Time to talk about some books I’ve read in the last few weeks methinks.
Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson
Yes Kim Stanley Robinson, the science fiction author who talks about habitable planets and generational spaceships wrote a story set 30,000 years ago with a cro-magnon as a protagonist. And guess what? I loved it. This book brought out a special respect in me for our early ancestors. I can’t bear to call them primitive anymore. Why? Even in the absence of any modern tools or technology or the wide grasp of knowledge that we have, these people made their own clothing, built their huts (however rudimentary that may have been), hunted for and preserved their food and still found time to leave behind some spectacular cave art.
The book begins with the protagonist having to do a “wander”- a 2 week ordeal alone in the wild. At the start, he is stripped naked and sent out with absolutely nothing but his body and is expected to come back two weeks later with clothing and some ornaments (a claw or two if possible). Needless to say you needed to have been able to hunt the food to eat and survive. Compare that with the modern state of existence. How many of us collapse when the air conditioning in our rooms fail? Sure we can upload a post on instagram but can we survive a day in wilderness with no tools to start with?
Sure, there’s a lot of blood and gore and hunts in the book and at times this was too much for me- a vegetarian aspiring to be vegan. But this was characteristic of existence 30,000 years ago- agriculture did not yet exist and humans hunted animals to eat and to survive. But the book also brings out how precarious human existence was and how close to starvation people always were. Take spring for example- we look upon spring benevolently today because it is the season of renewal. But for our ancestors spring was probably the worst season. Almost all the meat stored from the previous summer would have run out, the weather would still be cold and nothing would have grown yet for them to forage. The author describes how the same characters fill out during feasts in summer and autumn and then slowly shed their fat over winter and are absolutely lean during spring.
Some of the book revolves around the spectacular cave art that the shamans of the various clans execute in a cave. Robinson took inspiration for this from the real life cave drawings at the Chauvet cave in France. This makes me want to be able to visit at some point in the future (even though the actual caves are closed and visits are only possible to a museum replica).
Overall I loved the concept of a man in sync with nature. A man who would instinctively know the phase of the moon without looking up or know when a pack of wolves would be back on their cyclical hunting rounds. We have lost much to “civilisation”.
The Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson (the first three books)
Thanks to my sister for introducing this series and author to me. I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension and the Hero of the Ages. The series checks all the boxes for good fantasy- good plot, new kind of magic, large cast of fun characters, seemingly impossible to overthrow dark lord, inscrutable background story stretching thousands of years into the past- so on and so forth.
If you like fantasy and a good story, you should definitely give these books a try.
So what are you reading this World Book Day?