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:: Apocalypse, 1927 edition

Latest leisure reading / nuclear apocalypse: The Pallid Giant. Set during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, it concerns a diplomat who, discouraged by the bickering and pettiness he witnesses, learns from a scientist friend that homo sapiens may not be the first intelligent species to rise -- and fall -- on Earth. Rather eerie in its prescience; Noyes couldn't possibly have foreseen the development of nuclear weapons (his novel has a "death ray") but he accurately describes the corrosive effects of fear (the "pallid giant" of the title) on nations, once one of them has a lethal weapon.

Noyes was an interesting character. His father was John Humphrey Noyes, founder and leader of the Oneida Community, a sort of proto-hippie commune in central New York in 1848 that believe in plural marriage, controlled breeding, and the possibility of the (secular) perfection of mankind. The book has clear roots in the pacifist movement but old John, a Perfectionist, would have been sadly disappointed in his son's obvious lack of faith in human nature. The book's ending is literally ambiguous but the implication is clearly negative; humanity is in grave danger of their technology outrunning their ethics. A lesson we would do well to remember. Intelligence is no guarantee of survival.

I'm pleased to have read it, though it gave me nightmares about a giant comet heading directly for Earth. Apart from that it was excellent, certainly one of the earliest apocalypse novels I've encountered. (Well, OK, the earliest human-caused ones, anyway; strictly speaking, I guess the Deluge myth from 1700 BCE qualifies as the earliest apocalypse tale, though somewhat lacking in plot and characterization.)

In a lovely moment of intersection with the Whedonverse, I discovered that part of the apocryphal Book of Enoch is called The Book of the Watchers. Apparently it was "influential in molding New Testament doctrines about...demonology." Coincidence? I don't think so. Also related to Angelology which I read last month (excellent concept poorly executed, don't waste your time).

Coming up: I went to Barnes and Noble last night and discovered that Laurie R. King and Guy Gavriel Kay BOTH have new books out. Well, there goes $50...but for such a good cause!



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