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Adam Roberts is the author of a growing number of science fiction novels, short stories, essays and other writings. This site contains not just his blog, but everything you could ever want to know about everything Adam has ever published. And more...

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Itselfy Reviews

By Adam Roberts | December 27, 2015
Categories: Reviews

Karl-Barth-2

I'll do a 2015 round-up post on the eve of the New Year, I suppose; but until then let me note two reviews of The Thing Itself. One is by Alan Jacobs, who read my novel, and went on to read some Karl Barth, and juxtaposed the two on his blog. Of the novel he says: "The Thing Itself is all kinds of amazing, and very hard to describe: if you imagine a mashup of The Thing, Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, The Thirty-Nine Steps, and Kant’s metaphysics, you’ll … not quite get it. Just read it, please." He also poses this question:

"What if we thought of our current debates about God, our current confrontations between theists and atheists, as the inevitably sorry by-products of a failure to grasp what [David Bentley] Hart argues, what Barth argues, what Kant says when he presents us with his Fourth Antinomy? And what would happen to our conversations if we took seriously the possibility that we don’t have any real idea what we have been arguing about?"

That's a good question, I think. And then, in more conventionally SFnal mode, the estimable Paul Di Filippo reviews the novel over on the Locus Online website. He also brings in God, although in a much less Karl-Barthy manner: "God bless Roberts's craftsmanly productivity, which keeps us fans reliably supplied with a fresh annual fix, year after revolutionary year". I am blessed! Excellent. Di Filippo ends his review:

"In crafting the character of Charles Gardner, Roberts gives us an utterly believable antihero whose fumbling actions bespeak a completely human set of both virtues and flaws. Like some wounded Fisher King, Charles would like to redeem humanity, but is held back by his inner turbulence and angst. Ultimately, he pushes himself beyond his worst aspects into some kind of redemptive victory. And in Roy Curtius, Roberts gives us a Faustian figure who is neither wholly reprehensible nor vile, but rather a fellow seduced by the dark side of his own nerdy genius. Together, the two enact what is surely the best cat-and-mouse game of this nature since Frank Robinson’s The Power, a hidden template, I think, for this book.

In the end, though, Roberts transcends the simpler SF of Robinson’s era, and exhibits the same postmodern ramping up that he has brought to a dozen other different SF 'power chords.' If Greg Egan and Stanislaw Lem had conspired to rewrite John D. MacDonald’s The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything, the result might have been half as ingenious and gripping and funny and scary and invigorating as The Thing Itself."

The 'power chords' ref is especially neat.

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