It is a way of living, if only fleetingly and subjectively, in another realm with other expectations and values. All this can play an important role in triggering critical consciousness, particularly in the young and very young, and this holds as much for our new utopians as for the ones Marx knew.
In more creative minds, utopian thinking can also provide first approximations of real possibilities and even invent new forms of social interaction that may prove useful later on. Contrasting some feature of the present with a wholly imaginative construction also helps clarify for many what is lacking in the present, advancing their dissatisfaction with it and serving as a criticism of it at the same time. Before there was an analysis—such as Marxism—that showed how our society actually works and its potential, real potential, for something totally other, the contributions made by utopian thinking in such matters was invaluable.
No one was more aware of the contribution of utopian thinkers, particularly Fourier, Saint-Simon, and Owen, to the socialist project, nor more generous in his praise for them, than Marx along with whom I also include Engels. Hence, they are full of the most valuable material for the enlightenment of the working class. Without question, Marx himself benefited enormously from both the insights and spirit of the utopian tradition when he made his own break from capitalism. Yet, this leaves us with only half of the picture.
They have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of the new society with which the old collapsing society is pregnant. It is an actual potential, one discoverable through the kind of analysis Marx undertakes, that gets realized, and not a disconnected idea some clever people have thought up. While the positive accomplishments of utopian thinking are not insignificant, therefore, there is a high price to pay for them. More specifically, the main criticisms Marx makes of the utopians are as follows: To elaborate briefly on these points: Second, there is no basis for deciding whether a vision of the future produced in this manner is good, let alone ideal.
Each utopian thinker, after all, has drawn upon his own hopes, wishes, and dreams, and what manner of evidence is this? As a rule, the utopian thinker himself is unable to say what elements have gone into his vision, which, we can be sure, differs in many important respects from the visions of other utopian thinkers.
Who should we believe, and why should we believe them, except in so far as our own hopes and wishes overlap with theirs? When, on occasion, some principle, religious or lay, or a conception of human nature is offered up as an ethical warranty, our uncertainty is just pushed back a stage.
They are not the kind of beliefs to which evidence applies, other than as illustrations for those who already hold them. Most utopians, of course, recognize that there is widespread and unnecessary suffering in society, but without carefully analyzing it, without trying to understand exactly who is doing what to whom and why, without examining the larger context that makes this possible and getting a bead on how it has developed and is still developing, without all this, the act of believing that some other arrangement would be better is purely and simply faith.
We want to know—better in what sense and for whom? The point of this objection is not that a particular utopia is not ideal, or at least better than other visions of the future, or at a minimum full of elements that qualify for such praise—all this may in fact be so—but there is no good reason for believing it.
Third, aside from being ideal societies, utopias are also held up as possible societies, hence practical alternatives to what now exists. But if utopian thinkers can give no good reason for believing that their personal vision represents something that would be good for all of us, the claim that their ideal is also possible is equally groundless.
Our criticism, it should be noted, is not the common complaint that a particular utopia is impossible because nothing like it ever happened before, or that what it depicts is too extreme. From the vantage point of someone living in feudalism, nothing would appear more extreme than modern capitalism. As for the absence of precedents, recorded history is to a large degree the story of things happening for the first time, and there is no reason to believe that the surprises that await our descendants will be any less extreme than those sprung upon our ancestors. Some utopians, of course, have tried to make a case for the possibility of their ideal by claiming that it has already existed somewhere, if only for a brief time.
Thus—they claim—we can bring it back, and it can work. William Morris held up fifteenth century England, and some Christian utopians have used life among the early Christian communities in this way. In looking for parallels, however, wishful thinking interferes with historical accuracy, so that the similarities that do exist are stretched to cover the even more numerous differences that render such comparisons useless for the purpose at hand.
In short, those who rely on precedents to argue that their utopia is possible are no more convincing than those who cite the lack of precedents for believing them impossible. Human nature, understood to include what people really want as well as what they are capable of, is also offered in support of the practicality of the utopian ideal. People, it is argued, being what they are, cannot help realizing the advantages of utopia, and, once this bridge has been crossed, making it work. But, in most cases, the people that the utopians describe are much like themselves, which speaks to their limited imaginations and the personal roots of their utopias, but it also shows an inadequate understanding of the dialectical relation between human beings and the evolving conditions in which they live and work.
