The Meteor Shower Is Free, The Lobotomy Will Cost You!

I wish I had the words to describe Joseph Courtemanche’s free Halloween themed short story, but I just don’t. There is a lot of science fiction to it with definite homage to H. G. Wells. There is also a kind of biting critique of bureaucracy that reminds me of Orwell to some extent. If this were movie, Mel Brooks would have to direct it.

All I can tell you for sure is that it is fun! Joseph takes the Fondue Writers Club back to its COVID roots with this one.

Click the Hubble Space Telescope to read “Little Ambassadors”. But I will warning you, don’t be frightened by the pistol on top of the Bible when you go to his page. Joe is one of the kindest people you could ever meet, and he moonlights as a Santa Claus.

If you click on one of the clouds instead of the telescope you’ll be
transported to a secret meeting of the Flat Earth Society
Featured

This Free Story Is Daring You To Read It!

I went full on sci-fi spec-fit for this one. I hope you like it.

Remember, these COVID-Chronicle stories are free — no hooks or gimmicks, no paywalls or email’s to give. We just want to give you something to read during the quarantine. Of course, if you like or stuff, feel free to buy something over at the Amazons. I have books over there just waiting for you to read them.


The Parallax

A COVID Chronicle Short Story

Jamie D. Greening

 “The humans are in trouble,” Archon Streegan stood as she made her report. “And the situation has become,” she snorted before continuing, closing all four of her eyes, “worse.”

“We know all about the problems they are having with the malady. My hope is for their numbers to decrease and so too their impact upon the world.” The Exalted Alpha of the Council of Wise Ones was famous for his disdain of humans. Since they exploded atomic weapons he’d secretly itched for their demise. Many of the Nunaki agreed with him, which is why he was chosen as the Exalted Alpha. Sharing the same planet with humanity was a judgment they accepted from The Creator, but it was not one they enjoyed. 

“The good news, then,” Streegan said, “is that very well may happen. Our prediction is ten percent of their population will perish from the malady.”

“That is not near enough for my taste,” The Exalted Alpha hissed. Many of the other council members chirped their approval. “Ten percent doesn’t remove the stench of their combustion engines or cleanse the waves in the air of their perversion.”

Streegan’s face turned from its natural blue to a bright yellow. This quieted the group. “I must present evidence from our science departments about the nature of this depletion and its implications to my brothers and sisters, fellow archons and superiors. Please allow me.” She bowed and tilted her head to the archon side of the room, then to the superior side of the room, and finally to the Exalted Alpha on his pedestal.

“Many apologies, dear sister archon,” The Exalted Leader said. “Please continue.”

“Blessings and thanksgivings to you, O Exalted Benefactor.” Streegan said, still bowed. Then she stood upright again. “The malady is spread by contact with people. This is a situation we do not deal with in our realm, but in the other parallax, this is the way this particular malady operates. Because of this, the common people will mostly be spared because they turn in fewer circles. It is the leaders, heads of governments, the archons, superiors, and exalteds of human society who will expire in greater percentages. Leaders of business, industry, science, and the learned classes will fade away leaving the masses to their own devices. The result will be incompetence. Great incompetence is already occurring. It will get worse. Destabilization will occur. Wars will erupt. Warships are even now being deployed across our seas. Suspicion and paranoia are rampant. Conspiracies are fluid.

“We’ve been monitoring humans for millennia and know their patterns better than they know themselves. Wars, violence, and societal dislocation will take another fifty percent. Many who are left will die of other diseases and starvation.”

Streegan could see from the looks on their faces they were unconcerned. Their inability to see the symbiosis of their two races frustrated her. The ancient books were clear about how linked the two were, but since the rise of New Thinking there was nothing but disgust for the humans. 

“If this were the only news I had, I understand why you would dismiss it,” she said. “And I would concur there would be nothing we could do. But there is more to convey. Our analytical team has retrieved a sample of the malady and we have spent considerable energy dissecting it. This is not a new woe. It is old. Very old. We don’t know how the humans reacquired it. It dates back to the Time Before.”

