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Place there is none; we go backward and forward, and there is no place.
-- St. Augustine.
"Sic igitur magni quoque circum moenia mundi expugnata dabunt labem putresque ruinas (So likewise the walls of the great universe assailed on all sides shall suffer decay, and fall into ruin."
-- Lucretius, Book ii 1144 1145.
I SAW God. Do you doubt it?
Do you dare to doubt it?
I saw the Almighty Man. His hand
Was resting on a mountain, and
He looked upon the World and all about it:
I saw him plainer than you see me now,
You mustn't doubt it.
He was not satisfied;
His look was all dissatisfied.
His beard swung on a wind far out of sight
Behind the world's curve, and there was light
Most fearful from His forehead, and He sighed,
"That star went always wrong, and from the start
I was dissatisfied."
He lifted up His hand—
I say He heaved a dreadful hand
Over the spinning Earth. Then I said, "Stay,
You must not strike it, God; I'm in the way;
And I will never move from where I stand."
He said, "Dear child, I feared that you were dead,"
And stayed His hand.
-- James Stephens, What Tomas An Buile Said In a Pub
Three organizations vie for the recently resurrected body of the Anarch Thomas Peak. The dead prophet and founder of the negro Udi cult. One man, Sebastian Hermes, is trying to sort through the three groups and their various reasons for wanting him. He runs the Flask of Hermes Vivarium, a small company devoted to recovering the old-born (those whose flesh and particles are migrating back, finding their onetime places, re-forming, putting off corruption). Earth's final mortalities having been June of 1986. After that, time reversed. The dead are now rising. They need a place to recover. They need a seller and a broker. Sebastian Hermes is that man. He is definitely that man for the Anarch Peak, this negro prophet risen, quoting Plotinus, Plato, Kant, Leibnitz, and Spinoza. However, he has to work around the motives of the women in his life, and the interests of a bunch of Fascist librarians associated with the People's Topical Library and the Elders of Udi (a weird combination of Black Panthers and Latter-day Universalists).
This is a pretty straightforward story (run backwards as it is). As SF it is probably not PKD's best (some of his backwards time conventions seem tired and worn-out), but when he is quoting Lucretius, Erigena, and Irish poets and talking about death and resurrection, I love it. For me it is less literary than Amis' Time's Arrow, but I liked it more personally. So, as SF it is three stars, but emotionally it was 5 stars. I'll compromise and give it four stars because sic itur ad astra, baby.
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Any additional comments?
I love the premise of a backward flowing of processes that leaves the sense of free will intact. Does this reflect the view that free will is an illusion? Or, does this reflect the view that the mind has access to a timeless world of forms? The author hints at the second. I like the first.