Book of the Week

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Title: The Lost World & Other Stories
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Lost World & Other Stories is a collection of five tales of adventure, fantasy and imagination from the author of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He has created a bunch of characters who people all these stories. The eccentric Professor Challenger and his group of friends live through all the adventures.

The Lost World, first published in 1912, is about an excursion into the wild unknown of South America. They explore a plateau in which dinosaurs, prehistoric man and man exist together. It is exciting and bizarre, wrought with danger and adrenalin. The story also reflects how similarly professors and intellectuals have continued to respond over the decades. It is an excellent study of human nature and an entertaining adventure…man against dinosaur…a much explored theme in Hollywood.

The Poison Belt is about a world in ‘catalepsy’ in Professor Challenger’s words. The whole world is poisoned by a strange ‘ether ‘ and becomes comatose and rigid for a day. The only ones who ‘live‘ to tell the tale are Professor Challenger and his crew. They sit in a room filled with oxygen and watch the world go through a cataleptic seizure. It is a strange tale. What would happen if the whole world died and only five people survived? It is very well written and gripping till the end. The world waking up to normal life is as much a relief to the readers as to the characters in the book.

The Land of Mists is a story of spooks and ghosts. Some have criticised the story for being discursive and spiritual. However, I found it interesting to see how diversely people view afterlife and the act of invoking spirits through mediums. It is a strange tale but, in my opinion, quite entertaining. Objectively, the preachy parts give views which seem rather like the you tube uploads on the Hadron Collider and the doomsday predictions.

The Disintegration Machine is the shortest of all these stories. Challenger traps a scientist in his own disintegration machine which can destroy the world when the scientist, immorally and irresponsibly, tries to sell his machine to the highest bidder, for war. The machine could disintegrate and put back together anything or anybody, even Challenger. The machine as described reminded me of the machines that teleport people in Star Trek. The ones in Star Trek are of course more sophisticated and used constructively for transportation.The interesting dilemma that grips you at the end of this story is, is it right to destroy the destructive so that they cannot harm or annihilate others?

The last is a story called When the World Screamed. This story is truly fantastic where Challenger does an experiment to prove the world is an echinoderm. He drills a deep hole to puncture the Earth and the planet screams for a while. It is an unusual and imaginative theory that all the planets are living that Challenger proves. It is a very compelling read as you really want to know what happens at the end.

Doyle could definitely think out of the box and maintain suspense! The most compelling thing for me is the imagination that has gone forth in the telling of these tales. They have the same flavour as Tintin’s adventures and are related very well. They raise valid questions in one’s mind like : Can the same science be used for construction and destruction? Is taking a life which we cannot return ever justified? Are cultural biases that existed in those days still prevalent today under a different garb?

 

Book of the Week

I am starting a section on books that I love.

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Book Title: Lost Horizon

Author: James Hilton

Written in 1933 and made into a movie in 1937, this book is an adventure in an utopia, called Shangrila. A quartet of American and British expats found themselves on Tibetan landscape when their four seater plane crash-landed near an unmapped area of Tibet.

The four are rescued by members of a lamasery lodged in a remote plateau. Here they come in contact with lamas who have crossed the boundaries of time and death. You have a curate from the nineteenth century who visited the Bronte family that created masterpieces in literature. One of Chopin’s pupil plays unpublished works by Chopin! A Manchu princess from 1855 frozen in youthfulness in the 1930s adds to the mystery and romance of this novel. All these characters are depicted to have ascended the borders of nationality, time and death…and the most interesting thing was that the lamasery was founded by a Christian missionary who defied the throes of death at 108 years of age and continued to build on this utopia. The lamasery was geographically secreted away among the hills in a way that it was impossible to locate even by air. This secrecy was it’s best security from the real world of war, greed, passion and hatred.

I just loved the book with it’s borderless approach to the world and life. The lamas are depicted as visionaries who can see the future and ascend time. The founder tells the protagonist, Conway, that they are trying to preserve the best of civilisation from all over the world to survive the self-destruct mode humankind is headed for. They perceive themselves as a magical world that will survive the throes of bombs and destruction and restart civilisation on a new footing.

I would recommend the book as an excellent read.

Beginning…

Starting out on a new journey or venture is always an exciting event…

Exultation

Today is the day to celebrate.
Celebrate the morning sky.
Celebrate the rising sun.
Celebrate the pouring rain.
Celebrate the night on the run.
Today is the day to celebrate.
Today is the day I take flight
Leaving the past behind,
Take a fresh new stride
Into the adventure of life.
Today, I can see the morning light
Colour up the darkness of the night
With an explosion of pink and white,
Clouds of gold dust with silver lined.
Today, I know,
I can let my bondage go
And in exploding happiness glow.

The Start

A beating heart.
A hope, an expectation.
Today is the day
Of the first initiation.
This is the beginning
Of the end,
The test begins…
Has the plant blossomed well?
Will it give shelter to needy men?
Will it bloom and perfume the glen?
Will it serve the purpose well?
This is the first step.
This is the first climb
On the hills of time.
May blessings on you shine.
May you have all of the joy that is mine.
May you have a happy ride
And bring showers of joy and pride.

Origins

The Time Travelers

Julie worked in an office. She was the secretary to the CEO of a trading firm. When business was slow, she used to gaze at a beautiful landscape painting of South Africa that hung on the wall facing her desk. It showed long green stretches of land with peculiar ring like formations and undulating terraces. Sometimes, clusters of the rings were laid out in a floral pattern and the paths leading from them seemed to be like stems connecting the flowers to each other from an arial perspective. There was a little ancient ruin there made of flat rocks that was supposed to ring with a metallic clang when you hit them. Her boss, Michael Dutta, referred to the ringing rocks as ring stone.

