Today is World Philosophy Day, and that got me thinking(!) of books that ask questions.
This sort of writing forms some of my favourite books (and plays and films) and I seem to have an insatiable desire for more questions, rather than answers, though I suppose answers usually generate more questions, anyway… Luckily, there are plenty of authors out there whose plots seem born in this fashion – by the asking of a single question – for example José Saramago, PKD and Vonnegut.
So, this review is of Vonnegut’s eleventh novel, which questions the worth of the human brain within the parameters of Darwin’s theory of evolution.
A disparate group of travellers are shipwrecked on a fictional site in the Galapagos Islands and whilst there, the rest of the human race is wiped out by an infertility-causing disease; what follows is a look at these survivors’ potential evolutionary path from, ostensibly, a point we already recognise – the setup for the tale could easily be today’s world. This is quite impressive, considering the novel was first published over thirty years ago, in 1985.
With echoes of Kapek’s ‘War With the Newts’ (published in 1936 and reviewed elsewhere on this blog), ‘Galapagos’ feels like a very personal telling of interpersonal relationships; a satirical, questioning look at biology, politics and human nature – and at how we define ‘human’ in the first place.
And what is more philosophical than that?
The human survivors of the nature cruise of the century, are quietly evolving into sleek, furry creatures with flippers and small brains. All other forms of humankind have ceased to exist, made redundant by their prized big brains.