[Read] ➵ A Case of Conscience By James Blish – Prestigelakesidehabitat.info


A Case of Conscience Weird book But good.First of all this is first rate science fiction, reminiscent of Samuel Delaney, John Brunner, Frank Herbert and Heinlein s Stranger in a Strange Land All theremarkable is to appreciate that this book was first published in 1958, before most of the other works mentioned He was well ahead of his time.In a nutshell, a Jesuit priest is a part of an advance party reconnaissance mission to scout out whether an alien world is suitable for human colonization The team will a Weird book But good.First of all this is first rate science fiction, reminiscent of Samuel Delaney, John Brunner, Frank Herbert and Heinlein s Stranger in a Strange Land All theremarkable is to appreciate that this book was first published in 1958, before most of the other works mentioned He was well ahead of his time.In a nutshell, a Jesuit priest is a part of an advance party reconnaissance mission to scout out whether an alien world is suitable for human colonization The team will also determine if human settlement is conducive to the pre existing native life and to issue a recommendation.The planet is the home of a highly intelligent race of tall kangaroo like lizards called the Lithians Their world is a utopia of reason with no war and only minor conflict Their world, and the circumstances surrounding the Jesuit s investigation, presents startling consequences And the premise for a damn fine science fiction novel.The similarities with Mary Doria Russell s 1996 novel The Sparrow will make most readers of both realize to what extent Russell patterned her work after Blish s 1958 book The Christian, specifically Catholic, themes will also remind some readers of Walter M Miller Jr s 1960 post apocalyptic novel A Canticle for Leibowitz A Case of Conscience also contains mythic symbolism that further deepens the narrative tone.Finally, this 1959 Hugo Award winner is yet another classic science fiction work that clearly influenced the producers of the James Cameron film Avatar.A must read for sci fi fantasy fans 1959 Hugo winner Honestly, I expected to read something quite a bit different than the novel I did get I almost expected something like a conversation novel between heavily logical Spock like lizards and a man of the cloth from Earth.What do I get, instead A novel with startlingly awesome biology standards, very deep world building, and a wonderfully surprising argument of Manichaeism For those not in the know, it s the idea that there are two creators in the world, one is good and one is ev 1959 Hugo winner Honestly, I expected to read something quite a bit different than the novel I did get I almost expected something like a conversation novel between heavily logical Spock like lizards and a man of the cloth from Earth.What do I get, instead A novel with startlingly awesome biology standards, very deep world building, and a wonderfully surprising argument of Manichaeism For those not in the know, it s the idea that there are two creators in the world, one is good and one is evil Father Ruiz Sanchez is convinced that these perfectly rational and nearly Christ like lizards who are living a perfect life without religion are, in fact, the most perfect trap to throw humanity into perfect chaos and perdition After all, this is a case of perfection without God, and if the rest of humanity ever got it, then it would be the time of Satan s rule over the earth for real The whole planet was, after all, a Creation of Evil.How gorgeous is this Sure, modern readers may or may not care for the religious argument bent, but it is concise and beautiful as hell and it s ONLY THE SETUP.Move ahead, take the freely offered gift of one of the lizard young back to a future earth gone schizophrenic, living underground in perpetual fear of nuclear holocaust and ready to tear itself apart Have one of these christ like lizards grow up knowing nothing but the monstrosity that humanity has become, and because of the peculiar brilliance of his race and his deeply frustrated sense of being as much an outsider as practically everyone else living on Earth, he speaks and breaks all the rules and becomes a pundit much, much worse than anything Trump has to offer, sparking chaos on a truly amazing scale Is he the hand of the antichrist, indeed Or is he only the corrupted reflection of ourselves Brilliant And of course, the end but I won t refer to the end It s also brilliant, but of a different kind of light.I have a few issues with the writing, but far, far less than I might have guessed before picking up the text It s very thoughtful, very smart, and it shifts us with awesome speed between dialectical discourse to the absolute insanity of modern media Is this modern SF No, it came out in 58 And yet, I was laughing along with the crazy inventions later on as if I were watching that classic movie The Network, back in the 70 s No, no one was yelling from the rooftops, I m mad as hell and I m not going to take it anyBut the sentiment was there and the chaos of the novel was perfect.How come