Sunday, June 21, 2020

"A Senseless Act of Beauty" - it's "Island of Dr. Moreau" meets "Avatar"

Greetings, commies!
There seems to be so much discussion around race, colonialism and privilege lately, and not all discussion as civil. Understandably, those are pretty hot and sensitive topics. Imagine exploring them in a sci-fi novel! Now would be a perfect time to visit John B. Roseman's "A Senseless Act of Beauty". It's so much more than just another space opera! Rosenman is known for his eloquent, multi-layered, philosophical sci-fi. 

Aaron Okonkwo, a Nigerian scientist, travels with a crew in the 24th century to evaluate Viridis, which proves to be a beautiful and fabulous world. There, Aaron discovers a strange, alien species and amazing machines and technology left in a vast underground complex by a mysterious race called the Creators.

Aaron soon falls under the irresistible, seductive spell of Nightsong, a green alien female with ominous and bewitching powers. However, an even greater danger rises. He will be forced to fight for the planet’s survival against a ruthless invasion of many ships to conquer and enslave the planet – just as Africa itself was once enslaved. Aaron knows it’s A Senseless Act of Beauty to try to reclaim his ancient warrior heritage and fight back against such overwhelming odds, but he knows he must try.

My thoughts:
John B. Rosenman demonstrates once again that originality lies in the clever combination of familiar topics and images. He likes to take an archetype and twist it a little to fill it with new meaning. In his philosophical space travel sci-fi novel "A Senseless Act of Beauty" the readers will her echoes of "The Island of Dr. Moreau" and the movie "Avatar". The concept of experimenting with nature and the ethical implications of this practice is at the core of the works by such sci-fi icons as H.G. Wells. On one hand, our instinct tells us "don't mess with nature". On the other hand, science would not progress if not for a few daring maniacs who were willing to push the boundaries, not fearing judgment from their colleagues and contemporaries. "A Senseless Act of Beauty" opens on earth in a scientific facility in Nigeria. Aaron, on of a scientist, takes a leisurely hike with a human-enhanced male monkey. The hike nearly costs Aaron his life, for he discovers that his companion has murderous tendencies. The intricate experiment came with hidden dangers. The experience piques his curiosity and sets him on the path of interstellar colonization and interspecies sexual affairs. The line between human and animal/alien is very fine. What happens when you cross it? 

It is refreshing that the main character, a conqueror and a colonist, is not the so frequently demonized white man. Aaron is African - and privileged. His color is of little significance on the new planet. I commend the author on raising certain ethical and philosophical questions without passing judgment. 

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