An optimistic view of short-lived humans.

Gilgamesh in the 21st Century


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. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-615-96860-5

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Paul Bracken

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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