wonderful idea novels like this aren t hailed as beautiful representations of classic literature Is it just because it is SF So beautiful A Case of Conscience A Catholic priest faces aliens with morality but no religionOriginally posted at Fantasy LiteratureGreat A side, dreadful B side This is James Blish s 1959 Hugo winning SF novel, expanded from the1953 novella Part One the original novella is set on planet Lithia, introducing a race of reptilians with a perfect, strife free society and innate sense of morality However, to the consternation of Father Ramon Ruiz Sanchez, they have no religion of any kind Their morality i A Case of Conscience A Catholic priest faces aliens with morality but no religionOriginally posted at Fantasy LiteratureGreat A side, dreadful B side This is James Blish s 1959 Hugo winning SF novel, expanded from the1953 novella Part One the original novella is set on planet Lithia, introducing a race of reptilians with a perfect, strife free society and innate sense of morality However, to the consternation of Father Ramon Ruiz Sanchez, they have no religion of any kind Their morality is inherent, and they have no need of a religious framework to direct their actions As a Catholic, Ruiz Sanchez cannot make heads or tails of this Without religion, do the Lithians have souls If so, are they fallen into sin like humans, or still in a state of grace like Adam and Eve He struggles with this conundrum, as well as the purpose of the expedition to Lithia, which is to determine whether the planet should be exploited for its lithium or quarantined since the Lithians are clearly created by Satan to undermine the need for faith to form the basis for an ideal society It s very unclear whether Blish thinks this is a legitimate debate or not, and while it s good for the author to let the reader decide I d like to see Heinlein hold back on judgment, for example , this Part ends inconclusively with Ruiz Sanchez receiving an egg from his Lithian friend Chtexa to bring back to Earth.Part 2Part 2 must be the most incoherent and poorly written second act ever in SF It s about Egtverchi, the Lithian born from that egg, as he grows up in human society He quickly learns about the world, and starts to question why humans are living in underground shelters brought about by earlier nuclear conflict In the process, he causes a massive rebellion among the stir crazy people of Earth, who are suffering from the psychosis of living underground.At the same time Ruiz Sanchez is brought before the Pope fore heresy, since his suggestion that Satan created Lithia to undermine God is a form of Manichaeism, a religion that posits a struggle between equally matched good and evil The Pope points out that Ruiz Sanchez may have been deceived by the Lithians and by extension Satan and that he should have performed an exorcism of the planet That wouldn t have been my conclusion, but Then the story does another sudden about turn and we discover that a scientist from the initial expedition has gone back to Lithia and is trying a dangerous experiment that may destroy the planet As Ruiz Sanchez performs his exorcism, Lithia explodes Was it his exorcism that did it, unraveling Satan s illusion, or merely the mad experiments of the scientists who destroyed an innocent and perfectly moral society The story provides no answers, and further no basis to form an opinion.Part 2 was so badly constructed and garbled that I wonder what happened to James Blish when he wrote it It s just a complete mess and actually got me fairly irritated I really cannot understand how this book won the Hugo Award that year A Case of Conscience is truly dated in every sense, and it would almost certainly never be written or gain any following today The wooden characters and dialogue wouldn t withstand scrutiny, and a philosophy centric story almost certainly would seem irrelevant in our information drenched, hyper realist world While I consider the book a failure as a piece of SF literature, it certainly deserves credit for its unlikely storyline and refusal to wrap things up neatly at the end However, the deplorable quality of the latter half really makes it hard to take seriously It s clear that back in the 1950s authors often wrote good short stories and were then pushed by publishers to expand them into less satisfying longer works Of course the pendulum has swung too far the other way now, since any genre work that wants to be taken seriously has to be at least 800 pages long But it is unfortunate that some early classics feel poorly constructed, and that reflects the tenuous state of the genre back in the Golden Age of Astounding and Galaxy before full length SF really hit its stride 4.5 stars I am a big fan of James Blish This book is an expansion of the earlier novella of the same name Part 1 of the book i.e., the original novella is a 6.0 star story and is extremely powerful Part 2, while good, is not as exceptional and brings the overall rating for the book down to 4.5 stars Overall, still a highly recommended read Reread on March 1, 2010 Winner Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel 1959 Nominee British Science Fiction Award Retro for Best Novel 195 4.5 stars I am a big fan of James Blish This book is an expansion of the earlier novella of the same name Part 1 of the book i.e., the original novella is a 6.0 star story and is extremely powerful Part 2, while good, is not as exceptional and brings the overall rating for the book down to 4.5 stars Overall, still a highly recommended read Reread on March 1, 2010 Winner Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel 1959 Nominee British Science Fiction Award Retro for Best Novel 1958 Voted to Locus List of All Time Best Science Fiction Novel 1975 A great thank you to James Blish and Open Road for the opportunity to read this book and offer an unbiased review.In the distant future a science team explores the planet Lithia The team includes the Jesuit priest, Ruiz Sanchez They must determine whether the planet is appropriate for Earth s habitation The team is divided No member is as decisive in his judgement as Ruiz Sanchez, however The planet seems just too good to be true.Once back on Earth with prime samples, investigation continue A great thank you to James Blish and Open Road for the opportunity to read this book and offer an unbiased review.In the distant future a science team explores the planet Lithia The team includes the Jesuit priest, Ruiz Sanchez They must determine whether the planet is appropriate for Earth s habitation The team is divided No member is as decisive in his judgement as Ruiz Sanchez, however The planet seems just too good to be true.Once back on Earth with prime samples, investigation continues To celebrate one exceptional specimen, a countess throws a party I couldn t help but sing, there s no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going It was spot on Wonka.As this life form grows in popularity, Ruiz Sanchez continues to see the seed of evil half naked, commanding money, fathering lies, poisoning discourse, compounding grief, corrupting children, killing love, building armies It seems a bit excessive It s like saying freedom of speech is the devil s work Now I agree violent riots and calls to arms breed death and destruction , which could be viewed as demonic tools We ve all seen this lately with the way people have been acting after the elections There is nothing that makes sense about that Basically we have to know when to draw the line peaceful demonstration or tear gas Thank you, Blish, for an obviously timeless story This has given me a lot to process tonight People don t write speculative fiction like this any, by which I mean several things First, this is dated Blish s world of dinosaur like pacifists living in perfect harmony and communicating with giant trees feels like something out of the golden age of science fiction, and his view of a future earth where the cold war has driven mankind underground and insane feels like a 50s dystopia This is understandable, since the book was written in the 50s, but it calls the applicability of the s People don t write speculative fiction like this any, by which I mean several things First, this is dated Blish s world of dinosaur like pacifists living in perfect harmony and communicating with giant trees feels like something out of the golden age of science fiction, and his view of a future earth where the cold war has driven mankind underground and insane feels like a 50s dystopia This is understandable, since the book was written in the 50s, but it calls the applicability of the story for modern readers into question.However, I think that this book is relevant, precisely because nothing quite like it is being written today This is a morality tale with such straightforward plot and characters that modern readers and publishers will probably be turned off The cynical atheist, the impotent humanist, the diffident follower and the single minded catholic priest are not realistic characters They are rather representative constructs of universal impulses, like what you would see in a morality play The plot is reminiscent of The man who fell to earth or The Dispossessed and, like those books, is mostly an excuse for some philosophic musings Unlike those books, there is tremendous ambiguity as to the meaning of the events in the book Each character sees the same events but interprets them in wildly different ways Because the first and last perspective given is that of the priest, there is some temptation to take his view ascorrect than the others I think that would be a callow mistake It s true that the cynic is very unsympathetic, really downright despicable, but Blish makes it clear that his viewpoint is meant to have a degree of validity even if mistakes are clearly made In short, it s a book that s very simple to read and somewhat complex to think about That the interpretation of the final events range from salvation to a horrifying mistake is a clear indicator that there isgoing on here than the simple plot and characters which are somewhat offensive to our sophisticated modern palate The focus on the priest is explained by the title, for it is his conscience with