“The Time Before?” Archon Dmnstryn was embarrassed by his outburst, but others chirped. He would not be punished for the breach in protocol.

“Yes, Before. This is the same malady which took our ancestors away forever. It is the same.”

“Are you sure, Archon Streegan?” The Exalted Leader’s color became green.

“Yes. I am sure, and I share the concern.” Her color turned green as well, as did most in the room. We have checked and double checked. It is identical to the First Woe.” She took a deep breath and twitched antennae. “But we have a plan and we have retrieved the remedy from the Holy Place. We should give the remedy to the humans. If we can stop the spread of the malady in their realm it will not penetrate our parallax. Our survival depends upon saving them.”


Superior Ptolmex stepped to the middle of the room and bowed low toward Archon Streegan then pivoted toward The Exalted Leader. Her actions indicated she was requesting to ask a question. The Exalted Leader’s color turned red signaling his approval.  

“How can this be done? There is no place of concourse which now exists between our realms? The last concourse closed when The Flood came.”

“This is partially true,” Streegan said. “Open intersection is no longer possible. Yet there remain humans who still see glimpses of our realm. There is one we have identified who sees well. Our plan is to give the remedy to him. What I need from this council is permission to proceed.”

The severity of the situation and the consequences of inaction overwhelmed the normally slow decision-making process. There were no conventions held or days of fasting and reflection. The Council members all turned ash gray without deliberation. Permission was granted.

***

Sometimes the air shimmered. Other times it folded, the way a meringue folds on itself while being whipped in a copper bowl if it were translucent. Often, he could see shapes moving but mostly he could only hear pleasant tones of beeps and chirps, like birds, but with a sense of grammar. 

 Ezra Feldman tried to explain it to his mother when he was twelve. He was rewarded for his honesty with a year’s worth of visits to a psychiatrist. When he was in college, he shared the experience with a professor. The professor suggested he take LSD to explore the possibilities of opening his mind to what was happening. He followed this advice with his girlfriend one night. They were awakened the next morning by the person trying to clean the bathroom of the Taco Bell. He had “Don’t Fear the Reaper” written on his chest with magic marker and a phone number written on a piece of cardboard in his underwear. 

He never called the number.

After his firstborn entered the world, he developed a good relationship with his rabbi. One night at dinner, he spoke with him about it. The rabbi suggested Ezra might be one of those people who could peer into the in-between space. He encouraged him to open his mind and clear his thoughts when he had those moments and to focus upon the transcendent and endless nature of God. 

“Perhaps,” his rabbi told him as he stuck Peking duck into his mouth with a chopstick, “you are having a philosophical breakthrough into the essence of being.”

“Or,” Ezra said, “I’m a lunatic.”

“It must remain a distinct possibility,” the rabbi laughed.

That was twenty years ago. 

When the air shimmered and folded this time, he didn’t care about existence or lunacy. He only hoped for one thing. He hoped to see Jo. “Maybe if I look hard enough, I can see you,” he whispered.

It was predawn, about five-thirty in the morning. Ezra drank coffee and read the news on his phone. He heard it first. When he looked up from his phone, for the first time in a very long time, he saw the air shimmer. The folds seemed more pronounced, truer than ever. There was color to the moment, but he couldn’t make out what color it was or where it came from. Jo loved color. Everything about her was shining color. Maybe she was trying to speak to him from wherever it was the dead lived.

“Jo, is that you?” His voice lifted at the end. “Please God, let it be her.”

The memory of her crushed him. The virus. The coughing. The hospital. Not being able to see her. Saying goodbye on a phone. The pathetic funeral with no mourners. 

“Jo,” he said again, standing up. He reached out his hand toward the ruffle in space. “I love you. Come back. Please baby, come back.” 

He focused as hard as he could, but he couldn’t hold grab the essence. The shimmering stopped. The color drained. The feeling left. The moment was gone. 

Ezra left his study to take a shower. He was at work by seven. There were two heart procedures he had to perform before noon. It was lighter than his normal workload as the COVID-19 restrictions on surgeries put regular operations on hold. But these couldn’t wait.

