The characters and the structure of the storytelling were enjoyable. The philosophical basis is presumably existentialist. However, the writer does not hit us over the head with any philosophical lecturing. The teenaged character does verbalize opinions about a philosophical perspective on life, we get it as hearsay from his friends and acquaintances - but this is just the sort of stuff about which extremely intelligent adolescents may obsess,
One thing I liked about the narrator was that he had a clear Indian accent, and had correct pronunciations for vernacular words. The accent is not accurate for South India, but it is quite acceptable. This was much better that other novels by Indian English authors I have listened to on Audible. Unfortunately, the narrator had very poor phrasing. Most sentences were phrased "Subject [rising tone, audibly long pause] predicate [falling tone]". For most sentences, this injured the meaning of the sentence.
I was hoping to be entertained and edified by the story. The story is about the dangers of ossifying any stage of scientific enquiry into a quasi-scriptural dogma. I agree about the danger. But the polemical writing was boring.
I paraphrase the author's preface: only radically close-minded evolutionists and intelligent designers on the opposite extremes would not like his book, everyone in the middle would take something from it. The author's point of departure is that an intelligent alien brings many as-yet-unknown-to-humans data. These that make an intelligent designer the most "Occam's razor" theory. I have no problem with this literary device. I read Terry Pratchett's Discworld series with great pleasure: in that series there is a world in which all evidence shows a flat world with "turtles all the way down". I can enjoy Terry Pratchett's scientific investigation stipulating the truth of a flat earth.
The problem with "Calculating God" is that there is chapter upon chapter of drearily written fictional advances in space travel, alien paleontology and quantum/particle physics that supposedly prove intelligent designer. While I was pretty much to accept the literary device from the very beginning, this droning polemic wore me down.
Instead of a fictional literary device to illuminate human nature and the fallibility of science if it is ossified, the writing was attempting to become a serious discussion about actual evidence, as though the alien were a Salviati to the human paleontologist's Simplicio in a new Galilean "Dialogue Concerning the Two Systems". The only difference is that Galileo's Dialogue only included non-fictional evidence. Which is why we do not hold Galileo to literary standards, but rather standards of logic.
Therefore, I found that I had stopped taking all the fictional evidence at face value, as expected in any other science fiction fantasy. Holding the dialogue to standards of serious argumentation, I found myself focusing on the mistaken usage of words from the probability theory, of the philosophical concept of Occam's razor, and so forth.
Then there is just plain slipshod storytelling. For example, the alien finds prior portrayals of aliens in popular culture lacking in imagination and overly mimicking earthly creatures. But then, the author's alien is some sort of a spider-creature, whose skin is of the sort that humans with only earthly experience automatically recognize as biological. That is just as poor and limited an imagination. For one moment, I went all "meta": I thought that the author was cleverly presenting the irony of his own limits. But there wasn't any more of that self-examining irony coming through. There was no ironic "meta" about this storytelling faux pas till as far as I had read before returning the book.
I was disappointed that a book that I was ready to like should turn out to be such a dreary argument.
It may be a book with a similar thesis, but written in a more entertaining way.
The narrator presents the alien as a motoric monotonous voice. This may be reasonable performace decision at some level, because the alien is in fact using a translator device. But the alien has a lot of dialogue. This flat tone of speech gets tedious. Perhaps the narrator could have tried to modulate the tone a little more, so it would seem motoric, but not become boring.
I read about half the book and then returned it. I would cut down the "evidence for a creator" that goes on for chapter after chapter, to just one or two well-crafted chapters.All we need to know is that the alien brings a whole lot of new data that changes the current state of scientific evidence.
Given how boring the arguments were, I think that the author's prefatory statements are hubris about is skill. It isn't only the extremes of the argument that will get annoyed with the book - some people who expect good writing, flow of storyline and character development will get annoyed too.
In a text version, I could have imagined the accents that I knew as I read dialogue, and would have "silent-read" accents that I didn't. My own ignorance of specific accents would have been made irrelevant. In this audio version, the inappropriate accents for the characters were grating.
Descriptions of the travails of Biju, an illegal migrant worker in NewYork.
The performer Ms. Simhan is great in reproducing two of the needed accents: (1) the "convent-school" Indian English accent, and (2) the general expatriate "British"-ized Indian accent.Ms. Simhan is wildly inappropriate as she portrays other regional Indian accents. It seems quite inappropriate to use the educated and uneducated versions of the English accent as spoken by primary Tamil (bordering on Malayalam) speakers. When the dialogue is about Bengali-, Punjabi- and Hindi-speakers demonstrating petty regional arrogance and peeves, their regional accents for speaking English are appropriate for performance. For example in this story that happens with the Gorkha insurgency in the background, one of the characters peevishly complains about the insurgents insisting on the pronunciation "Gorkha" rather than "Gurkha". "Gurkha" is the word used by most non-Gorkha Indians, often pejoratively. The peevish statement needs to be pronounced with accuracy: to portray the mispronunciation in one regional Indian accent of another regional Indian word!There is some dialogue in Hindi - short sentences and exclamations. These are important in creating the atmosphere. Fragmentary Hindi is the Indian cosmopolitan official's partial condescension from English, never stooping to the local language. It is also the lingua franca of the non-English-fluent cosmopolitan Indian. The performer's Hindi pronunciations are either Tamil-Malayalam accented (that would be barely acceptable, if I imagined that the official was a transplant from the South) or sometimes just incorrect. The performer mispronounces Indian language words that are part of the narration (not the dialogue). I do not think that this is excusable. The Gorhka knife spelled "kukri" in English is better pronounced cook-ree and not cuck-ree.Some time ago I heard Rohinton Mistry's "Family Matters" performed by Martin Jarvis of Canada. I did not like it for the same reasons. I consoled myself that even in Canada, it may be difficult to get accent coaches. So that author could not perform a dialogue with Parsis and Marathis being dismissive of each other. I was hoping that Ms. Simhan, who is a person of Indian origin may have been able to draw on a deeper circle of Indian-origin acquaintances and get the many regional accents right. Not so. She only studied the accents of Tamil and/or Malayalam speakers.Never again. I will restrict my audible.com enjoyment to stories set in the US, Canada, Australia, and Britain. I will get audiobooks of stories set in India only if recorded by native Indian performers.
I will reserve judgment till I read the book in text.
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