Expecting the change from capitalism to socialism to occur all at once, for example, the utopians omit the relatively long period of transition that Marx foresees between the two social formations. This transition begins with a struggle to found a revolutionary movement within capitalism, continues into the revolution the greatest educational experience of all for Marx , and concludes in the early efforts to build socialism after the revolution.
By becoming class conscious, therefore, workers not only make it possible to abolish capitalism but to live in socialism. It is apparent that prioritizing and emphasizing the future in the manner of utopian thinkers preempts the time and even the interest required to make a serious study of the present. But utopian thinking also sets up interference of a more organic kind. Thus, utopian thinking presents us with consequences the ideal without causes, i.
It is not a matter of the present losing some of its potential; its entire future dimension has been wiped out. Hence, it is not only the future that gets distorted in utopian thinking but also the present. It is futureless because it does not itself exist as a cause of its own future. Being without an organically connected future, what sense can be made of the present? A lot of what is most important in present society, particularly as regards its dynamics, is not very visible at this moment. It only becomes more so as its effects begin to be felt, that is in the future.
In separating the future off from what is going on right now, utopian thinkers, of course, have only done what those historians, who like to think of themselves as constituting a separate discipline, have often done to the past, that is set it apart as something logically other than the present rather than viewing it as the internally related preconditions for our present.
Breaking up change and development in this manner—into a past, a present, and a future, each phase securely locked into its own separate compartment—it is difficult to grasp how our actual past gave rise to what we are living through now, and how this present emerging as it has from its past will issue into the particular future that awaits us.
There is an organic evolution here, but disconnecting its main stages in this way keeps people from grasping it. We should not wonder, therefore, at the difficulty most people experience in fixing on even such central features of our society as capital accumulation and class struggle, which only exist in the present as mutually dependent processes in evolution from something toward something. Abolishing the internal ties between past, present, and future also makes likely a common misuse of the present, the stage with which we are of necessity most familiar, as a model for understanding the past and the future.
The approach involves taking what we find in present society as the standard for what existed before, forcing square pegs into round holes wherever necessary to make the point. The present simply serves them as a mirror in which they claim to catch the reflection of earlier times. The same error occurs in the other direction when people project some part of our present arrangements and their own desires, strengths, and limitations into the indefinite future. Fifth, utopian thinking provides us with a weak and ineffective way of arguing for socialism.
Here, I am not concerned with validity, but with whether the utopian argument works. Does appealing to the idea of a better society in the absence of any serious analysis of the present one succeed in winning supporters to the socialist cause? The utopian argues that his vision is a good society, a possible one, and one that is relatively easy to construct, without offering any of the evidence from which we would ordinarily conclude that something is good, possible, or practical.
By constructing a vision of the future out of hopes, wishes, and the like, the utopian thinker has made a kind of end run around the channels that usually carry such claims. Criticisms of present-day society as falling short of the utopian ideal is of the same nature; it begs the question of whether this is the right standard to apply. Can it be convincing? There is no doubting the popularity of some utopian writings. More recently, the American psychologist B. But, even if we assume that most readers of utopian literature are not socialists and that the vision they acquire from such works move them in a leftward direction, several questions remain: Toward what kind of socialism?
Accompanied by what actions? And how long do the political effects of such moral and emotional appeals last? We are left, therefore, with examining the nature of the utopian argument. There are many ways to answer this question, probably the most important are as follows: First, and—for Marxists—most decisive, if you are part of the working class, broadly defined, socialism is in your class interests.
Another version of the same answer is, Why capitalism? Second, socialism would do away with the power of money in politics and introduce democratic decision making into all walks of social life. Third, it is the only effective means of abolishing the material misery and other inequalities associated with capitalism, as well as the profit-motivated destruction of the material environment that will soon render our planet unlivable.
