The Thing Itself - Adam Roberts

Genre: Sci-Fi/Thriller/Philosophy
Synopsis: Adam Roberts turns his attention to answering the Fermi Paradox with a taut and claustrophobic tale that echoes John Carpenters' The Thing. Two men while away the days in an Antarctic research station. Tensions between them build as they argue over a love-letter one of them has received. One is practical and open. The other surly, superior and obsessed with reading one book - by the philosopher Kant. As a storm brews and they lose contact with the outside world they debate Kant, reality and the emptiness of the universe. The come to hate each other, and they learn that they are not alone.


Review: This book was not at all what I expected, and while the 5 stars I'm giving it are somewhat tacit, I do feel they are deserved. This is another novel, a little like Radiance in structure, where you have to take the relevance of some seemingly irrelevant sections on faith, until everything comes together in the end. Admittedly, I didn't get quite what I was expecting given the cover and opening (and I know this is something other readers felt 'misled' by), but once you know not to come into it expecting an Artic-based horror, then you should be okay.

The writing is great - multiple narratives spanning centuries are represented by distinct voices whose stories are interesting and almost work as short stories in their own right, but they mostly do not outstay their welcome in the bigger picture of the central plot. There are some really creative threads woven through these smaller stories - I particularly liked the one set in a futuristic utopian society, although one of the ones set in the past was a little bit too long for my liking.

This is essentially a sci-fi thriller based off a philosophical idea (or two), and as I studied Philosophy during my undergraduate degree, this book brought back some familiar ideas and ran rampant with them in a genuinely compelling, fast-paced thriller. It's possible that I found it a little easier to digest for having heard the theories before, but I found the philosophical explanations to be very clear (if not a tad repetitive at times), so i'd like to think this book is pretty accessible to anyone willing to sit out and give their brain cells a bit of a work out.

My only real qualm is the ending is a tiny bit open ended, and for all the discussion that occurs throughout this book, it would have been nice for it to be a little more pinned down. All the same, thoroughly enjoyed it, and it's one I'll return to sooner rather than later.

Rating: 5/5

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