Monday, March 25, 2013

Karel Capek's "War wih the Newts" (novel, satire, free): Man is the lord of Earth. Or is he?

Cover of a collection of two stories of Karel Capek - RUR and War wih the Newts. Image illustrates RUR.
I wonder why this epic doesn't get listed in many classics lists. In my book, it's among the very best of science fiction.

It's a satire on human folly, mostly from the point of view of colonial Europe. There were places that made me wince, but author appears to be only satirizing certain views. It's sometimes very funny, but is occasionally a bit draggy too.

Story summary.

Newts are prehistoric animals living in shallow salt water, unknown so far because the sole small group that survived since prehistoric times lived in a salt water lake on an isolated island. They're intellectually man's equal, but are far behind technologically.

When a group of colonials discover them, they are mercilessly hunted & killed. Only two who survived are being transported back to Europe, but escape en route.

They multiply & thrive in shallow waters near an island. So, of course, when they're rediscovered by the European man, they're fair game for hunting, slavery & worse. Tables will eventually turn, however...

Fact sheet.

First published: 1936 (original Czech).
Download full text from Project Gutenberg of Australia or eBooks@Adelaide.
Rating: A.
Related: Stories of Karel Capek.