Fourth, organizing production and distribution to serve social needs on the basis of a democratically arrived at plan is more rational than allowing the vagaries of an uncontrolled market and there is no other kind to determine both. Sixth, it would make imperialist wars unnecessary as ways of dealing with these crises. Seventh, it would also make the lying and selling that defiles so much of our public life unnecessary, and liberate knowledge to serve all humanity rather than the profit interests of a few.
For Marxists, all arguments for socialism are based on an analysis that demonstrates that capitalism is not only responsible for our worst social and ecological problems but contains the means for their solution as well as the seeds of the new world that would follow. Unfortunately, these terms have been so manipulated by the capitalist consciousness industry that most of them have been turned around to mean the near opposite of what most utopians would like to convey with them. So that most people today would probably understand freedom as the right to be left alone, equality as formal equality, justice as what you get in the courts, the right to work as a way to avoid joining a union, and so on.
For utopians, as indeed for other social reformers, these loaded terms convey little and convince less. Arguing from an unexamined belief in a better world and using the characteristics of this imagined world as a standard for judging our own is also, of course, a version of ethical and religious thinking. There, too, an ultimate standard is erected that stands apart from our everyday lives, which is then used as a basis for making judgments regarding the here and now. While analysis of the present plays no significant role in arriving at the content that ethical, religious, and utopian thinkers pour into their absolute principles, divine laws, and visions of the future respectively, it often makes a limited appearance later as part of figuring out how best to apply the judgments derived from them.
Too little, too late. The crucial work of identifying problems and looking for how to solve them has already begun—though indirectly and without full awareness of the choices made—with the adoption of the absolute standard. Unfortunately, as we have seen, what there is to analyze at this point has already been systematically distorted by constructing a notion of the present that has been separated off from its real past and potential futures at the start. Religious movements, as we know, have convinced countless millions of their truths and continue to do so. Unfortunately for utopians, they lack, in the very nature of the case, several qualities that have made religious appeals so effective.
Recycled Christian ritual proved not to be enough. In competition with religious appeals, utopians are in the position of someone trying to sell a car without a motor. Occasionally, they make a sale, but where they do it is usually to someone who is predisposed to operate with external norms because they already belong to a religion, or conduct their lives on the basis of one or another ethical principle, or are young idealists, by which I mean people who are endowed with unusually strong utopian impulses and who have not yet made a serious effort to analyze society.
Further, as in most ethical and religious disputes, arguments based on a utopian vision of the future are convincing only to those who accept the basic assumptions, or in this case, the hopes and dreams out of which the vision has been constructed. It might be necessary to clarify these assumptions or to draw out their links with the problems at hand, but it never pays to attack or defend the measure of the good with facts. Adopted without the benefit of analysis, an absolute standard is immune by definition from whatever later analysis might uncover.
Consequently, arguments for utopia often turn into painting its virtues in still more brilliant colors or in ever greater detail. To the extent that an identity of ultimate values exists, he has a good chance to succeed. And, within the framework established by utopian thinking, nothing further can be said. But perhaps the most important argument against the utopian way of arguing is that, though it addresses our ideal future, it carries out the debate on their terrain.
It does capitalists the immense favor of letting them go on the offensive, rhetorically speaking. Let the capitalists try to talk themselves out of this, is what Marx seems to be saying. It is when they cannot, and when enough of us recognize they cannot, that the walls of the prison financial cornices and all will be torn down. Sixth, and last, utopian thinking leads to adopting ineffective political strategies for bringing about the desired changes.
For the utopian thinker, the ideal society will come into being when enough people recognize that it is both good and possible. But, as we have seen, there is no compelling reason why anyone should accept either of these claims. Nor can it be said that utopian arguments succeed by other means.
Reformulated, repackaged, fictionalized, and personalized, their literary merit may pick up a few more followers. It is always possible that the fantasies featured in a particular utopian vision will appeal to some people whose thinking is structured along similar lines see the discussion of ethics and religion above , but so far this has never been enough. To supplement the written word, therefore, many utopian thinkers have set up models of what they favor—workplaces, household arrangements, and even whole communities—believing that the example will convince larger numbers of the desirability as well as practicality of their vision.
