His humanism and skepticism against totalitarian and oppressive systems keep the wheel turning through a well-told tale. You lament the passing of nearly every main character, and the unpredictability of their incarnations adds tension and poignancy to themore intimate scenes. Sometimes, however, too much goes by in one character's long life to make much of it stick except in the more detailed vignettes. KSR's own grasp of historiography makes for great intellectual fodder, but it can be a bit clunky as presented in the latter chapters of the book by "talking heads." Then again, these ideas are discussed at academic conferences, so perhaps their erudition and airless quality fits!
The blend of Native American, Islamic, Buddhist, Sufi, and Indian mentalities proves a fascinating thought-experiment while Judaism and Christianity have largely succumbed. I would have liked to have had a glimpse of the surviving two other monotheisms and how their remnant fared, as well as a depiction of Zott [Rom/Gypsies], Armenians, and more of the Africans and Aozhou [Australia]. But the book is long enough that you'll be entertained and educated in plenty as it is. His penultimate reflections of teaching in a university much like the one in KSR's own town serve as a thoughtful valediction upon the effect of students upon a professor. Although a bit long-winded in places, this actually adds verisimilitude to a novel concerned with how we wrestle-- stumbling, defiant, giddy, weary or blustering--against the gods' obstacles or the universe's indifference to improve our existence despite the fates and our own inevitable deaths.
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At the heart of the story are fundamental questions: what is the purpose of life and death? Are we eternal? Do our choices matter? The particular achievement of this book is that it weaves these threads into a story that is both intellectually and emotionally engaging. This is a highly recommended, challenging, and ambitious work. --Roz Genessee