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A World Called Solitude Paperback – October 7, 2011
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"The story gains an emotionality that justifies calling Goldin an artist, not merely a writer." -- Tom Easton, Analog Magazine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Born in Philadelphia in 1947, Stephen Goldin has lived in California since 1960. He received a Bachelor's degree in Astronomy from UCLA and worked as a civilian space scientist for the U.S. Navy for a few years after leaving college, but has made his living as a writer/editor most of his life. He's married to fellow writer Mary Mason, with whom he's collaborated on the Rehumanization of Jade Darcy books. He's lived with cats most of his adult life. His interests include cryptic crossword puzzles, Broadway cast albums, and surrealist art. He served the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as editor of the SFWA Bulletin and as the organization's Western Regional Director. He's published more than 30 books, and lots of articles and stories. Learn more about him at his Web site, http://stephengoldin.com. Many of his books and stories can be bought through Parsina Press at http://parsina.com.
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Scientist Birk Aaland is a castaway, living alone on an alien planet covered with the deserted cities of a technologically advanced but now extinct civilization, his only companions the millions of robots that quixotically keep the cities operating. Years of solitude, and memories of terrible abuses at the hands of Earth's tyrannical government, have disordered Aaland's mind, and his sanity receives further shocks when another human arrives on the planet with news that the Earth's space empire is under attack by ruthless aliens.
A World Called Solitude has some of the standard adventure and SF elements (space ships, ray guns, robots, strange aliens, warfare) but is primarily a psychological, even philosophical, novel that focuses on people's states of mind and on the relationships of people with each other and with society. Each of the half dozen or so characters (men, women, robots, and aliens) in the novel has an opinion of what he or she owes society and to other individuals, and each character has to make a choice of how to act in relation to others in a stressful situation and then live with the consequences of that decision. There are many (maybe too many) scenes in which people under emotional stress weep or "flip out," and many scenes in which people have emotional arguments.
Goldin tries to do something interesting here, and his writing style is reasonably good, so A World Called Solitude is a worthwhile read. I will likely try some other specimens of his work in the future. I read the 1981 hardcover from Doubleday with the regrettably generic, boring, and inapplicable cover art by Jan Esteves.
We start with Birk. Birk is alone on a planet of dead cities and machines. All alone, so lonely, and as the author is quick to point out horny. The fact that Birk is very horny is a major plot element and will be brought up over and over again just in case the reader has forgotten.
Suddenly the plot crash lands nearby. There are a few very injured survivors and Birk tells the robots to try extra hard to save the two women.
Eventually all die except one women. Unfortunately she doesn't realize her role and we are treated to page after page of Birk ranting about how horny he is and how evil that she conspires against him just getting laid happily ever after.
That's ok though, since she's a woman she decides to proceed via trickery. She'll pretend to accept the situation and seduce Birk with an ultimate ulterior motive. Ohh deep plotting here. After being treated to a few pages of desperately unhot boinking even the author gets bored and has some aliens invade.
The woman accidentally lets slip that she still wants to fight to defend the human race from being crushed by the aliens and for this betrayal Birk beats the crap out of her. Luckily just before he was about to actually kill her a robot distracts him and he goes to hide from the aliens.
While in hiding the girl, a trained lieutenant in the earth military and a specialist in recon decides to fight the aliens. Unfortunately she's female so decides that standing in the middle of a road and shooting the aliens with a rifle is the best strategy.
This gets her into trouble quick. Luckily she can call on Birk's favorite robot for help.
Unfortunately she's still female and gets the favorite robots killed and is swiftly captured.
Meanwhile Birk is finding it kina lonely in his hiding place. So how does a man cope with this level of betrayal? Why by torturing some squirrels of course. Seriously we are treated to a nice sadistic description of Birk torturing squirrels to death.
When Birk hears his favorite robot is dead he suddenly sees his life in perspective and in less than a page realizes what he has to do Luckily Burk is male and is so equipped to think of the brilliant strategy of having the robots attack the aliens. The aliens are of course mind numbingly stupid and rush out of the spaceship to be slaughtered.
Maybe being female I, like the female character in the book, am lacking the intellect to appreciate the author's vision. More likely this is simply a rotten book.
As a woman, it was interesting to enter the mind of a man- and understanding it!
The main character was broken- a hero and a villan all in one. A man who is not meant to be judged but understood. He is truly a reflection of humanity.
But this book is not over philosophical or preachy. Its a fantastic adventure. Prefect for any escapist. The made-up world is so clearly shown with just enough ambiguity for the mind to make it its own.
Never boring this book has a wonderful pace. And is anything but cliched. As soon as you think it will be a cliche- it uses what you think you know against you. The character is beyond generalizing and is truly a whole person.
This book reminds me of The Godfather (the book not the movive) except in sci-fi terms.
It is a title which is hard to find (especially in Dutch ;-) but definately worth your while...