Monday, December 15, 2014

Review::The Measure of the Universe by Ellen Larson

The Measure of the UniverseThe Measure of the Universe by Ellen Larson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Measure of the Universe by Ellen Larson

This novel is a well written and well rounded piece that stands alone as a great addition to any Science Fiction lovers collection. But, if you are interested there is a bit of story behind the story that can be obtained by following the web links to the author's apology.

The novel itself is short but filled with a lot of thoughtful information. The nub of the story boils down to some basic things. In the world of R.H. Herman and Dr. Aisha Thanau aliens have landed and they have far superior technology, which they do not plan on sharing. They have come to study us while attempting to not interfere or change our present culture and level of existence. Whatever reasons they might have, Mr. Herman must convince Dr. Thanau to assist the alien Titek in his pursuit of the studying ancient human language in order that Mr. Herman's government might use this time and her insights to discover anything about the hidden knowledge of the aliens. In several small ways Aisha can't refuse and they move forward swiftly. The author compares this work brilliantly with the Prometheus myth and as the story plays out the comparison becomes more evident.

Personally, right out of the box, I began comparing this to a certain science fiction franchise and their prime directive. This time the directive is aimed again at mankind, but there seems less of a likelihood the aliens are setting up camp to wait for us to meet some magical bar that will take us over the top to the next level. No; to them we are the primitives, although we are advanced enough for them to reveal themselves. As it turns out that is just barely advanced enough. The aliens also exhibit a bit of Xenophobia mixed with an unhealthy dose of Xeno-superiority. Overall it was interesting for me to think about Prometheus and the Prime Directive together.

Titek, who might be compared to Prometheus in this story, is here because he's an archaeologist who in particular is looking to study the development of language. In this story these aliens have advanced far beyond us in that their normal method of communication looks like magic to us. Along with that advancement they have, at some point in their history, destroyed all evidence as to how language developed. That destruction has led some among them to believe they were born with their present language skills. Titek believes otherwise and is now on Earth to study our development of language in order to draw comparison between that and what might be his own people's true development. In this way the aliens do seem truly alien since it seems they did not develop language as a means of passing on history or at least they have abandoned history at some level.

Ellen Larson adds a wrinkle to the story as the reader discovers that Aisha is blind; a condition that Titek finds appalling, although he is not at liberty to offer her any help from the superior technology he has available to him. The remainder of the story might be considered the setup for making this a Promethean type story.

There are some very clever and laugh worthy moments in the examination of the use of language. Titek seems quite versed in English; but there are many idioms and some few metaphors tossed around by him, some of which are slight massacred, that began to confuse me about whether he was confused about the application of idioms or if he was showing his mastery by being deliberately obtuse.

The entire premise of the story with each different aspect of the alien culture neatly stack up creates an excellent reason for the alien's to be compelled to come all the way out here to visit us. I'm not at all certain whether it's helpful or necessary to make the Prometheus connection before or while reading this, but in reading the author's apology the reader should get a good sense of how thing are logically worked out.

Overall the great prose and intelligent story create something that all SF and SFF fans should greatly enjoy.

J.L. Dobias

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