But the very conditions of the present that utopians neglect to study ensure that at least some of the pieces that are required for the model to work as expected—including people with the right attitudes—are generally lacking. Also, the larger capitalist context, and especially the market, in which the experiment is forced to operate overwhelms it economically, politically, and culturally at every point the two come into contact. Utopian thinkers have only been able to think otherwise, because, abstracting the future from the present, they have no way of judging how this same present will affect any piece of the future that is set down in its midst.
The same dismissal of present realities in constructing their vision of the future leaves utopians without an adequate grasp of who is likely to favor their project and who is not. Since life in their ideal society would satisfy everyone, it seems to follow that everyone should be in favor of it. And as the intelligence required to understand how the utopian ideal works is equally distributed throughout the population, there is no reason to single out any section or class of people for their appeal.
Those who hold high political office or have a lot of money can, if they wish, do more to bring the utopian vision into being than others. So why not address a special appeal to them? And many utopian thinkers have done just this. Saint-Simon, for example, wrote to Napoleon for help; Fourier advertised in newspapers for capitalist benefactors; and Owen petitioned the English Parliament.
And many modern-day utopians continue to make similar appeals to the rich and powerful in our society who are in a position to make a difference. Sometimes it even works, a little bit, for there are a few wealthy radicals. But the point, of course, is that those who have succeeded by playing according to the existing economic and political rules of our society have every interest in keeping these rules as they are.
And no appeal, no matter how inventive and aesthetically pleasing, is going to convince most of them otherwise. The same quest, together with the moderation that it induces, also makes it more difficult to win the support of workers and other oppressed groups who have a clear interest in a thorough transformation of society.
In order to grasp why they should, they would have to have made the kind of analysis of society, emphasizing where different groups fit into it and the opposing interests that arise from their positions, that Marx made and the utopians have not. But without adequate attention to class and class interests, what sense can utopians make of the class struggle and—particularly—of the role that the state plays in it?
If communists, including anarcho-communists, have the abolition of the state as one of their goals, utopians often act as if the state has already been abolished. Pursuing reforms that are chiefly of civil society within civil society, utopians tend to ignore how the state contributes to the problems they are trying to solve and the equally complex ways the state ties the hands of any reformers who try to solve them. There is no shortage of complaints, of course, but without a Marxist analysis of the organic relation between the ruling economic class and the state one can never understand why—with only minor and temporary variations—it acts in this way, and what must be done to bring about permanent and thoroughgoing changes.
Consequently, there is no recognition of the need for a political revolution, of removing the capitalists from political power so we can take away their economic and social power, even to the relatively modest degree advocated by most utopians. The frightening experiences of the leading French utopians in the French Revolution—Saint-Simon was almost executed—also made the whole utopian movement, in which these thinkers played such a major role, extremely wary of any initiative that might rekindle the fires of revolution.
Cabet went so far as to say that if he held a revolution in the palm of his hand he would close his fingers over it and never open them again. Whatever their psychological fears of revolution may hav3. For the main reason that utopian strategies for change are unrealistic is because neither the real conditions that contribute to change nor those that hold it back—especially the state—are examined with any care.
She has a wonderful thirst for knowledge and natural curiosity, but in a traditional Kikuyuy society women are restricted to fieldwork and housekeeping, servants to the power of their menfolk. A few like the security of the cage, but most die of broken hearts, for having touched the sky they cannot bear to lose the gift of flight. In this case a Masaai hunter is called to the village to help with hyena attacks against children, only to refuse afterwards to leave, bullying the locals into submitting to him as the leader of the pack.
You cannot know what it means to be warm and dry until you have been cold and wet. And Ngai knows, even if you do not, that you cannot appreciate life without death.
Ultimate Utopia and Other Stories by MR Don Jones (Paperback / softback, 2011)
No matter how hard the Western woman tries to live by the rules of the Kikuyu, she is not accepted by the other wives who look at her with envy and distrust. There are many different notions of Utopia. The story also marks a turning point in our perception of Koriba from a benevolent, if strict, traditional ruler, to a vengeful and petty tyrant who cannot brook any challenge to his absolute authority. Can a society be considered Utopian if not all its members are happy to live in it?
