5.0 out of 5 stars Nexialism at work
Around 1951 A E van Vogt wrote a science fiction novel called 'The Voyage of the Space Beagle' (which seems to me to be a precursor to 'Star Trek'). In it he proposes a science of nexialism. Here is van Vogt's definition of nexialism - '... the science of joining in an orderly fashion the knowledge of one field of learning with that of other fields'. In this age of...
Published on Dec 29 2002 by A. G. Plumb
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars In the Garden of good and evil
I resolve never to read a book that combines science fiction with religion again. I found the book to be slow, boring and of no value. I forced myself to finish it only to see if I could find those redeeming values so elequently spoken of by other reviewers.
Maybe I just don't get it but, I could not follow the issue of the heresy that Ruiz-Sanchez espoused. The...
Published on Feb. 17 2001 by L. O'Connell
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars In the Garden of good and evil,
Maybe I just don't get it but, I could not follow the issue of the heresy that Ruiz-Sanchez espoused. The issue is central, so that in itself is probably why I don't get the book. I also found the characters to be very shallow and single dimensioned.
Finally, the great evil that Ramon saw in the Lithians was not explained well. I simply saw a different culture, not a culture created as the entithesis of God. A planet of Satans? I didn't see it.
I don't need "Star Wars" action to enjoy a book. Subtle science fiction, like Asimov, often is more appealing and thought-provoking than books heavily relying on battles and crises. I enjoy an author who challenges his/her readers to rethink their understanding of the universe. The only thing Blish got me to think about is when will I finish the book.
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story,unstructured ending,
By A Customer
Im glad I read it, but wish it was a bit more thought out.
5.0 out of 5 stars Nexialism at work,
So why did I start this review of a novel by James Blish with commentary on one of A E van Vogt. Both of these writers are, of course, science fiction writers and I enjoy re-reading the 'classics' of science fiction to see what excited me so much when I first read them. For example, I recently re-read (and reviewed) A E van Vogt's 'The World of Null A'. Sadly this disappointed me despite its engaging introduction to 'Science and Sanity' and its P K Dick-like twists and shifts. I was not at all disappointed by 'A Case of Conscience' - this is immensely readable, inventive, well-structured and surprising (even when I knew roughly what was coming).
One of the great pleasures of science fiction is the way it can engage (but doesn't always do so) many fields of human endeavour. The political insight of Ursula LeGuin (such as in 'The Disposessed'), the metaphysics of P K Dick (such as in 'Ubik'), the studies of paranormal phenomena (such as Robert Silverberg's 'Dying Inside'), the studies of time travel (such as Alfred Bester's 'The Men Who Murdered Mohammed'). In each case there is nexialism at work - the combining of one aspect of human endeavour with speculations about it. 'A Case of Conscience' draws theology into science fiction and I am sure that every reader of this novel will take away more than just the memory of an engaging yarn. It opened my mind to theological questioning and debate that i suspect I may never have approached otherwise.
5.0 out of 5 stars Theological science-fiction,
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful treatment of Christianity and science fiction,
The novel features humanity's first contact with alien race which humanity calls the "Lithians." The aliens have no native religion to speak of, their society is completely stable and they are moral, to the point of perfection. A committee sent by the United Nations (UN) to evaluate how Earth should view this new world. Technologically and scientifically, the Lithians are ahead of Earth in some areas and vice versa. It is coincidence that humanity has invented nuclear weapons and an efficient way to travel across interstellar distances.
The team sent to evaluate Lithia is composed of a chemist, a physicist, another person, and a Jesuit biologist called Ruiz-Sanchez. The team has some friction but it is still required to reach a decision; its recommendation to the UN will determine the state of future relations between Earth and Lithia. Opinion is divided; one wants to open relations and start learning from the Lithian's impressive social strucutre. Another wishes to make Lithia into a planet-wide nuclear weapons factory. Ruiz-Sanchez wants to quarantine it; cut if off from all future contact with man.
