BONUS AUDIO: In an exclusive introduction, evolutionary biologist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins explains why, "of all the novels I have ever read, this is, perhaps, the one that I find myself describing to others more often than any other".
©1961 Daniel F. Galouye; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
Not only is this a very well imagined world where nobody can see - it is a world where humans have lost any understanding of sight; even the verb "to see" is lost to language.
While the premise might be a bit on the edge of believability (how many generations, really, would it take for humans to forget they ever could see?), the author is very consistent - there are no "slip ups" in referencing any aspect of sight.
The book has a philosophical look at light versus darkness (in both a literal sense and in a spiritual one) and this is also quite well-done: it doesn't feel at all patronizing or moralizing.
The story is perhaps a bit "dry" and involves a lot of rushing around, and the interpersonal relationships seem a bit contrived, but is very interesting in the different perspective it provides, more than for its storyline.
The narration is very good. (I skipped the ~7 minute introduction by Dawkins, however, because it was rather boring and not very well spoken.)
Although written in the 60s this book has a plausible branch of truth to it. The book was not the usual dribble of easily guessable plot twists and held my attention for the most part. I rate it 4 for the content and a 3 for ease of reading (I was bored on occasion).
I wouldn't have even finished this book if it weren't for Richard Dawkins' recommendation. It's from 1961 and reads like one of those pulp sci-fi novels of that era where the writer thinks up a good gimmick (in this case, a world without light) and then inhabits it with cardboard characters, slight sense of place and regular action that has no tension. Gimmicky, that's the word that comes to mind - with silly uses of language that hammer us over the head - people curse with the word "Radiation!" and whenever one of us might shout "Oh God!", the characters instead say "Oh Light!" There are so many interesting things that could've been done with the mechanics of a world without light but the author doesn't even explain how they get their vitamin D and what the livestock live on. No one ever goes to the bathroom in the entire book -- yet they live in enclosed caves where the stench from open pit latrines would be overwhelming. Even the novel's, last sentence is weak. The concept that so intrigued Dawkins is not fleshed out and could've been better told in a short story. The previous reviewer said he was bored at times but gave it four stars. I was bored most of the time, except at the end when (not a spoiler) there's discussion of how people adjust to encountering light. One star.
Beware that the introduction from Richard Dawkins contains spoiler. I recommend to skip the introduction and go to the book. And then listen to the introduction after listening to the whole book. This introduction would better be a post-script.
I understand that people sometimes behave extremely unpredictably and illogically, but in my opinion the main character's behavior later in the book is quite exaggerated. However it is very difficult to predict what fears and psychological roadblock may prevail in person's had in such extreme situation. Otherwise the story is excellent.
"A forgotten classic."
I believe Dawkins recommended this book so highly because it is a thought-provoking book with a good storyline. Don't look at this book at a simplistic level - it has more interesting concepts that the 'post-apocalyptic what if...?' of surviving underground darkness and the resultant finely attuned hearing. If you are looking for a simple sci-fi read, this book will seem heavy-handed and boring but at a deeper level it contains elements of Plato's 'Allegory of the Cave', inevitable parallels with religion and plays with interesting ideas of perception. That is why this book was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1962 and only lost out to Robert Heinlein?s "Stranger in A Strange Land", a book repeatedly appearing in Top-10 lists of "Best Sci-Fi Books Ever". This book is well read and at six-and-a-half hours long is concise and entertaining. A highly recommended forgotten classic.
"Worth a listen"
Interesting book plot well narrated. DO NOT LISTEN to the SPOILER INVESTED introduction though. The book's strength is in having a picture of the world slowly revealed. The introduction contains multiple SPOILERS & should be removed in my opinion.
I enjoyed Dawkins' introduction, and he summarised the book nicely.
The book itself is very heavy-handed, plodding, obvious and boring. There is no light touch here; it's all "Light take you!", and "I wonder if I'll ever be able to figure out the mystical relationship between light, darkness and the eyes" all the way through.
It could have been an interesting short story, but the way it is written I despair at how Dawkins can recommend it so highly. Even the plot device, where humans have lost their sense of sight from dwelling underground is thin I think; how about the light that wil invariably be generated from the incessant striking of stones against metal? No, it'd pitch darkness here, in every sense possible.
As an avid reader of all kinds of fiction, including SciFi, I am more than prepared to suspend my disbelief a bit, but this is just not well written enough to bother.
Avoid. If I could resell a copy, I'd sell you mine, cheaply.
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