Perhaps there are no Utopias, and we must each be concerned with our own happiness. All that they have to look forward to is inheriting the house and the herds from their fathers, marrying, raising children and letting their women work the plots of land. From time to time I cannot help wondering what must become of a society, even a Utopia such as Kirinyaga, where our best and our brightest are turned into outcasts, and all that remains are those who are content to eat the fruit of the lotus.
It was you who taught me how to think, Koriba. Would you have me stop thinking now, just because I think differently than you do? It is time for Koriba to recognize that his Utopia may be different from the Utopia desired by the rest of his Kikuyu community. And a possible conclusion is that a perfect society cannot be frozen in time and must provide for new ways of thinking and new challenges. You can direct change, Koriba, but you cannot prevent it, and that is why Kirinyaga will always break your heart.
Like one of the extinct animals that once ruled the savannah, he must pass on into a mythical realm of legends like his once all powerful god Ngai. The thing I had not realized is that a society can be Utopian for only an instant — once it reaches a state of perfection it cannot change and still be a Utopia, and it is the nature of societies to grow and to evolve.
View all 7 comments. Apr 11, Ivan rated it it was amazing Shelves: One of the best books I read this year, deservedly considered sci-fi classic. Actual review might come at some point later. May 16, Stephen rated it it was amazing Shelves: This was an exceptional collection of inter-connected short stories that should be seen as one complete story. The cosmetic premise of the of the stories is about a group of 22nd century Kenyans unhappy with its evolution into "another European city" who emigrate to a planetary colony in order to live simply and in harmony with the land as their ancestors did.
The real or underlying premise of these stories are about the struggle of one person against the inevitability of progre 5. The real or underlying premise of these stories are about the struggle of one person against the inevitability of progress and change. This struggle is shown through the eyes of Koriba, the colonies mundumugu i. Many of these "conflicts" made it very difficult to "sympathize" with Koriba's position given my, and presumably most readers, "Western" viewpoint i.
However, even when we end up disagreeing with his position, Resnick does a great job of making the reader see these issues through Koriba's eyes so that at least we understand him. Not an easy thing to do and Resnick does it superbly. The tale of Koriba and the colony of Kirinyaga are told in a series of connected short stories that, when taken together, is the most HONORED collection in terms of major and minor awards and nominations of short stories in the history of Science Fiction see below for list of MAJOR awards only.
Hugo Award - Nominee: Locus Award Kirinyaga - Winner: Nebula Award - Nominee: Locus Award Bwana - Nominee: Locus Award The Manamouki - Winner: Locus Award - Nominee: View all 4 comments. Sep 07, Tom LA rated it it was amazing Shelves: I loved this book, it reflects a lot of today's reality, expecially our world's quick changes, and its many conflicts between past and present.
An old scientist from Kenya, desperate because the "good old days" of Kenya's uncontaminated tribal life have gone, decides to recreate that world artificially, on another planet. Despite the futuristic concept, this is not much of a science fiction book, it's rather speculative fiction, or a book of ideas. The stories are interconnected, and they are pa I loved this book, it reflects a lot of today's reality, expecially our world's quick changes, and its many conflicts between past and present. The stories are interconnected, and they are part of the same overarching narrative.
Elements of traditional Kenyan culture, African poetry, and some serious reflections on cultural changes are interwoven in this highly original work. Some stories have a ingenuity that reminded me of Sherlock Holmes stories, some others are truly moving. The main charachter may result annoying and arrogant, but by the end of the last story you also understand what the author thinks of his philosophy, and everything makes a little more sense.
At least it did to me. A few years ago I wrote the author a note complimenting him, and he cheerfully replied saying "Thank you!! Check out what else I can do!! Apr 12, Ryan rated it really liked it.
See a Problem?
