My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This isn’t my normal reading fare. What initially piqued my interest was the author’s ambitious attempt at creating a multimedia experience by linking in animated videos, pictures, lyrics and musical notes and performances. So I took a chance and accepted the request for a review.
The art direction for the cover and illustrations is colourful and whimsical, and is somewhat misleading to the quality of the writing within, however it does fit with the nature of the story itself. The multimedia sections are also interesting to start of with but become distracting after awhile, but I dutifully followed every link, watched the almost psychedelic videos and listened bemusedly to the author’s acoustic and vocal renditions of the songs from the book. Quite honestly, I feel the book would be stronger without the multimedia content. If the music and the images could have been embedded into the book then perhaps they would have added some value.
The basic storyline is that a scientist from Earth has invented an artificial lifeform known as Zhongzi to explore and record environmental data on an inhospitable world, Shianshenka. The lifeforms come to life whilst falling, using the air resistance to power their dynamos and allow them to record and reflect. However, once the Zhongzi are released by the scientist, the lifeforms begin to develop their own language, culture and racial identities dependent on their original design and calling. Their development of society reflects perhaps the development of human society and the story maps their struggles to colonize the island they have landed on and to achieve a perfect society.
The writing is brilliant in the way that it doesn’t draw attention to itself but instead gently creates a sense of wonder at the beauty of these both simple, and yet at the same time complex lifeforms.
It is criminal that this work hasn’t received the attention it deserves because it does what all literature aspires to do, to tell the human story in a way that inspires and urges us to reflect upon our own mortality and our ambitions to achieve beyond our limitations.
This book is a postmodern classic and should be canonized amongst essential literary works to read. Therefore, despite the multimedia content, this book has earned the highest accolade of 5 stars.