By five he was home to his empty house. He ate an apple and drank a half glass of mineral water then decided to go for a walk.

The park was lovely with the leaves golden; it was exactly the way Jo loved it. It was their park. They even bought a row of benches for the alder trees. A bronze plaque with “Ezra and Joanna Feldman: Earth Day 1998” on each one. The autumn sunlight faded as he returned home.

He was as agitated and antsy as he was before he’d left. The pills were in the medicine cabinet. He thought about taking a couple. It would probably help him. He doubted he’d be able to sleep without them.

He didn’t take them, though. He wanted to feel the misery. It was the only thing he’d felt since April. 

***

“We are ready for our next attempt, Archon Streegan.” The keeper of science stood erect on two of her four legs as she waited for a reply.   

“Good. This time, we will succeed.”

Streegan took her spot underneath the ancient terebinth of Avram. The first attempt had taken a toll on her mind and body. The tree too, needed time to heal. The ancient bark had cracked. They mended it with balm and words of love.

One hundred and forty-four lengths away, The Order of Keepers formed a circle around the tree and their archon. When Streegan turned the color of amber, they began to chirp in rhythm the incantation they’d kept for thousands of years. Archon Streegan allowed her mind to rest, then placed her flat face against the knot on the tree. She formed the image of the human in her head then chirped the liturgical response of the keepers. She forced the energy from her feet, through her torso, and up to her brain and out of her antennae.  

There he was. The one named Ezra.

She called his name in her heart. Words would not work. The beautiful clicks and chirps of her language was too different from the barbaric grunts of humanity. She had to make the connection through her soul to his. 

Ezra heard his name.

\He’d fallen asleep in his bed while reading a book. He awoke to the shimmer. 

And the sound. 

“Jo,” he said. “Jo?”

“Ezra,” Streegan called to him.

He sat up. His nightstand light still on, but the light from it danced. The space at the foot of the bed shimmered, and parted. Ezra squinted his eyes at the rainbow colors which poured out of the prism of energy that created the doorway between the two realms.  

“I have something important for you.” Streegan said.

“You don’t sound like Jo?”

“I am not Jo. I am another. We must make haste. I do not know how long we can maintain the portal. Speed and efficiency are necessary. Do you understand.”

Ezra did not, but he said, “Yes.”

Streegan began her rehearsed speech. “You are a healer. We have for you the way to heal your realm of the malady.”

“COVID-19?”

“Yes,” Streegan said. “Open your mind and I will give it to you.”

 “Open what?” The middle-of-the-night visitation made Ezra a literalist as he thought the voice from the rainbow was intending to open his skull. “Are you about to hurt me?”

“No, it will not hurt.” Streegan picked up Ezra’s underdeveloped brain patterns and saw his concern. “We will not touch you. Be calm and let me tell you the balm. Rest your thoughts.”

“You sound like the rabbi,” he said. Then he closed his eyes and thought about the rainbow of light. Streegan found the thought thread she was seeking, then her antennae began to vibrate at supersonic speeds. The crackle came through the portal; it carried in one message the precise technique and materials necessary to formulate a cure.

Ezra opened his eyes and stared into the rainbow. His bond with Streegan was strong enough now to see her on the other side. He saw the tree she stood under, her four legs, four arms, horse-like torso, hard angular face similar to an ant, blue color, glowing antennae, and four eyes.

Thinking of his grandson he asked, “Will the cure you gave me hurt the babies?”

“No,” Streegan said. Her tone reminded him of his grandmother. She sounded very old and wise. “The unborn will not be harmed. Larvae are precious in the eyes of The Creator. It is not necessary to destroy life to save life. The malady itself is alive and has agency. To destroy its evil, you must use the essence of new life which has not seen the corruption wrought by freedom. Purity is needed to remove and replace the impure.”

Ezra said, “I am only a surgeon. I don’t treat this kind of illness.”

“You must find a way. Two realms depend on you.”

“I’ll do my best.” His eyes widened, “Did Jo send you? Is she with you?”