The writing is brilliant, the story thought provoking, and the setting and characters utterly vivid. The ending is perfect. The story concerns a collective of 22nd century Kikuyu a Kenyan ethnic group nationalists who emigrate to their own terraformed world to live in the manner of their stone age ancestors. This fact alone makes their motivations difficult to understand from The Good: This fact alone makes their motivations difficult to understand from the beginning. Also, the episodic nature of the novel detracts from its flow and pacing. Lastly, as far as I know, Mike Resnick is not a member of the Kikuyu people, so this book probably offends someone.
Koriba is the visionary prophet of a past long dead. He is single-minded in his commitment to utopia, and more than a slight control freak, just like Monica. Dec 13, Chris rated it liked it Shelves: I was torn on this one. I wanted to like it going in and was actually captivated by the opening story, "One Perfect Morning, with Jackals".
That was a great introduction to the new world set up by the Eutopian Council clever name, that called Kirinyaga, an attempt to get back to the roots of the Kikuyu tribe of what we barbaric Europeans call "Kenya". And here's where the being torn comes in. As I read story after story, I realized that I didn't like the narrator, Koriba. At first I'd sympathiz I was torn on this one.
At first I'd sympathized with him, but after some of his rulings as mundumugu, I wanted someone to leave him out for the hyenas.
The Utopian Vision of the Future (Then and Now): A Marxist Critique
Then I decided I didn't much care for the stories as a whole. Each one started with an animal parable told by Koriba to his sheep people, in order to teach them the evils of European influence and the godliness of Koriba himself their deity, Ngai. Then something would happen in the village, someone would attempt to think for themselves explore the forbidden technology or culture of Europe. Koriba would declare them to be wrong and bully or blackmail tell them parables to show them the error of not doing as he says turning from the path of Ngai.
Satisfying beginning, satisfying ending. Lots of books can claim one or the other, but both? So I thought about it. At first, I planned to give it a 2-star. It seemed to fit the "it's ok but I didn't really love it" definition of a 2-star. Or to be more blunt, "didn't really like it.
Had I read this by itself, I would have been "wow! While the other stories weren't as effective as this one, they did hit me in a similar way. I think that had I read the stories as they originally came out, I would have appreciated them more. But all at once, they became rather redundant and tiring. I'll give it a 3-star because when I did like it, I found it to be very effective and touching. It wasn't consistently touching all the way through, though.
So 3 is where I'll settle Quite by accident, I've been reading a lot of stories about righteous people who do wrong things for what they believe are right reasons. Some of these people reap the consequences of their decisions, and some do not. Some see the error of their choices, and a very few go on blindly believing that nobody else really understands, only they can see that they are right, and only they are able to interpret what is true.
The religion of my childhood referred to itself as "The Truth. In "The Truth," there are many rules, and the less thinking one does, the more following is possible. People act like they are happy when they choose not to think. But the truth is not "The Truth," and acting is not the same as being. Among the many rules in my particular "Truth," were rules regarding whom could teach, and whom could lead.
There were rules governing relationships, permitted and proscribed activities, gender roles, clothing, and possessions, just as there is conformism in every society, to a greater or lesser degree. In my "Truth," to the greater degree, there were also rules regarding treatment of those who did not keep to the other rules, as well as instruction to repudiate any succumbed to "independent thinking. His reasons are clearly in protection of what he thinks is perfect justice and ideal society, but he forgets to love the people in loving the ideas.
The stories are brilliant in their execution. These stories hurt my heart, but they are cathartic too. I lived in my own Kirinyaga. I know what it means to walk to Haven. No me ha gustado nada. Pues esta es la perogrullada que nos queda tras diez millones de relatos todos iguales machacando una y otra vez el mismo tema y que me ha costado horrores acabar.
Dec 12, Becky rated it it was ok Shelves: Kirinyaga is a collection of inter-related short stories that center around a terraformed planet designed to be the new home of the Kikuyu tribe of Africa, where they can live their lives in the old, traditional way, without interference from modern society. I almost stopped reading this book 2 chapters stories, technically into it. Two main reasons for this: They are usually obvious, simplistic, and preachy.