As the team is about to leave, one of the Lithians gives Ruiz-Sanchez a young Lithian in an artificial womb. The alien has his name, Egtverchi, encoded into his DNA somehow. He survives the journey back to Earth and starts to grow up with no contact with his native world. He gains UN citizenship and becomes something of a celebrity. Then, Egtverchi becomes a media personality of sorts who stirs up social dissent among the insane and other social rejects. One interesting aspect of the society on Earth in 2050 is that almost everybody lives in underground cities. This is set up as a consequence to the nuclear arms race; countries slowly moved their entire populace under ground until a "Shelter economy" is created. This fear of nuclear destruction and speculation about an underground society somewhat dates the novel but it is otherwise difficult to see that the novel was in fact written in 1959. There are some stylistic anachronisms (e.g. Blish uses the term "Earthmen" for the humans who visit Lithia and the term "rocket" is used for space ships) but, like Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" (this novel, which I have also reviewed, aged better) it has aged well.
Ruiz-Sanchez's inner struggle is well written conflict but the nature of the conflict is somewhat ambiguous. He regards the morally perfect, unbelieving Lithians as elaborate creations of the Adversary (Blish's use of this term instead of "Devil" or "Satan" somehow makes the whole concept more plausible, in my view) to confuse man. Ruiz-Sanchez's audience with Pope has some of the better dialogue and conflict in the novel; it is unfortunately short.
There are a few flaws in the novel that detract from it. First, the story was initially meant as a novella. The section of the novel that takes place in Lithia was initially its own story and then Blish decided to improve on it. This leaves the novel with an awkward sort of transition. The other members of the original Lithia commission are not developed in any meaningful way; their role seems relegated solely to being foils for Ruiz-Sanchez. The "scientific" appendix on Lithia can only be described as superfluous; no use of made of this "data." It is world building for the sake of world building; I would advise any reader to finish the main text of the novel and then just stop.
This novel is a valuable contribution to the genre due to its interesting exploration of religion. It seems to be a theme that the most easily deployed form of religion in SF is Roman Catholicism; an interesting trend, I think.
4.0 out of 5 stars Knowledge and Heresy,
I greatly enjoy reading science fiction that was written before I was born - 1965. I believe that reading such texts widens my perspective when considering history. It helps me to see what may have been lost or gained in the attitudes of men since the time of publication. It affords me a view of the past from a perspecitve that I could not otherwise achieve. As so many science fiction writers, especially in earlier decades, have been labelled heretics or blasphemers, I think reading their works affords me a view from more objective eyes - from the eyes of those who were so labelled or shunned because they did not simply accept what they were taught or continue to accept dogmatic traditions. From such eyes, I believe that lost truth can sometimes be found. I found all of these attributes and joys that I desire upon reading "A Case of Conscience".
In all ages, it seems, men have struggled with reconciling their desire for BOTH the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge - even when there is no temptress or serpent around. This story describes such a struggle in a time beyond our own, but written by a man from a time before our own. I find that interesting and thought-provoking and I think that you will, too.
5.0 out of 5 stars Devoured in one sitting,
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but unfocussed,
With such a setup, I thought this novel would primarily deal with how the aliens are reconciled to Catholicism. Instead, it follows the latter path, along the belief that the planet is an illusion created by the Adversary, and how the church must deal with it in that light. This is a brave, and somewhat unexpected path, and I applaud the author for taking it. Unfortunately, the setup is contrived artificially.
By setting the novel 100 years (at the time it was written) into the future, Blish creates two worlds - the fictional future and the alien world of Lithia. Thus, the morality play takes place in an Earth that doesn't exist. This distracts the reader, and detracts from the value of the novel. Still, it's an interesting book, and I recommend it with the reservation that is seems contrived at times, in spite of the well-written prose.
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Insightful Science Fiction,
3.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to like it,
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A Case of Conscience by James Blish (Paperback - 1975)
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