which the book is concerned Considering his final actions and what he thinks that he has accomplished by them makes the consideration of his conscience as complex a question as anyone could wish for Father Ruiz Sanchez Is A Dedicated Man A Priest Who Is Also A Scientist, And A Scientist Who Is Also A Human Being He Has Found No Insoluble Conflicts In His Beliefs Or His Ethics Until He Is Sent To Lithia There He Comes Upon A Race Of Aliens Who Are Admirable In Every Way Except For Their Total Reliance On Cold Reason They Are Incapable Of Faith Or BeliefConfronted With A Profound Scientific Riddle And Ethical Quandary, Father Ruiz Sanchez Soon Finds Himself Torn Between The Teachings Of His Faith, The Teachings Of His Science, And The Inner Promptings Of His Humanity There Is Only One Solution He Must Accept An Ancient And Unforgivable Heresy And Risk The Futures Of Both Worlds I feel like I m getting closer and closer to being able to do a theme on Catholicism and science fiction I guess I d have to recycle A Prayer for Leibowitz, which we read in my book club already, but then add Hyperion and The Sparrow, and now, to that list, I could add A Case of Conscience Onebook and I d be all set I come up with waythemes than we ll ever have time to do, but I enjoy thinking about them Note The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodr I feel like I m getting closer and closer to being able to do a theme on Catholicism and science fiction I guess I d have to recycle A Prayer for Leibowitz, which we read in my book club already, but then add Hyperion and The Sparrow, and now, to that list, I could add A Case of Conscience Onebook and I d be all set I come up with waythemes than we ll ever have time to do, but I enjoy thinking about them Note The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook Premise In 2050, four men are on a commission to the planet Lithia They are there to evaluate the planet and its sentient natives, and render a recommendation about future contact with Earth One man wants to turn the unique geology of Lithia into a nuclear arms factory, another is convinced the peaceful Lithian society could teach humanity a thing or two, one is unsure where he stands, and the fourth becomes convinced that since the Lithians have an orderly society without religion, that they Premise In 2050, four men are on a commission to the planet Lithia They are there to evaluate the planet and its sentient natives, and render a recommendation about future contact with Earth One man wants to turn the unique geology of Lithia into a nuclear arms factory, another is convinced the peaceful Lithian society could teach humanity a thing or two, one is unsure where he stands, and the fourth becomes convinced that since the Lithians have an orderly society without religion, that they must be demonic in origin Yeah If you have been hanging around here for a while, you already know I m not going to like this guy In the second half, the plot gets even weirder.Some books I read on the wrong day Some books I read in the wrong year Some books I read too fast because they have to go back to the library Some books fall victim to all three, so you can feel free to take this review with a grain of salt.I was never going to wholeheartedly enjoy A Case of Conscience, if only because Catholic theology makes my eyes glaze over As far as I can tell, this is the story of a perfectly nice planet, completely screwed over by idiotic humans, who bring their baggage with them everywhere Since we follow said humans through many pages of their own internal maunderings, I found the book ultimately pretty boring The science discussed has not aged well, and it doesn t help that it seems to be recapitulating pun intended parts of Burrough s The People that Time Forgot.The larger problem is that I don t really care what happens to any of the human characters Admittedly, Blish seems to make them intentionally unlikable Also, there are completely obvious science fictional explanations for the behavior of the Lithians, and the characters are too stupid to see them.The first half of the book was originally published as a novella, and is not bad, if dated and melodramatic But in the second half, it completely switches gears, and turns into a sort of weird cousin to Stranger in a Strange Land The humans are given a Lithian egg to take back with them to Earth They completely screw up the raising of such which is not pointed out enough , and he grows up to be an amoral anarchist Which is kind of what Earth seemed to need in this awkwardly dystopian future, so I m not sure what the characters are complaining about There s a rather baroque sex party, I guess to prove the dystopian ness, or something Father Ramon whines a lot about his moral failings, and then there s riots.And then there s the end, which I do appreciate for its ambiguity Unstated moral humans wreck everything, and should be confined to their own planet for the safety of others I don t think that I m entirely off base with my interpretation, and I don t object to the moral given the circumstances, but ultimately