Pres Kirinyaga is a collection of inter-related short stories that center around a terraformed planet designed to be the new home of the Kikuyu tribe of Africa, where they can live their lives in the old, traditional way, without interference from modern society. Pressing on, because I really did want to give this one a chance, I did come to see that the parables tied into the story, and it made sense. I still felt that they were obvious, simplistic, and preachy, but there was a kind of layering there that helped make them bearable within the stories.
The stories themselves were quite repetitive, and I felt that the outcome for Kirinyaga was pretty obvious right from the start. It was just how it would get there that was in question. Coming back to Koriba He's highly idealistic, a Type A personality. Hypocritical, uncompromising, hard to sympathize with, and manipulative, but very clever.
I feel like I would have enjoyed this story much more if I had been able to identify with Koriba. I understand the desire to maintain tradition and culture, but the way that he went about it was so wrong to me, that every time I would start to feel a shred of agreement with him, he'd up the ante and I'd retreat again. His ideal is rigidly maintaining the traditional Kikuyu lifestyle, as interpreted and controlled by himself, and never, ever deviating, even the slightest bit.
No matter the cost. If people suffer, they suffer. If they die, they die. That's the Kikuyu way. It was disgusting to see the extents that he would go to to prove his point. I just couldn't understand him. I'm a fan of compromise, but he sees life in stark black and white terms. He's very much a fan of the "You're either with me or against me" line.
There is no middle ground, no room for anyone else to think or want anything, because all that matters to Koriba is what he thinks and wants for Kirinyaga and for himself, as the self-proclaimed "last true Kikuyu". He pulls the strings, and keeps the rest of the people ignorant and superstitiously fearful, thinking that that's the only way to form a Kikuyu Utopia.
Perhaps if the story had been told from the perspective of a new inhabitant of Kirinyaga, trying to adapt, or even from Koriba's trainee, I would have liked it better. As it is, I think it was interesting, but could have been shorter, and it definitely made me think. Se hace un poco repetitiva, sobre todo teniendo en cuenta que las ideas principales se ven bastante claras en los dos primeros relatos.
May 18, Bryan Schmidt rated it it was amazing. Yes, yet another Resnick review from me. Before I get to the actual review, let me answer the inevitable resounding "Whys? I've lost count, time for another census. I started reading Resnick for two reasons: His prose style is similar to mine yeah, right, as if mine were this good , and I love the way he writes powerful characters and situations and lets the questions fly out of what develops. Also, whether or not they are answered is up to the reader. So, that's why more Resnick, and I am not done yet, but will be taking at least a one book pause to read my buddy Ken Scholes' "Antiphon," a because I have a copy a month ahead of its actual publication date; b because I promised to not only review it but participate in discussions with a readers' group; and c because I have been begging him for an early copy for a year since finishing the second in the series because the series is so freaking awesome, it's painful to have to wait.
In fact, sidebar, if he could have just had the decency to put those twins off until he finished the series, he could have taken a nice break from writing without so cruelly abandoning his fans. Okay, enough Resnick-Scholes ranting. Kirinyaga is the most award-winning science fiction novel ever. Some call it a collection of stories, because Resnick wrote the chapters as short stories, sold them, won awards on them, and then assembled the book, but since together they create a coherent whole, I disagree with that assessment. This is a novel, and no one story would truly be complete without the others.
Kirinyaga tells the story of Koriba, a well intentioned Kikuyu man from Kenya who sets about to lead his people to set up their own traditional Utopia, a planet named Kirinyaga after the holy mountain of their god, Ngai, on Kenya.
The goal of the settlers is to live the way their ancient ancestors lived with no European influence or niceties. They will hunt and farm for their food, live off the land in traditional bomas huts and rule their society with the traditional councils of Elders advised by the mundumugu, Koriba.
Utopia and Dystopia – The Many Faces of The Future — Veronica Sicoe
The story is really one of the best of intentions gone awry. Koriba's desire is to preserve the sanctity of his people's ways, but as time goes on and the original settlers die or age, the new minds begin asking questions not easily answered. Things become even worse as his chosen successor is exposed to ideas through Koriba's own computer and begins questions Koriba's ideas and the ways of his people publicly, which leads others to do the same.
