A collection of wondrous tales that present ancient myths as the proto–science fiction stories they are.

GODS AND ROBOTS

THE ANCIENT QUEST FOR ARTIFICIAL LIFE

A fascinating unpacking of ancient myths that feature robots and other lifelike beings, some of which bear an eerie resemblance to modern technology.

More than 2,000 years ago, Greek thinkers were already envisioning the spectacular potential of being “made, not born.” As Mayor (The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World, 2014, etc.), a research scholar in classics and the history of science at Stanford, writes, during ancient times, “we…find a remarkable set of concepts and ideas that arose in mythology, stories that envisioned ways of imitating, augmenting, and surpassing natural life by means that might be termed bio-techne, ‘life through craft’…ancient versions of what we now call biotechnology.” The bronze giant Talos, protector of Crete, appears in numerous poems and artworks, some dating to 500 B.C.E.; Jason, of the Argonauts, is depicted as battling a phalanx of robotlike soldiers sprung from the earth and programmed to kill. Of course, these episodes are fiction, but they reveal the sophistication of the ancients’ imagined automata. In her meticulous research, the author discovers that the Greeks were hardly alone in conceiving mechanistic warriors, servants, or evil human replicas. Surviving myths from Rome, India, and China also explore ideas of artificial life and intelligence. In her insightful analyses of these tales, Mayor is approachable and engaging, and she infuses many familiar stories with new energy in the context of technology. She adroitly explores the ethical aspects of artificial life, addressing big questions about sentience and agency through the lens of ancient ideas. She also makes a convincing argument that these imagined machines anticipated advances that are considered cutting-edge today. Ultimately, she leaves readers in awe of these thinkers who dreamed of “androids” long before it was conceivable to build them.

A collection of wondrous tales that present ancient myths as the proto–science fiction stories they are.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-691-18351-0

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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