“None of your kind are here.”

“Why are you helping us, then, if Jo didn’t send you.”

“The malady, what we call The Old Woe, affected our realm a long, long time ago when the two realms were closer together. In those days we had concourse with your kind. Your people were just beginning, and the pestilence did not cause as much damage to humans as it did to the Nunaki, but it did indeed come to us from you. I remember, I was a pupa then. To prevent your filth from repeating the same contamination of our realm, we have decided to help you in order to preserve our way of life.”

“I thought Jo sent you. This seems like the kind of thing she would do.” Ezra shook his head. “Do you know where Jo is? Do you know where the dead go?”

“The dead go Beyond to the Ultimate Realm.”

“Will I ever see Jo again?”

“I cannot answer that. But I can tell you, in our realm, we do not live for those who have left. We live for those who are to come.” 

The rainbow disappeared. 

Streegan squeaked. “I am growing weak. The link must end. Make haste, Ezra Feldman.”

“Wait,” Ezra said, but Streegan was gone. He was alone in his bedroom again with only the Wisconsin murder mystery book to keep him company. And his tears. 

Time vanished as he cried. At some point in the night he stopped crying as a thought came to him. An old friend from med-school was his friend on social media and that friend worked at a pharmaceutical lab which he believed had a contract with the CDC. He grabbed his phone and sent his friend a message detailing the cure which was shared with him.

\He put on his walking shoes and walked to the park again, in the dark. He didn’t need light; the harvest moon was up high and bright. He sat on one of their benches and listened to owls talk to each other. At dawn he walked home. His feet were cold, but his heart strangely grew warm. 

When he walked in the door his phone chirped. His friend had replied, “This is brilliant. How did you figure this out?”

Ezra typed out, “I saw it in a dream. I think Jo sent it to me.”

***

“Archon Streegan, how are things with the vexatious humans?”

“I am happy to report, Exalted Alpha,” Streegan bowed low and turned blue, “our plan has prospered. The malady has been healed and a woe has been averted.”

The archons and superiors all turned yellow. The remainder of the meeting consisted of issues from other archons and superiors such as food allocations and education. When the meeting ended, Archon Streegan went to the Cave of Memory. She found the alcove her tribe and then the stalagmite with her clan. There she saw the names and images of her larvae and their offspring for numerous generations. Then she came to the name and images of her father and mother. They died in the Old Woe. She remembered, and her color turned to ash. “Where do the dead go?” she asked. 

Academia — A Free Short Story

Let the free stories roll!

Today I add my next tale. I started off with a science fiction origin story two weeks ago (click here for Patient Zero) and then went for the personal trauma last week (Click here for The Last Message). This week I go back with the science fiction genre in a fun story I have set in the same universe of my current work in progress, a novel tentatively titled St. Carl of Mars.

Tomorrow, Joe Shaw gives us the next edition of his Devil meets a divorcee story and Kathy Kexel is up for Friday. We have added a few other writers, including Derek Elkins who went on Monday (Click here for A Night Out) and Robert Cely to the stable, so be looking for their pieces as well.

Enjoy!


Academia

By Jamie D. Greening

The academic flagship Biblioteca came out of cruising speed and took a low orbit around the planet BH-34. A transport vehicle hovered over the southern pole. As soon as communication was established between the two, the Bibliotecaopened its loading bays and received the taxi. Andrew Stratskin, a native of the plutonium mines on Saturn, stepped out.

A middle-aged woman stood alone in the hangar. “Stratskin, please follow me.”

He wiped his sweaty hands on his pants. Stratskin wore the traditional gray plaid pants and matching coat with a red tab shirt underneath. On his head was the traditional triangular mortar board worn by academic candidates during their committee interview. This was the last hurdle between him and his dream of becoming a full-fledged scholar. If his research was approved, the Biblioteca would become his new home and he would be a credentialled member of the academy. The rest of his life would be dedicated to learning, teaching, and discovery. 

