Gilgamesh in the 21st Century by Paul Bracken

Gilgamesh in the 21st Century

A Personal Quest to Understand Mortality
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A wide-ranging debut exploration of how civilization deals with the reality of the finite life.

A science educator and a former official with The Planetary Society, Bracken begins by echoing the same question as the ancient Mesopotamian king Gilgamesh: “Must I die?” His answer is basically yes, with caveats. In this work, Bracken sets out to examine what death means to the human race, beyond its traumatic aspect. His views on the subject of mortality are definitively atheistic, and he sees death as the end of one’s existence. However, having been raised and educated in a Christian setting, he has experience with religious views. He seems to see such a mindset as naïve, however, and argues that the human race must rely upon its own best qualities, rather than the possibility of supernatural intervention and guidance: “The reality is that unless there are gods, the only hope for humanity is humanity itself.” Bracken admits that there’s a sad proclivity toward barbarism throughout human history, but he points toward human progress as a point of optimism: “Far from being backward and barbaric, humans are the very definition of civilization,” he writes. Bracken leans on science-fiction ideas to visualize a world that endorses the best human qualities, and where science lengthens life and makes it better. In fact, he envisions a time when life can be replicated through technological advances, creating a sort of immortality. Bracken provides readers with meaningful food for thought, not to mention a positive starting point for discussion concerning the fate of humanity. He doesn’t fall prey to naysayers or doomsday theorists, believing that humans have the ability, and the attributes, to survive and evolve. His prose is certainly readable and erudite, but his reliance upon popular culture and science fiction can be almost jarring at times in an otherwise serious work.

An optimistic view of short-lived humans.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-615-96860-5
Page count: 290pp
Publisher: Paul Bracken
Program: Kirkus Indie
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