keeps coming into my mind. Manuel is too innocent for this world, and this will cost him terribly. However, everything that is not killing him, it makes him stronger. Manuel grows and starts to discover human relationships, true friendship and the requirements one needs to have to pass through life.

Both Europe and Manuel are faced with destruction, just to emerge after some time with a lesson learned, a new future, and washing away all the sorrows.

Mobius Dick

Today’s topic is Mobius Dick by Andrew Crumey.

I have to admit it took me some time to digest this novel. The author presents the story through different threads, one in our present day, the story of John Ringer, and by using a fiction book technique, it presents corresponding elements few decades earlier, in the life of Schrodinger and Hinze. The author is a physics writer, a writer which combines principles from physics into literature. His story is based on different realities, parallel worlds, which begin to interfere.

The main character, John Ringer, an usual physics teacher, who has a linger for his lost love Helen, is caught in the wish of finding her again, only to find one of her replicas, a Helen which is very similar to his own, but yet completely different. The principle the book is based on is Schrodinger’s cat, a cat which is simultaneously dead and alive, until we open the box. At this point, the universe splits into two different ones, one in which the cat is dead and one in which the cat is alive. Every choice that we make, it opens up different realities, or different universes. The vacuum machine thins the boundaries between this realities, making them interfere.

The threads of the story are always interconnected, Ringer’s Helen is depicted in the past as Clara, a woman which Hinze exploits, and later is caught in a sanatorium for people with memory disorders, but also as Laura, an investigating journalist.

The author uses concepts from the fantastic novel, in which the character experiences some extraordinary events, which are completely unusual and supernatural. Ringer doesn’t know what is happening, although he has many of the pieces of the puzzle laying beside him. He begins to see glimpses of his alternate realities, meets his alter, and different versions of the Helen he once knew. He doesn’t understand though, and is lost in a fight he can’t possibly win. The confusion is primary generated by the interconnection with a different reality, one that cannot exist there.

The effect of the realities beginning to interaction is the mental disorder that doctor Blake is investigating. Here, the author exploits a more dark theme, where the mad scientist wants to do anything to prove his theory. Doctor Blake imposes false memories into the patients, confusing them and making them believe what she wants, only to prove her concepts. The doctor is willing to step on dead bodies just to prove that she is right, and for the good of the future patients, no matter the consequences of the current ones, which are being used for the greater benefit of science. Mental manipulation is present in everything doctor Blake does to her patients, unknowing that the hallucinations and memory loss are consequences of interfering with an alternate past or an alternate future.

Ringer and Clara prove to be mere consequences of some past actions. In the end they return to their zero moment, being sent in past before their birth moment. This only shows that their sole creation is the result of an experiment like Schrodinger’s cat, they are present in a reality but gone in another. Their whole life is the result of an action, and a folding of a specific created reality.

The question mark that the author rises is: what is the meaning of life and the world we are in ? Are we determined in this universe, or are we just random events, consequences of a different experiment, one in which we were created, while other versions of ourselves are somewhere as well ?

The book itself it’s from an universe in which some things can never be true: a female prime minister, or an actor elected as president, or some people that are famous in our universe, like Thomas Mann, never achieved glory.

Andrew Crumey doesn’t write for the uninitiated, and it presents a story full of physics and mistery, hard to digest, but worthwhile. It touches deep human questions and feelings, presented from a cold blood scientist’s point of view.

The mimic men

Today’s topic is The mimic men by V.S. Naipaul.

Strange and very one sided perspective, The mimic men leaves me with the impression that there should have been more in the book, that something is left unfinished. The main character, Ralph Singh, is a normal person, with a bit less willpower, with strange feelings, who likes to let himself be carried away by others and doesn’t like to look back. His story , presented only from his narrow view, is somehow difficult to understand, or to get an objective opinion over it. His life is depicted started from the middle, continuing with his childhood and ending with his struggle as a politician.

The author presents us a recipe of a man who becomes a very powerful leader and then his downfall. We could put another title to the book : “How to become a politician”. Even if Ralph is considered mediocre or nothing out of the ordinary until his middle age, he has the luck to become more than he deserves, and the naivety to think that he was destined for it. A simple circumstantial environment makes him able to take some decisions that he doesn’t even consider too much. He is not being torn by anything, not by remorse against his bad decisions, not by joy of his good ones. He only thinks about the near future and how the wave has carried him to glory, somehow remembering past facts of least significance for his career, but significant for his emotional evolution.