Watching his utopia unravel along with his influence, Koriba faces tough decisions and challenges about the future. That's all I'll say to avoid spoilers for anyone who hasn't actually discovered this yet, but I will make some comments on Resnick's Africa stuff in general. Of the African works by him I've read, this is the most blatant in adhering and examining their cultural traditions. In books like Inferno, Paradise, and Purgatory, Resnick used African history and a mix of traditions like metaphors to tell science fiction stories examining the larger human condition and particularly Westerner's attitudes and approaches to those of other cultures or worlds.
In other stories and books, he has examined this from different angles, but in this case, he delves into African's own attitudes about their own worlds and traditions. The same questions and ideas which led to the real erosion of traditional African cultures arise again through these stories and lead the reader to examine why the erosion occurs in every culture and ask whether it's good or bad. The answers are never black and white, nor are they simple, but they are worth asking.
Resnick's prose is simple enough for even a ten-year-old to grasp, but the questions and ideas he posits with it are deeply rich and complex and may require several readings even for adults to unravel and fully fathom. I know I have been reading and rereading and plan to do so again, and if you want scifi that challenges your world view, asks questions, and teaches you while still entertaining, I highly recommend this stuff, because it will reward you greatly for the effort.
For what its worth Una interesante propuesta con relatos bastante buenos. Mike Resnick's Kirinyaga is an example of how science fiction isn't necessarily a genre; it's just a setting. Kirinyaga is technically science fiction, because it involves colonizing another world the eponymous planetoid Kirinyaga, named for the mountain upon which the god of the Kikuyu, Ngai, lives. However, Kirinyaga isn't about spaceships or combat with high-tech weaponry or vast, evil empires. It's a collection of fables, and an extremely well-written one at that. The narrator of Kirinyaga Mike Resnick's Kirinyaga is an example of how science fiction isn't necessarily a genre; it's just a setting.
The narrator of Kirinyaga is Koriba, the mundumugu of the Kikuyu people who choose to settle on Kirinyaga and attempt to create a utopian society. Koriba is the ultimate type of reactionary: He wants to return to the ways of the Kikuyu's ancestors, ways that went virtually extinct by his lifetime in the 22nd century. Koriba's belief that any European influence is corrupting plays a major role in the conflicts throughout the ten stories in this book. As he explains it to the Kikuyu: He grew up in a Kenya dominated by European values, which have eroded his people's proud past.
Yet in his attempt to create a utopia, Koriba so vehemently opposes change that he runs the risk of stagnation. In the end, Koriba comes to the realization that most would-be utopians have: Kirinyaga is also the answer to the often-expressed desire to live in more pastoral times.
Some people labour under the impression that there was, at some point in human history, a great Golden Age, where there was little suffering, there were plentiful crops, and there were prosperous people. The hardships and tribulations of the Kikuyu on Kirinyaga demonstrate that "simpler times" were not necessarily "better times" and bely Koriba's belief that European technology is the root of evil. But if that's the case, does that mean that we must necessarily surrender our past traditions in order to survive? Part of Kirinyaga's failure owes to the fact that no matter how much you try, you can't turn back the clock.
Having been exposed to European values once, there's no way to remove cultural contamination. Fleeing to another planet doesn't work as long as one maintains a connection to the outside world. Utopia is an impossible dream, and striving for it is madness. As "The Lotus and the Spear" demonstrates, people require conflict and adversity in order to have meaningful lives.
A life with conflict is not a utopia, yet a life without conflict has no meaning. Koriba has some very admirable qualities, including his obstinacy; unfortunately, his refusal to accept even a modicum of change means that he can't survive in an ever-changing world. The brilliance of Resnick's stories isn't the moral, of course; that's old hat. Instead, it's the package.
Each chapter is a fable, and there are even fables-within-the-fable that Koriba tells to his people. Just as Koriba's fables pass on his wisdom to the Kikuyu, Resnick's fables pass on his themes on utopia. You can't make everybody happy. And sometimes, gods die. Finally, humans always have to change and adapt, even if this creates conflict.
But even that isn't a blank cheque for survival.