If he did not attain approval, he would have to go back to Saturn and start all over, which could take years, assuming he had the emotional fortitude to do it. Most who weren’t approved left academia forever and took up jobs in the low-esteemed industry of television and movies. No one ever made money or became famous in movies. Failure to get approved in his interview was a career death sentence. 

“Here is your interview room. They are waiting for you,” his escort walked away with no further words.

Stratskin took a deep breath, counted to four, exhaled, and then walked in. Three people sat in the room. His advisor, a man named Professor Carmichael, stood up to welcome him. “It is good to see you in person, Stratskin. Our conversations have been good, but in person is always better. I want you to know however this turns out, you are to be congratulated on writing a thorough and riveting study.”

“Thank you,” Stratskin said. “I found the material interesting. I think I could spend another three years on it.” 

“Maybe you should,” Said the woman who sat on the left side of the glass top table. “There has not been enough research done on this topic. At least not to my liking. Everyone is either too interested in the Greek antiquities or overly involved in The Conflagration. We could use rigorous study about these smaller epochs.” She smiled at him, but it was the kind of smile which made him nervous. The smile said, “I may engage in playful banter with you or I may devour your weak arguments like a tiger eats deer. It all depends on my mood.” Did her jab at needing rigorous study mean she found his presentation weak? Doubt crept in. 

Carmichael extended his long arm, “This is Professor Nguyen of the University of New Rome on Mars. She is in residence here on the Biblioteca working on her next book. Nguyen is an expert on Earth history between the Roman Empire and The Conflagration. I asked her to be a part of your committee because of her interest in the field.”

Nguyen nodded.

Carmichael pivoted and smiled at the third person in the room. “This is Professor Lee. He is the Dean of North American artifacts on the museum vessel Palestine. No one knows more about the material evidence of your preferred time period than he does, so I asked him to be a part of your review committee.”

Profesor Lee did not move or change expression. 

“Have a seat here at the head of the table, Stratskin.” Stratskin sat down. Carmichael continued. “We have all read your work and made several notes. We don’t think this will be a long interview because you have been very thorough. We met this morning over breakfast and came to several conclusions. To start, we’d like for you to give us the summary point of your work.”

Stratskin sat up straight like his mother told him to. He wiped his hands on his pants again. “My thesis is the COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, was the underlying impetus which eventually hurled humans into space colonization. Without the virus, we might not ever have left earth.”

Nguyen squinted her eyes. “Yes, we saw that in your opening. In a paragraph or two, summarize the events, as you understand them, of the COVID-19 plague.”

“Well,” Stratskin said, “The virus started, originally, in Asia. We don’t know where, but it quickly spread across the planet. The hardest hit people group in the first two waves were in North America, a people who called themselves American. The virus made three passes around the planet before herd immunity kicked in. It was on the second pass around when the leader of the Americans, a man named George Washington, ordered the quarantining of the scientific and industrial leaders in a place called Pentagon. Given the name of the place, and our knowledge that ‘penta’ means five, we believe this was a five-province region in the west where the virus had been mitigated earlier. The concentration of scientific and financial means created the social and material matrix for the building of the first off-planet living vessels before the third wave came.”

Stratskin paused, but no one interrupted so he continued. “My research indicates the third wave was so disastrous the only organized civilization left was these Americans in the west.” 

“Wait a minute, Stratskin.” Professor Lee spoke with a deep register. “We have an artifact in our museum from around this same time. Dating these things is difficult because of the radiation contamination, but we have identified the leader of the Americans as being a man named Fauci. The artifact is an image of him standing in front of a podium, and on that podium is a seal that represents the leadership tribe of these Americans. I have always accepted he was the leader, yet you are convinced it was this man named Washington. Defend your claim.” 