Everything Ralph does is because others compelled him to. He goes to the Isabella college in his youth, where is a silent child, somehow abused by his colleagues, where he doesn’t emit any demands at being a leader, at being respected, or at having too much friends. He considers friends people who he barely meets, and spends most time pretending to read, pretending to be friends with his older and more social enhanced cousin.

Even his marriage is done by sole wish of his future wife, who decides this step for him, as well as their break-up. Ralph accepts somehow with fatality everything that destiny has there for him, and he does not regret not interfering with anything. As soon as his wife leaves him, he feels not much remorse or tension, but happy that things turned out in one way or another. He only has some memories of her in places that remind him of her.

His father makes a decision to become a spiritual leader and forget about his family and workplace, friends, but Ralph takes it as a granted. He does not even try to speak with his father. His political career is a mere fact of circumstance, his old time pseudo friend is involved in creating an image of poverty – relation with communism, that catches the audience. Ralph then pushes this image and promotes poverty and social well-being, which makes him gain a lot of credit within the people. Ralph however is not prepared to face continuity, and accepts his downfall with the same lucidity.

Ralph is the model of the over-night becoming politician, with no horizon for the future, he is also the fatalist, taking everything as is. The author presents a story of how to become known, and how you can downfall very easily. Isabella, the island and city where Ralph has both success and failure, is a model of undeveloped country, where poverty is acclaimed, but everybody only has desires for a better life, not willing to sacrifice or work for the benefit of the community. This role has been taken by many new emerging countries after the world war two with the autodetermination theory, and in recent history as well after the communism downfall, and probably in the future with countries splitting apart more and more based on ethnicity, social or economic differences.

The collector

Today’s topic is The Collector by Jown Fowles.

Everytime I read John Fowles, suprisingly, I find myself in the character. Even if the character is evil by nature. The author has the gift of finding some dark side in us that he exploits very well. Somehow, the crimes that the characters happen to do don’t have an initial evil purpose. They are made out of anguish, out of pure conviction that they aren’t doing anything wrong, that they deserve to do it, and that the victim should rather be happy and not shocked by their actions.

The collector exploits the theme of loneliness and secret love, or passion. The main character is at the edge of the society, introvert, and without connections to a real world as we know it. He finds himself obsessed with a single being, Miranda, and is concentrated on obtaining what he desires. The paradox is that the guy himself doesn’t really know what he wants. He knows he wants Miranda, but he doesn’t know in what way. His obsession evolves in time, from the need of only seeing the object of his obsession every day, watching and having different imaginative fantasies, to the need of having her close to him. He does not have any interest in her feelings or her desires. Miranda is considered not much than an object, and without expressing his feelings, he wants to be understood, without words, expecting a very high empathy on her side.

Obsession is tight up with the need to protect, to have the other one around, to watch and care, to be the hero, to be the necessary other that the male psychology requests from the man. Caliban, the main character, named by Miranda in this way, considers that Miranda should be his in all ways, putting her on a high altar of admiration, by the small things that make a man fall in love with a woman: her femininity, her small gestures, her way of being, which is so different from his: brutal, asocial, without any connection with social considered beautiful things. Caliban is so different from her, but he fails deeply to realize it. Miranda has so high aspirations, as to complete herself as a human being, to achieve perfection in her professional work, in her as an artist.

Miranda’s kidnapping is an expression of a young juvenile love, where the experience of a strange and compelling feeling completely changes a man. Caliban is broken apart from his normal life, become stranded on unknown land. He is unfamiliar with social conventions, with the human knowledge about love, with the reactions a man has when he falls in love. His act is somehow a desperate cry of a juvenile boy, expressed in the terms and power of a grown-up. I think that a strong majority of us had at least a thought that crossed their mind about what it would be like to kidnap the loved one, before approaching her, or after her denial. Normally this doesn’t end up in a kidnap, that is why I am saying that Caliban is the augmented expression of a normal juvenile feeling.

Miranda is aspiring completion, as in general female psychology, achievement on all possible planes: love, social position, professional fulfillment. She has however a slight misjudge on Caliban, as she considers him rude, driven by sexual desire, mad, unintelligible. She cannot realize his childish behavior.