I found this book disjointed and depressing This is another of the the books on the classic sci fi list that I ve been meaning to read This was written in 1958 and placed in 2050 It concerns a first encounter by man with a sentient species on another planet A 4 member team is sent to Lithia for the purpose of making a recommendation on whether to admit the planet to the League of Nations The first part of the book concerns these men and the debate that leads to their splintered decision One member of the team is a Jesuit priest b This is another of the the books on the classic sci fi list that I ve been meaning to read This was written in 1958 and placed in 2050 It concerns a first encounter by man with a sentient species on another planet A 4 member team is sent to Lithia for the purpose of making a recommendation on whether to admit the planet to the League of Nations The first part of the book concerns these men and the debate that leads to their splintered decision One member of the team is a Jesuit priest biologist He shocks the others by advocating that the planet not be admitted but rather be quartantined, i.e., off limits to everyone The physicist Pete argues the planted should not be admitted but rather be kept a state secret and used as a place to develop nuclear weapons The chemist Mike advocates for the planet to be accepted as a full member of the League, marveling at the society that has developed, with its absence of greed and other human foibles and rationally based morals Part one ends with a senior Lithian giving the priest a gift in appreciation of his help with a problem a beautiful ceramic vase in which the Lithian son is gestating This part is very good and raises excellent points for consideration.The second part is focused on the development of the Lithian child, which takes place in a United Nations laboratory Eventually, he develops to the adult form of a Lithian, but without having to undergo the hardships of a Lithian infancy Mike insists on petitioning the UN to have the Lithian declared a citizen so as to allow him to get out of the lab The Lithian, however, becomes quite a problem once he gets citizenship He quite easily promotes a revolution made easy because of conditions on earth However, the revolution is quashed The Lithian, for some unexplained reason, sneaks onto a cargo ship to Lithia Things come to a head, as Pete has been sent to Lithia to do some experimentation and is about to undertake an experiment that he has been told contains an error in the calculations it is based on, which, if carried out, will be cause devastation Missing is any explanation on why the Lithians allow the UN to send Pete to undertake experimentation This part is not as focused as the first part and the development of the Lithian child as a character is quite weak.As other reviewers have commented, there are similarities between this book and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell Both raise questions about religion and how to deal with sentient species that may be discovered All in all, I like this book but it is not nuanced and haunting as The Sparrow


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About the Author: James Blish

James Benjamin Blish East Orange, New Jersey, May 23, 1921 Henley on Thames, July 30, 1975 was an American author of fantasy and science fiction Blish also wrote literary criticism of science fiction using the pen name William Atheling Jr.In the late 1930 s to the early 1940 s, Blish was a member of the Futurians.Blish trained as a biologist at Rutgers and Columbia University, and spent 1942 1944 as a medical technician in the U.S Army After the war he became the science editor for the Pfizer pharmaceutical company His first published story appeared in 1940, and his writing career progressed until he gave up his job to become a professional writer.He is credited with coining the term gas giant, in the story Solar Plexus as it appeared in the anthology Beyond Human Ken, edited by Judith Merril The story was originally published in 1941, but that version did not contain the term Blish apparently added it in a rewrite done for the anthology, which was first published in 1952 Blish was married to the literary agent Virginia Kidd from 1947 to 1963.From 1962 to 1968, he worked for the Tobacco Institute.Between 1967 and his death from lung cancer in 1975, Blish became the first author to write short story collections based upon the classic TV series Star Trek In total, Blish wrote 11 volumes of short stories adapted from episodes of the 1960s TV series, as well as an original novel, Spock Must Die in 1970 the first original novel for adult readers based upon the series since then hundredshave been published He died midway through writing Star Trek 12 his wife, J.A Lawrence, completed the book, and later completed the adaptations in the volume Mudd s Angels.Blish lived in Milford, Pennsylvania at Arrowhead until the mid 1960s In 1968, Blish emigrated to England, and lived in Oxford until his death in 1975 He is buried in Holywell Cemetery, Oxford, near the grave of Kenneth Grahame.