Book review

The philosophers debate on paper
Writing their words and ideas
Building universes that fit the theory
Showing how theirs is the greatest

Straw-men and caricatures
Nothing real, only an elaborate argument
There is something to expressing an idea in a story
The reader can understand perspective

Over time the world changes
Absolutes become questioned again
The old poles are no longer in their place
New ideas form in there place

Is there room for more than one idea?
Could multiple convictions be necessary?
Could many models be safer than only one?
Do we hear wisdom, or mock foolishness?

The world is changed completely
Ideas flow everywhere
Commoners and elites both touch the press
We are overwhelmed with information

All creeds and philosophies share the world
Debate has become common place
We can pray that words will replace violence
Yet, it seems, many seek only those like themselves

So many communities insulated
Yet so much potential for diversity
All the ideas live in the same world
Could each be incomplete of itself?

I just finished, and will recommend John Scalzi’s “Old Man’s war” series (currently four paperback volumes). The author is delightfully predictable, giving the reader the chance to guess what he will surprise the characters with. The characters all act on incomplete information, and each has motives based mostly on their own bias. If these books were made into movies, they would be given an R rating, for violence and sexual content, some may also find offensive words — however the language and the graphicness of the descriptions is significantly tamer than I encounter in any of my jobs, save the Salvation Army.

These books were compared with Heinlein by Scalzi’s critics, I found the comparison unfair — and Heinlein only had one main character (who I will admit developed as he wrote his books), all other characters were caricatures. Heinlein was a pro-military capitalist, who felt calls for peace was the babble of ignorant fools and cowards. Scalzi has the brave sacrifice of a Mennonite refusing to fight for his life save the colony by teaching the indigenous life that the humans are not simply destroying monsters. Scalzi’s soldiers face the soul damaging work of killing the enemy by questioning if they have not become soulless monsters, yet, in the end they decide that they must trust the judgment of their superiors. (A soldier must outsource his conscience). Perhaps these books are unique in the science-fiction genre, in that they are clearly written for adults.

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