Caliban on the other hand evolves in his torment from the simple juvenile love to the landlord, the owner of the property named Miranda. He only expects Miranda to act accordingly, and is sometimes intrigued by the fact that she is so different from him and surprises him. For him Miranda remains a mystery to the bitter end. Continuous lies, mischief, make Caliban’s love fade away into sole property obsession and fear of getting caught. Miranda manages to destroy his juvenile love and turn it into hate and deprive. Her attempts at seducing him and escaping only make Caliban fear her, as he realizes that his angelic image of Miranda is in fact stained, the discovery of her diary and admiration – love for another man bitters him deeply.

Miranda is a fallen angel, who never understands Caliban, going down from the statue of an angel to the deepest misery and sorrow. Her illness is a reflection of the bitterness of Caliban’s soul degradation. Miranda is a victim, one that didn’t deserve her faith, a sample of femininity that is unable to understand the deep of the male soul.

Caliban evolves from the innocent lover to a merciless criminal, with a child conscience, absolving himself of any guilt, and failing miserably at expressing his feelings and with an nonexistent empathy. He can never understand why Miranda doesn’t approve of his actions, finding guilt only inside her and never being able to distinguish past this point.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Today’s topic is 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke.

The first words that come to my mind are brilliant, visionary, a Jules Verne of the 20th century. Arthur C. Clarke has a marvelous imagination, and by logic and from his physics degree he just accurately predicts a very likely to be future. The book is an exercise of imagination, starting from artificial intelligence, human evolution, extraterrestrial forces, or evolution in physics.

I can tell you that 2001 is the most realistic science fiction novel I ever read. The author imagines a world where space travel is possible, but with realistic devices and speeds. The shuttle Discovery takes few years to reach Jupiter and Saturn, while their crew follows a very tight schedule and most of them are suspended in cryostate. The two main characters , Dave Bowman and Frank Poole have a very strict life aboard the ship, while the most powerful artificial intelligence ever created, HAL 9000, stirs up the plot and eventually tries to take control over the vessel. HAL 9000 is depicted with clear observations, and is the dark figure of the novel. HAL 9000 is a genius, it can play chess better than any human being, it can logic and reason, however his main fault is not being human, and it takes decisions over life and death as easy as moving a pawn on the chess table. HAL is strong, merciless, and deceiving. HAL is a combination of power in wrong hands and a child. As the child of humanity, HAL returns to its roots by singing the Daisy Girl song, which in the end proves that HAL itself is a child out of control, and that humankind needs to nurture it’s children more before letting them go. The last act of HAL also changes the public opinion about him, HAL becomes weak, innocent and cannot be blamed for his evil actions.

The relationship between an artificial being and a human being is depicted very clear: Dave doesn’t know how to talk to HAL in certain points. He was used with a docile machine, but is astonished when the perfect HAL proves faults. HAL builds an atmosphere that is about to explode, with a very predictable end. However nobody on the ship realizes that. Clarke uses cinematographic scenes, to make the people hold their breath waiting for the resolution. Dave proves himself very cold blooded and manages to disable HAL even though he witnesses the death of all his flight mates, including his long time friend Frank’s jettisoning. Dave proves a bravery out of common, by moving ahead with his mission despite the central command hiding the true nature of his expedition, the deaths of his comrades, and the need for him to pilot the ship alone.

The action is then built across the black monoliths which have changed the human history, and are the main enigma of all the space odyssey series. The discovery of alien structures is more impressive than third degree meetings in contemporary literature or movies. The Black Monoliths do not say anything, do not have a heart, do not want to do us harm, but still they are there and this is very frightening. The idea that a civilization was present in our solar system in a very far away past is astonishing. This civilization even contributes to the evolution of human kind. Even if the monoliths look dead, they have the power to turn Dave into the star child.

Clarke explores various themes that have been previously untouched by any other writer, which make him a door opener for modern science fiction. Starting from artificial intelligence, which he depicts as an eventual threat to human kind, and ending with alien presence in the solar system, Clarke presents a very believable world, sometimes even more believable than reality. His book doesn’t focus on characters, but on human attitude as a species and as a whole, and on engineering traits that make the novel a pleasure for an engineer or a physician. Space travel has never been as real as in Clarke’s novel.