Book review: The Futurological Congress

phoca_thumb_l_1977 Futura Great Britain

10 VI 2015. I finally decided to replenish the endless yet dwindling tower of books that sits near my bedstand, waiting in vain to be read. Armed with only my credit card, I directed my browser to amazon.com. 2000 NIS worth of books later, a small library is now headed my way, including “Quantum Computation and Quantum Information” by Nielsen and Chuang, “Introduction to Analytic Number Theory” by Apostol, and “The Futurological Congress” by Lem. Needless to say I am excited, but know that many moons will pass until I can lay my hands on my newly acquired fortune.
In the meantime I started preparing for my test in electrodynamics, and learned by heart all possible identities involving cross and dot products of three vectors.

07 VII 2015. Today I had my final test in electrodynamics. I think it went OK.

08 VII 2015. I have successfully forgotten all possible identities involving cross and dot products of three vectors.

17 VII 2015. The books have arrived! Weighing in at half my body weight, they look imposing, yet seductive. The Futurological Congress winks at me playfully.

31 X 2015. I have been unable to get out of bed. And it’s not that I’m sick or anything, it’s just, I don’t see the point. I mean, we go through life having all these experiences, but sometimes I wonder if I really know which ones are authentic and which ones are phony. I mean, I love my wife, of course I do, yet there are days when I have the feeling that this love is not my own. Could she have just put the right chemicals into my drink since our first date? There are all sorts of such substances, you know: Hedonidol, Felicitine, Empathan. Perhaps even Halcyonal. And if she gave me some Antagonil or Sadistizine, would I start hating her instead? Would I hurt her? I certainly don’t want to hurt her. But what if she is just pretending? How do I know if I’m colorblind or not? Ok, so there are tests, but what if *everyone* is colorblind? After all, we are all magnetic-field-blind. What does a pigeon feel when it navigates according to Earth’s magnetic field? Is there a drug I can take to feel how it is to be a pigeon? Maybe if I were a pigeon for a day, I would have a reason to get out of bed. But only for a single day; nobody wants to be a pigeon forever. Not even pigeons.
I don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but I finished The Futurological Congress today.

05 XI 2015. I can’t let go of how many things are in this book. We do all sorts of things in life, but we don’t really *have* to do them. You don’t really need to see “The Matrix”, and you don’t really need to watch “Inception”. You don’t really need to buy consumer products in order to feel good with yourself. But what you do really need, is to read The Futurological Congress. It will play with your mind and poison it like LSD on an acid trip. It will distort your thought and twist you in the same way that the society it portrays twists the minds of its citizens. It will make you laugh. It will force you to look into the inner void that are your own lost feelings. But you will not be able to put it down. You will know that you are being played with, yet this will not help you. You will want to see the light, and you will want to shout out, but your eyes, your ears, they will all be muffled by a stifling haze. In fact, they already are, but you will only see this when you read the book. Lem’s iron grip will squeeze you like a sponge.
Maybe I should write a book review about it, though I’m finding this book difficult to accurately describe. How to take on this hybrid? Its first half is a morbid mocking comedy, which several times caused me to laugh out loud – a rare feat. But the second part… An explosion of imagination, it is enlightening and depressing at the same time, with a powerful ending that many lesser authors would surely have blundered in. Mortal words can hardly do it justice. But what else do I have? Nothing – alas, it seems as if the only way to understand the world Lem had in mind is to read it – no shortcut will do in this case. But if I find something, I will post it.

06 XI 2015. Nothing.

07 XI 2015. Nothing.

15 XI 2015. Still Nothing.

18 XI 2015. I thought I had something, but no, I was wrong. Nothing.

02 XII 2015. Here we are, taking one small step at a time towards a dark, unknown future.

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