Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Knocking on Heaven’s Door
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Yucca/Skyhorse Publishing
Publication Year: 2016
ISBN: 163158068
In the 23rd century, humans live in utopia, hunting and gathering in tribal bands, reunited with old (cloned) friends like the mammoth, connected by solar-powered laptops, buoyed by the belief in a panpsychic universe in which consciousness pervades matter. A 150 years after the supervirus that killed off most of humanity, our return to a Paleoterrific lifestyle seems to our last, greatest achievement. But in this new Garden of Eden, one man and one woman—as well as a smarter-than-average dire-wolf--are faced with a decision that could literally transform the planet. Again. Will we repeat the cycle of curiosity and hubris? Or is our destiny even stranger than that?
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Overview

On a hotter and more volatile earth, humans like Clare and Jon live in utopia, hunting and gathering in small tribal bands, engaged in daily art and ritual, reunited with old friends like the shaggy mammoth and giant ground sloth. Even better, we still have our solar-powered laptops and can communicate with each other around the world. Our understanding of physics has also advanced. When scientists first cloned extinct species from the Pleistocene, they discovered that many of them were telepathic–that consciousness travels in waves. For most people in the 23rd century, animism has become the preferred religion, a panpsychism compatible with the laws of a fractal holographic universe. As Clare tells one of her students (and, yes, for this writing teacher, there are still student papers to grade and logical fallacies to correct) the Return to an older Paleoterrific lifestyle is “one of humanity’s greatest achievements.”
It’s too bad, of course, that utopia had to come at such a cost, a genetically-engineered super-virus that wiped out most of earth’s human population. Humanity was shaken by that event, and humanity vowed to change. Now on the 150th anniversary of that catastrophe, invention has become a thing of the past. But in this new Garden of Eden, a small group of men and women–as well as a smarter-than-average dire-wolf and saber-toothed cat–are suddenly faced with decisions in which the stakes are higher than ever before. Will we repeat the cycle of unbridled curiosity and hubris? Or is our destiny even stranger than that?

REVIEWS:

“Is there anything Sharman Apt Russell cannot do on the printed page? A triumph of the imagination; a brilliant and mesmerizing addition to the sci-fi canon.” —JJ Amaworo Wilson, author of Damnificados

“In classic science fiction style, Russell presents a devastated world reformed into a seeming paleolithic paradise… [a] suspenseful and gripping tale” —William Seager, author of Natural Fabrications: Science, Emergence and Consciousness

“Like Ursula K. Le Guin and Kim Stanley Robinson, Sharman Apt Russell tells stories of human reorientation within a radically reanimated world… an urgent story that immerses the reader in the agonizing entanglements and wonders of being.” —Gib Prettyman, Resources for American Literary Study

“Sharman Apt Russell’s vibrant new novel will enthrall readers with its vision of a future in which animism, panpsychism and hard science come together to show us how the forces shaping consciousness and the universe are one and the same.” —Imre Szeman, co-author of After Globalization

“Russell’s intelligence and imagination shine.” —Eric C. Otto, author of Green Speculations: Science Fiction and Transformative Environmentalism

“An intriguing and compelling tale of humanity struggling to recover its indigenous allegiance to Earth and Earth Law despite the genie of physical science having well and truly escaped from the bottle.” —Freya Matthews, author of For Love of Matter: a Contemporary Panpsychism

“A voice keenly in tune with the discourses of science, ecology, rhetoric, and spirituality… Russell’s vision of tomorrow imagines sobering consequences – and pathways to possible solutions – to the crises we face today. –Michael R. Page, author of Frederik Pohl and The Literary Imagination from Erasmus Darwin to H.G. Wells: Science, Evolution, and Ecology

“A dazzling and hallucinatory myth…Beautifully written and vertiginous–Castaneda jacked into the Matrix, Einstein crunching numbers on the walls of Lascaux, a druid with a sickle and a laptop.”—Andrew Todhunter, author of A Meal Observed and Dangerous Games

“Russell has a knack for fast-paced action and poetic turns of phrase, and readers will turn the pages quickly so they can follow along with the adventures of Brad, Clare, Dog, and Luke as they journey through this new world. Fans of post-apocalyptic science fiction will find this a wild and enjoyable ride.”–Stephanie Vie, author of (E)-Dentity

“What a great read! Bringing back the animals—and reminding us of animal powers and minds—is an important message for the here and now. An engaging –and thoughtfully-informed– post-apocalyptic novel that stays with you for weeks afterward. Sharman Russell has a clever and also provocative imagination that leads the reader into deep reflection on who we are and who we might become.” Margaret Conkey, author of Ancient Goddesses: the Myths and Evidence and editor of Engendering Archaeology: Women and Prehistory

“With compelling characters, a driving rhythm, and a rich plot, the novel smoothly navigates between the principles of biology and physics, the mystique of animism, the politics of posthumanism, and the tropes of science fiction.”–Keren Omry, American Studies, University of Haifa, Science Fiction Research Association, Vice President

“She’s earned a spot next to Margaret Atwood and Daniel Quinn for sparking readers to reflect on the tensions between the natural environment and our ever-evolving technology.” Sean Murray, author of Composition Incorporated: Turbo Capitalism, Higher Education, and the Teaching of Writing

“Russell’s implementation of panpsychist theory brings this book to life as one of the most extraordinary sci-fis of our time… –‐ Jack Symes, author of “In Defense of Strong Emergentist Panpsychism”

“A syncretic approach where hard science and the hard problem of consciousness merge into a welcome addition to the science fiction canon. What’s more, this is a piece of storytelling at its best!” John M. Gist, co-author of Angst and Evolution: The Struggle for Human Potential, author of Lizard Dreaming of Birds.

“A gripping read—I couldn’t put it down, but I didn’t want it to end! Sharman Russell knows how to pay tribute to the great traditions of science fiction storytelling—and how to make them new for the twenty-first century.” Lisa Yaszek, author of Galactic Suburbia and past president of the Science Fiction Research Association

“Russell’s novel remains steadfastly optimistic. A refreshing alternative to near-future dystopias, she offers a glimpse of a ‘future primitive’ in which people live more sustainably and equitably, sustained by a sense of wonder when nature turns out to have been panpsychic all along.” —Melody Jue, author of “Vampire Squid Media”

“This conflicted postapocalyptic tale of sparse but still civilized humans in a world of cloned mammoths and telepathic saber-toothed tigers tries to find the balance between preservation and progress. Clare, a hunter and writing instructor, guides Brad, a lab rat who discovered an important principle of the universe, on a wilderness quest. It leads not to enlightenment but to bigender loner Luke/Lucia and mutated dire wolf Dog. Wishing for fame in a world that frowns on individual aggrandizement, Brad takes peyote, links minds with Dog, and discovers the long-sought secret of how DNA broadcasts consciousness. Aided by Luke/Lucia and Dog, he constructs a device that can resurrect the dead, including Clare’s baby daughter. Russell happily sets up a “Paleoterrific” primitive utopia and then allows the gritty reality of dying young and the discomfort of conforming to social norms in a small community to wear away at an eco-friendly life with nature. Big cats may mentally howl “I love you,” but they still want to eat you.”– Publishers Weekly

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