Michael Dutta liked to travel. When he went to Johannesburg, he visited a friend who lived a little out of the town. Michael was fascinated by the landscape around Johannesburg. He brought back photographs and paintings made by a local artist  and hung them in his office. He also got back two pieces of ring stone that he picked up while walking on the rolling green with his friend. If you struck them together, they rang like a bell. They were shaped like cones and were very brittle. Julie, like her boss, found the rocks and landscape fascinating…only she, unlike him, had not been there.

Julie was so fascinated by the stones, pictures and stories her boss related that she started googling about South Africa. She found out more about the properties of the stone and about the strange formations. It was given out by some that the ring like formations on the ground had some kind of an anomaly about them. They had temperatures that were really high inside the rings. If the ground temperature was five degrees celsius, inside the ring the temperature was twenty-nine to over eighty degrees celsius. The Global Positioning Systems(GPS)ceased to operate inside them. There were explorers who proposed that these rings were associated with ancient extra-terrestrial activities.

Julie was very interested. She started googling theories about these anomalies. It seems the anomalies were really ancient and had to do with the origins of mankind. Africa was supposed to be the cradle of mankind. People had even propounded that the Garden of Eden was located in Africa and mankind was a cloned and smaller version of giants from outer space! Julie believed it all and spent a lot of her spare time trying to figure out the how, when and why of human origin. Looking at the photos in the office reminded her of her passion and made her happy. Her dream was to visit these places in South Africa.

One evening, Julie and Michael were working late. They could not get the pizza delivery line as it kept coming busy. Michael suggested that he would go out and buy them a take-away dinner while Julie continued with her work. Julie felt hungry and tired and leaned back on her chair. Her eyes fluttered and closed. When her eyes opened she found herself sprawling in the middle of the South African plains. In front of her was a huge giant of a man. He wore gold robes almost of a metallic sheen, just like in the internet pictures. He was more than double of her in height. He looked at her with curiosity just as she looked at him with some fear and surprise!

The large man had a booming voice. “So, you are the future of mankind. Not bad. How did you get back here? Do you have a time machine too or did Argos pick you up as a curio from his travels across time?”

Julie summoned all her courage and replied, “I don’t know. I was working in office. Who are you and where am I?”

“I am from the planet of Niburu. We are looking for the metal here. What is your language ?”

“Why? You speak it too. English.”

“English? Is that what you call it? I am wearing a translator that translates any language into my own language and mine into your language automatically. I speak standard buru. That is what all of us speak at Niburu.”

“Where am I? And how did I get here?” asked Julie.

“Let me ask Argos,” said the giant. “I am Sorgos. What is your name?”

“My name is Julie. And where am I exactly?”

“We call it sector 2, Earth. Does that help?”

“No. Not much. But this does look like the plains of South Africa as in the painting in my office. Only you have buildings here…”

“Oh! These buildings are temporary structures and we will fold them up when we are done,”explained the alien.

Sorgos started out in search of Argos. But before that, he picked up Julie in his arms and draped her across his shoulders.  Julie was really scared now. What would the giant alien do with her? She felt very vulnerable.

“Put me down. Put me down,” shouted Julie.

“No. You are safer with me. I will take you to Argos to figure out what is going on. If the others find you, they will put you to work with the clones in the mines,”said Sorgos.

Julie could do nothing but comply. From her vantage point on Sorgos’ shoulder could see people like herself going in and out of a shaft. They were scantily clad and worked like labourers. They looked sordid.

“There are very few of us who feel for the rights of the clones here. I am a representative of the group that argues for the welfare of clones in Nibiru. But except for me and Argos, the rest hate the clones. They are planning to destroy them…but looking at you, I know some of you must have survived,” said Sorgos. “Let us talk to Argos first.”

“Wait! Who are the clones? I was born off my parents.”

“The clones are the mine workers…your ancestors. We have enabled the clones to have all the functions we have, except they are much smaller than us and a little less developed intellectually.”

“I cannot believe this is for real!” Julie thought. “How soon can I be out of this nightmare?”

“Ah! Here is Argos’ lab.”

They went into a building with a high, dome-shaped roof with gold and white panels and white walls. The white was plasticky and shiny. Inside the lab was a ring of ringstones. The ringstone ring had a machine stuck in it and a stair leading up to it.

The machine was huge, large enough to accommodate the giant aliens.

“Argos, Argos,” called out Sorgos. “Where are you? Come out of that infernal machine and answer my questions.”

“Coming, you impatient man!” A gigantic alien wearing golden overalls crawled out of the machine, descended the stairs and took off his helmet. “What is it? Why are you screaming.”

“I was not screaming. I just have a question for you. Did you get this clone over from the future?” Sorgos asked.

“So what if I did?” Argos said.

“You realise, it is unsafe to keep her here. They will take her away to work in the mines,” said Sorgos.

“Alright! Alright! Do not nag,” said Argos. “I got her back to check if she could breath and survive in the same air that existed in our times. I will take her back.”

No one asked Julie what she wanted. She was terrified with the huge size and booming voices of her captors. She was glad to do their bidding so that she could be back in the security of her office, far and away from the era of giants. She had wanted to visit these ruins in her own time. She had no intention of working for these giants. She liked her own life and times too much.

Argos blindfolded her and said they were putting her in the time machine. She felt herself being lifted and strapped in. Then she heard some strange, loud whirring noise and passed out…

Julie sat up with a start when she heard the door bang. Michael was back with McDonald burgers. The pizza shop had too much of a queue, he said.

“Why do you look so stunned?” he asked. “Did I startle you or did you just wake up? You look like you have seen an alien!”