By Dietmar Dath
Translated by Samuel P. Willcocks
April 2018. Paperback. 392 Pages. Ebook also available.
$18.95 | 9780998777092 (pb)
WINNER OF THE KURD-LASSWITZ SCIENCE FICTION PRIZE
SHORT-LISTED FOR THE GERMAN BOOK PRIZE
After mankind’s near-extermination, ending of The Age of the Monotony, a kingdom of animals harnessing biotechnology wages a multi-planetary war against a new form of artificial intelligence.
The indifferently wise Cyrus Golden the Lion, king of the Gente, rules the remaining three-city state of former Europe. Yet, other forces stir – the last struggling human resistance; the Atlanteans with their mysterious undersea plans; the factions of Badger, Fox and Lynx within the empire itself; and, in the Amazon, a ceramic form of postbiological life. Cyrus Golden sends the wolf Dmitri Stepanovich on a diplomatic mission, and in the course of his journey Dmitri discovers truths about natural history, war and politics for which he was unprepared. The subsequent war that breaks out will come to span three planets and thousands of years – encompassing treachery and massacres, music and mathematics, savagery and decadence, as well as the terraformation of Mars and Venus and the manipulation of time itself.
By turns grandiose, horrific, erotic, scathing, and visionary, The Abolition of Species is a tale of love and war after the fall of man and an epic meditation on the theory of evolution unlike any other, where literary gene-splicing runs rampant: from Plato, Darwin, Marx, Machiavelli and Shakespeare to C.S. Lewis, Phillip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin and Rinpoche.
Political allegory, rich with the sort of grandeur not seen since Russian science fiction of the mid-20th century. […] The novel of big ideas isn’t dead, and German author Dath proves few things are more satisfying in sci-fi with a literary bent than mingling high-brow cultural speculation with low-brow humor. […] Readers who favor the sensual detail and daring brilliance of Brian Aldiss, Samuel R. Delany, Carol Emshwiller, George R.R. Martin, and Frank Herbert will find much to enjoy in this dazzling translation.
– William Grabowski, Library Journal
Here, the “abolition of species” is realized as the dissolution of boundaries between art, literary genres, languages and hierarchies. […] A science fiction novel that is, at the same time, a symphony in four movements. […] Dath is an immensely imaginative and versatile intellectual.
– Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung
Dath uses gender and evolution as underpinning motivations [in] a dense historical narrative, with an arc of centuries. […] The long-lived characters provide a slow-growing framework to a story that ultimately leads to a promising, open-ended conclusion.
– Regina Schroeder, Booklist
Dietmar Dath joins the tradition of Voltaire and Jules Verne, of Thomas Morus and Mary Shelley. […] A fantastic love song, an epic meditation on the theory of evolution.
Essentially a philosophical inquiry into evolution and identity, enmeshed in a plot that partakes of (and sometimes subverts) many story types: political thriller, war novel, quest narrative, tale of speculative future science—even coming-of-age story. Dath’s elaborate plot, populated by a mélange of posthuman life forms, explores an urgent concern: what will happen to the meaning of “human” once technology can enable evolutionary powers heretofore reserved to nature? This novel demands sustained attention; immersion in its philosophical, scientific, aesthetic, and political concerns […] In Samuel P. Willcocks’s masterful translation, The Abolition of Species is a transgressive revelation, a worthy philosophical successor to [H.G.] Wells’s generative novel [The Time Machine (1895)].
– Michael A. Morrison, World Literature Today
The Abolition of Species is the magnum opus by Dietmar Dath. A book somewhere between Douglas Adams, George Orwell, and Philip K. Dick.
Dietmar Dath is the most productive and radical writer in Germany.
– Die Welt
Dath’s language is a beautiful music.
– Frankfurter Rundschau
Dietmar Dath’s ideas erupt in all dimensions. [… His] is science fiction for everyone who wants to think with more than only one particular consciousness.
Poetic and violent. […] Stop with the reality! Bring on the truth! This novel helps. […] There is so much love in it, love for culture, books, Shakespeare above all, as the only reverential relic from The Age of the Monotony.
– Volker Weidermann, author of Summer Before the Dark: Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, Ostend 1936
Dath, with the help of Marx and Darwin, sketches how man must liberate ever more senseless technology in order to make it useful again. Dath himself is a socialist. Or even Communist, Marxist in any case. He is the only younger German writer who dares to position himself clearly politically. This is actually an anachronism, today, authors are usually somehow a bit left and sometimes a bit right, but most are nothing. They write about how the world is. Dath is not interested in how the world is. His lyrical prose is about how the world should be, hopefully will not be or why it stays the same. […] Germany’s only young author with attitude — and very interesting arguments for socialism.
– Der Spiegel Online
As a studied physicist and linguist, Dath is familiar with the worlds of structures underlying human existence. Word shards and phonetics […] give the darkness of the future the necessary apocalyptic touch. This possibility arises from the next dimension of discomfort when reading the novel. This author makes us look relentlessly at the future, and what is revealed there is anything but pleasant.
An enlightenment [and] a grueling intellectual pleasure – the first serious literary attention given to the epochal change in which technologies of the western world are ready to rewrite the codes of the living. […] Anyone who sometimes glances eagerly into the bright sun, even if the eyes ache, should read this book.
– Iris Radisch, Die Zeit
Dietmar Dath’s novel not only makes animals mutants, it is itself an inspiring mutation machine. […] Science Fiction, Fantasy, Creation History, Space Odyssey and Political Utopia are wired together into a genre-King-Kong. […] This novel wants to promote action, a fictional rocket which can be used to change the world.
– Jutta Person, Literaturen
Dietmar Dath (b. 1970) is an author, translator, dramaturge, lyricist, and presently, the film critic for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). In the past he was the chief editor of the rock magazine Spex before becoming the feuilleton editor for FAZ from 2001–2007. Dietmar Dath has written fifteen novels, as well as books and essays on scientific, aesthetic and political topics, including Maschinenwinter (2008), the biography of Rosa Luxemburg (2010) and his prize-winning sci-fi novel Pulsarnacht (2013). The German original of The Abolition of Species won the Kurd-Lasswitz Prize for Science Fiction in 2009, was staged at the Deutsches Theater Berlin in the same year, and was short-listed for the German Book Prize. One of Germany’s most celebrated contemporary writers, Dath has distinguished himself through works that deftly combine popular culture – particularly music – with left-wing politics and the fantastic. The Abolition of Species embodies the best of what Dath is known for and will cement his reputation among English readers excited to discover one of the freshest voices in contemporary literature. He lives in Freiburg and Frankfurt.
Photo credit: Hanke Wilsmann.
Samuel P. Willcocks was the 2010 winner of the German Ambassador’s Award for Literary Translation (London). During his lifetime he translated dozens of books from Czech, German, Romanian and Slovene into English and lived in Giurgiu on the Danube.