Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Aphorisms of Kherishdar by M.C.A. Hogarth. Science fiction.
A collection of very short stories each headed by a dictionary entry in the language of the Al-Naidar aliens, and exploring the cultural concept within the story. Okay, that idea I like very much. The actual culture I found chilling, mostly because it seems to be framed as a kind of comforting utopia – a nice culture to be in because everyone knows their place. (Yeah, that’s what oppressors have always said.) The Al-Naidar have occupational (but also hierarchical) castes assigned at a young age according to – what criteria? – by the local lord? (is he psychic to know a ten-year-old’s possible future capabilities? not explained) although they also have noble (inherited?) classes, and a cash economy. Even if the caste assignments are somehow (magically) accurate for a young person, the problem with castes assigned in childhood is that they assume people do not change. (There is indeed a story about someone who is reassigned castes as an adult but these cases are presented as extremely rare). I guess I don’t find philosophical thought experiments with aliens that interesting. If the plausibility of a culture relies on alien psychology being different from ours, why are the trappings of their culture so similar to ours? Not the book for me.
I bowed my head, fingers cold against the fine porcelain bowl. “I believe in Civilization.”
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