I am writing mini reviews for the first time. To start my first mini reviews off, the theme is Paradise Lost because the books I’m reviewing are adaptations (as they were called in my class) of Milton’s epic. The first that I will review is Radi Os by Ronald Johnson. It’s blackout poetry of the first four books of the epic. The second is Ursula K. Le Guin’s novella Paradises Lost, a sci-fi that takes place in outer space. I read both books for class, but I found that I liked them.
Radi Os by Ronald Johnson
Publisher: Flood Editions
Pub. Date: 1977, 2005
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Blacking out the first four books of Paradise Lost, Ronald Johnson rewrites the Fall of Man and the original epic. Radi Os zeroes in on the central themes and plot that he found most important to the original text.
This was a fast read. I like that it included Sin talking to her father. I also like that each page has its own central idea. This book helped me see blackout poetry in a new light, especially as inspiration to make my own blackout poetry.
It needs to be clarified that the “blackout” poetry is actually “whiteout” poetry. It made it more interesting to read because it makes you focus on the words more than what has been removed. I found dual meanings depending on how you read the poem similar to what I have found in contemporary poetry, so I like that aspect.
I liked it. I saw the connections to Paradise Lost, but I am not sure that I would have liked Radi Os without having a background in the epic.
Paradises Lost by Ursula K. Le Guin
Anthology: The Birthday of the World and Other Short Stories
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Pub. Date: 2002, 2003
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 113 (for the story, not the anthology)
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Similar to Icarus at the Edge of Time, by Brian Greene, thousands of people have been sent to a far off planet to send information about it back to Earth, but it takes several generations for this mission to be complete. Paradises Lost, by Ursula K. Le Guin, focuses on the lives of Luis and Hsing from childhood through adulthood. They are from the generation that is expected to be elderly when the ship lands on the New Earth.
By following Hsing and Luis from childhood to adulthood, we see a more complete view of this society. It shows how the education system changes with each generation. Hsing and Luis are best friends. Hsing comes to love computers and learns about some unexpected politics of the ship in history and now. Luis has always been concerned about philosophy, education, and the groups formed by people of the ship.
With the group that has slowly grown over the existence of the ship and its mission, they become a threat to the mission. Are we seeking a new Paradise, or are we already in Paradise?
A Few Things I Liked:
- Religion plays an oddly significant role in this. I love how it shows an organization taking over the ship and taking control of most of the population. Actually, I was surprised to see religion appear in sci-fi because most of the books that I have read in this genre ignore it.
- Some bits and pieces of culture play into some characters’ lives. For example, Hsing learns Chinese at home and adopts some aspects of the culture as she gets older. But we also see a culture within this spaceship.
- The naming systems. Surnames depend on both your family and generation number.
- The society on the ship is open to more than heterosexual relationships.
- I like seeing Hsing and Luis change, grow apart, and learn different things from their world and the people in it.
Questions I Have:
- I get that Generations 5 and 6 are the ones who are going to live on New Earth, but does anyone on that ship have children late in life? Couldn’t someone have a child in their 20s and then have another when they turn 40? How would that affect the system?
- Will there be a point in continuing to count the generations of angels if the plan is for them to remain in bliss forever? If it matters, what happens to those who are in the known last generation?
In short, I highly recommend this novella if you like Paradise Lost or if you like science fiction set in outer space.
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