Stratskin fought the urge to get defensive, yet he needed to stand firm. “I have seen that image. It is the only proof of this man called Fauci, and I find it difficult to make a generalization from what might have been a one-off moment.” He cleared his throat. “By contrast, the oral and epigraphical documents that have survived repeat over and over again the name of Washington.” He suddenly noticed the glass of water on the table. Assuming it was for him, he took a drink. “Most information about the Americans was destroyed in The Conflagration. But numerous times historical documents refer to phrases like, ‘Washington says’ and ‘This in from Washington.’ Plus, there is a giant etching in the hills of the western part of the American continent that we believe to be a portrait of their greatest leader, George Washington, and his three sons. We know a person named George Washington existed and was considered the greatest leader of the American tribe. It makes sense he was the leader during the greatest crisis, the Covid-19 Conundrum.”

“If George Washington even existed.” Professor Lee said. “I have my doubts about the Americans. They were a brief flash in the pan, a highly superstitious people prone to worshipping many gods such as Lincoln, Apple, and Football. Washington was probably just another mythic god they bowed to on key holy days.”

Stratskin didn’t back down. “I agree with their pantheism tendencies. I also agree the holy days in July and November were of outsized importance. However, that doesn’t mean Washington never existed or he was myth. Myth is often based on fact.”

Nguyen smiled again. She twirled her hair. “You may be right, or wrong. We will never know, really. However, that has little bearing on your three main conclusions. The first two are almost cliché so they are not worth working ourselves over.”

“I’d hardly call them cliché,” Carmichael said. He raised his eyebrows and looked at Stratskin.

Stratskin squirmed. “I understand your point, Professor Lee. It is widely accepted the first interplanetary vessels were built and launched in the context of the COVID-19 plague and the human population shrank to roughly half its size with the largest amount of deaths coming from the European regions. But still, these facts were important to establish for the overall thesis of COVID-19 creating the desire to leave the planet.”

“You went farther than that, though, didn’t you Candidate Stratskin?” Lee tapped on the table. “You make the incredible leap from the facts of leaving Earth to the reason for the exodus.”

“I did,” Stratskin said. “Pestilence and plagues are a part of life in all its expressions. This is true of humans, animals, and plants throughout the universe. The difference was humans were the first species in history to see the possibility of extinction and then find an ultimate solution. By spreading throughout the solar system, starting with Mars, we safeguarded the race from extinction by disease.”

“You hypothesize a parallel I find curious,” Carmichael said. “Our histories teach humans left Earth because of a yearning for exploration and discovery, and parallel that with the discovery coming out of the Middle Ages of new continents. Our tradition teaches us about the noble human spirit and the boldness of our conquests. But,” Carmichael shook his head, “that is not your parallel.”

“No, not discovery. Need drove humans to the stars.” Stratskin felt rightness flow in his veins. Whether he was approved or not, he believed what he’d written was true. The belief and passion now came out of his mouth. “We were afraid. We were needy. Like hunter gather humans chasing migrating herds to stay alive. We were more like humans leaving changing environments to temperate climates. In short, we are made for survival. Leaving Earth was another repetition of our innate reaction to fear and change. It has happened repeatedly in our past, and it will happen again. We’d fought the disease and won, but we knew we might not win next time, so we opted for flight.”

“Again?” Lee said. “You say it will happen again? I find that hard to believe given the vast growth of the human species and our technological sophistication. That is not a part of your research paper, and it is bold claim.”

“That’s right. I omitted speculation, as I view that as something less than academic. It is my belief, born from research, that no level of advancement can guarantee security or protection from disaster. Systems decline and things happen. The Americans probably had no reason to believe they were in any danger until they were right in the middle of it. These are my beliefs, and not the facts. When I was in primary education aboard the academic vessel Nicea, Professor Wentrick instilled within us the practice of only reporting fact.”

“I studied under Wentrick, too.” Nguyen was smiling again. “His tests were hard, weren’t they?”

“Especially the pop quizzes.” Stratskin nodded and took another drink. 

“I hated those pop quizzes,” Lee said.

Now a smile appeared on Stratskin’s face at the thought they’d all studied under Wentrick. He opened his mouth to say Wentrick’s classes were the hardest he ever had, but he learned more from him than any other. He never got the chance. Carmichael stood up, “I think that is all we need. Go on outside and you will be escorted to the lounge. We will notify you shortly of our decision.” 

