Posts tagged Douglas Adams
Three great science fiction stories with religious themes

Science fiction is tailor made to discuss big ideas and ideas that are too controversial to discuss in the normal means. The intersection of these two points is religion and because of this, many of the greatest stories and novels use religion as one of their central points. Here are some of my favorite science fiction stories that discuss religion.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

If the themes of religion in these books were more centralized it would likely be higher on the list but most of the mentions of religion I these books are simply swipes at the ideas something that would bother me if it weren’t so funny. Yet many of the mentions of religion in these stories are devilishly funny. Perhaps the best is at the beginning of most of the books. "In the Beginning the Universe Was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and is widely considered a bad move." He then goes on to discuss how many people think it was created by some sort of God.

The Star by Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke often wrote about religion and his story Childhood's End is one of the best stories about religion but The Star is even more to the point. This is a story about a Jesuit Priest who has went on a trip with a survey team to an exploded star. Something he sees there makes him question his very religion. Any more than that would ruin the fun of the story but if you haven't read it and have any interest in religion you should.

(It's not all that long and the story is here)

Contact by Carl Sagan

After reading "Contact" it is almost hard to understand how so many books that discuss first contact ignore religion. His is a huge part of humanity and though contact with alien races wouldn't necessarily change the beliefs it would certainly impact religion. Although there are other things going on in "Contact" one of the most central themes is religious and what is remarkable is how fair it really is. This isn't Carl Sagan proving religion is for stupid people, it's him thinking about the ideas of religion carefully.

Science fiction is full of stories like these. Some, like "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Lords of Light" and even "Dune" to some extent involve characters becoming sorts of gods while there are still more that question how the world and the universe came to be. TV and movies also use it well as a central theme in stories like "Deep Space 9" and "Battlestar Galactica" religion comes up often and we will almost certainly continue to see religion in science fiction because the question of God is one that will never be fully answered, and by nature of the theme the best place to think and look about it is science fiction.

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Examining the top 5 science fiction books
Some time ago I found I found a sight called Sci-fi Lists which has the top 100 science fiction books of all time. I decided to attempt to read everything on that list. I'm still working on it but the first 5 were easy as two of my favorite books were in that number. What strikes me the most about the list is the variety of books. I suspect that in most genres if you gave a list of the top 100 you would find authors on the list more and being becoming similar. For today I thought i would share the first five of these books and my opinions on them. 1. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card This book is sometimes by favorite and sometimes second favorite book but I'm still surprised that it is number 1. This is a book about a young boy being trained to be a general in a war against an alien race. There has been some controversy surrounding this book. The Essay Ender and Hitler and the essay "Creating the Innocent Killer" both try to explain this. I suspect most of this simply exists because of the popularity of the book. Don't let either of these scare you away from this book. It is a great deal of fun and one of the best science fiction books available. 2. Dune by Frank Herbert What is there to say about Dune. I have read dune twice, the second time to confirm what I found the first time. I don't like Frank Herbert's writing style. He creates a deeply detailed world and interesting story and I recommend this book to anyone who likes stories with a lot of detail. Dune is the story of Paul Atreides, a son of a noble forced to move to the planet Dune which is inhospitable but the only place to get spice. The name Dune is approprate because the story really is about this one world. 3. Foundation by Isaac Asimov Isaac Asimov is science fiction master and this is considered his best work. In this book Asimov discusses the technology of psycho-history. The ability to predict the way events with large groups will turn out.  The creator of this science discovered the empire was going to collapse and so created two foundations that would shorten that collapse from 30,000 years to a thousand. Fantastic book, Asimov eventually tried to connect this with his robot series. I never really liked that idea all that much but it does not harm the book any. In addition some of the books after the original trilogy are not as good, but reading this is well worth your time. 4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams Typically I am not enamored with science fiction humor. I'm not sure why, but Hitchhiker's guide is the exception to that. Along with Ender's game this vies for my favorite book. What is odd is that the two couldn't be less alike, and neither could the authors. Beginning with the destruction of earth to make way for a bypass this is a satire about Arthur Dent who is the last human saved off earth, which is a computer designed to discover the ultimate question of life the universe and everything. (the answer has already been discovered and is 42). Because the earth was so close to discovering it, it is suspected he may know the question. As a radio play, a TV series, a movie and a book this is always fun and always a bit different from previous incantations but any of them are worth seeing. Just don't judge the others by any version. 5. 1984 by George Orwell It is fitting that a political work should appear in the top 5 of science fiction books as it is one of the things that science fiction does well is illuminate things that we are often too close to see. I read this in high school. My teacher had a list of genres and you had to read at least one book from each. I managed to fit science fiction and fantasy stories into 4 of the 5 categories. This was my classic and it is. This book is often used as a metaphor, most commonly used as big brother, but what strikes me is how similar spam is to the books in this book which were created by computers. In many ways these books couldn't be less like each other, and neither could the authors. From Mormons to athiests and trageties to comedies the science fiction genre is not one that lacks in tradition or personality. i would recommend any of these books to anyone whethere they think they like science ficiton or not.
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New Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Book

It was an odd feeling when I saw the news that there was to be a New Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy book mostly because Douglas Adams died while they were making the recent movie and he hadn't written a new book but in the modern age of publishing death of the writer need not end a series.
I don't know much about Eoin Colfe, but he is the one who has been hired by Douglas Adams wife to write the next book in the series and from what I have found this is at least someone who 1) has written books on his own which were at least marginally successful, 2)Has read and enjoyed the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and 3) Also questions the idea of having someone else write the HHGTTG books according to his post at the website for the new book.
I may be skeptical that it will work but I'm still excited by the prospect of a book in this series returning.

For more information on Eoin Colfer check out his webpage.
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