A sense of relief washed over him as he rose from his seat. “Thank you for your time and your attention. He nodded in each of their direction and then left.” 

When he arrived at the lounge, he found a seat by the viewing window and looked down upon BH-35. It was mostly water, with only two small continents close together on the equator. He’d come here as a final place of solitude to prepare for the interview. His mind replayed it. He thought of seventeen different things he should have said. He had just convinced himself to pack his bags for a return to Saturn when Carmichael walked in.

“Welcome to the faculty, Professor Stratskin.”  

In Which I Argue With A Book

Argue is the right word. I argued with this book–or, to be more specific, the author of this book.

The author in question is Yuval Noah Harari and the book is 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. I picked it up at a bookstore during Christmastime. It is one of those books I buy from time to time to keep my wits sharp. I knew the worldview would be different from mine, and that is what I was looking for. The book has 323 pages of actual text, plus a large appendix of notes and an index. Although the material is weighty, it is an easy read written in a dialogue style. He has previously written two other bestsellers titled Sapiens and Homo Deus which I have not read. Unknown

At times it was enjoyable, funny, profound. At other times it was infuriating, depressing, and nonsensical.

What I Really Liked

There are two things I really liked about the book. The first is the opening 150 pages. If I narrowed it down even further, it would be the first 84 pages in which the author analyzes the technological challenges the future holds for human beings. I found this section riveting and spellbinding. Harari opened up ideas and thoughts, particularly about the role of AI in the human experience, I had never previously pondered, and for this I am thankful. In my opinion, the entire book is worth the buy and the read for just this part of the book.

The second thing I really liked about this book is that he devoted an entire chapter to science fiction. That’s right, Harari believes science fiction has a vital role to play in understanding and appropriating our human future. As an author who has a science fiction book he wants to release (Deep Cove Anthology) later this year and whose current WIP is a science fiction novel, this is good news. Now, I do think the author puts too much pressure on science fiction to perform a social good. Literature can only go so far, man. He does have a very interesting take on the movie Inside Out that any Pixar fan should take a look at.

What I Liked

I liked the way this book evoked in me a desire to think and argue with the author. I read it with a pencil nearby, and constantly wrote on the pages. Sometimes I agreed and wrote that, other times I wrote impromptu refutations. I must have sharpened my pencil twenty times. This is why I bought the book, but it far exceeded my expectations. Harari is an intellectual provocateur who takes things to an extreme situation in order to force us to ponder the logics of it. For people like me, this is fun.

What I Didn’t Like

I didn’t like being called a fool. In several places in the book the author portrays anyone who believes in God–whether it is the God of the Bible, Allah, or Thor–as a fool. Harari portrays himself as a strict realist who only looks at the facts, but he deludes himself by shuffling the deck of facts in favor of himself and his worldview. This did not become fully apparent until the last chapter of the book, and it was then that I realized what as going on.

What Surprised Me

There were two surprises. One, Harari holds an odd position in that he is what I would call an Atheist Calvinist. He absolutely does not believe in free-will or choices. For him, everything is determined. His is not just biological determinism that tell us genes determine heart disease and lifespan. It goes much further. He perceives all our choices are made for us by culture, biases, religion, politics, and advertising. You didn’t have a taco for lunch today because you wanted it and you chose to. You and the taco for lunch today because your brain is preconditioned by pressures and stimuli you can’t possibly act against, so therefore, it was predetermined you would eat the taco.

The second surprise was the ending, and I have already alluded to it. Throughout the whole book Harari trashes any kind of spirituality or religious experiences, then in one of the boldest bait and switch moments he finishes by trying to convince the humble reader the key to it all is meditation and getting into contact with your mind as opposed to your brain.

I was very disappointed, and suddenly his anti-God stance made more sense. He is an evangelist for a new kind of faith–a faith not in God, not in self, and not in humanity. Harari peddles a faith in awareness and experience. This is why many of his thoughts are fatalistic.

Final Evaluation

Read this book if you want to be challenged, argue with the author, and think about things from a different perspective. Do not read this book if you are easily offended by other worldviews.