Pandora Series

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SadisticCynic
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Re: Pandora Series

Postby SadisticCynic » 12 Apr 2017 17:30

georgiedenbro wrote:I just finished a first-time read of The Jesus Incident after having finished a second read-through of D:Void. I have to say it was a bit tough to get through. Stylistically it doesn't have the same feel as a book written entirely by FH, and I also felt it was beating around the bush quite a lot in getting to the theme in its culmination. The mystery of the kelp seemed to be built up so much that towards the end it was almost plainly obvious what the answer would be.

That being said, this book has a lot in common with Dan Simmons' Hyperion series - most notably the last couple of books. Most notably, my hypothesis that FH subscribes to the same esoteric school of thought as Simmons has mostly been validated by TJI. D:Void hinted at the idea that true consciousness is awareness that all of space and time are connected and that distance isn't what we think it is, and TJI more or less states it directly. Empathy seems to be the experience of instantaneous contact with remote lives in this book, much as it was in Simmon's four Hyperion books. I'm rather happy, in the end, to have this model of FH's thought to go on in the future, as I suspect it will elucidate some of the more obscure elements in some of his books (I'm not sure all of then employ this model of physics at the Pandora and Dune series do). It certainly goes a long way towards explaining prescience in Dune, as well as perhaps the BG and Tleilaxu abilities.


Probably a nice link to make in this vein is the strong emphasis on love in the final two Dune novels.
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Re: Pandora Series

Postby georgiedenbro » 26 Jul 2018 13:12

I'm only 2/3 of the way through The Lazarus Effect but I'm tending to agree at this point that this book bares little resemblance to anything D:V is about. I don't dislike it, actually, although like TJI I feel it suffers from the plot progression almost feeling lackadaisical at times where you don't get pulled into the story at all but rather sort of see it happening slowly like a lava lamp. It's interesting but rarely engaging in that way where you just have to keep on reading. Also, like TJI, I feel like many of the characters seem to not emerge as more than sketches. Gallow, for instance, seems to just be a vain blowhard, and Qweets the 'confidant scrapper.' I think there is a sort of art to both having an economy of description and yet also having the characters be full, real people, and I think FH was good at that balance. Some books need to have endless backstory, description, and other material to develop characters, whereas by contrast in Dune I feel that Paul makes a striking impression almost immediately without the reader needing to be told much about him. This is tough trick to achieve and whatever gifts Ransom may have had that FH admired - such as perhaps seeing a sci-fi setting in world-building terms and using the story to tell a meta-narrative - I don't think character writing is one of his strong suits. Asimov all but said the same of himself and even admitted that he had no interest at all in romance, relationships, or even feelings to much of an extent. He was an idea man, and I do love his books for what he intends them to be. In the case of TJI and TLE, though, the stories are so contingent on us understanding the psychology of the different characters that if we're not heavily invested in them the story will feel like it's stalling. I even found myself having trouble caring about what Raja was doing in TJI, compared to D:V where all of his considerations were fascinating.

Anyhow I'm looking forward to seeing how the book ends (never read it before) and moving on to pg 50 of The Ascension Factor where I left off before I realized I'd skipped a book :p
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Re: Pandora Series

Postby georgiedenbro » 07 Aug 2018 10:34

Just finished TLE, and looking back I'm not sure what this one really added to the mythos beyond what TJI had already established. Maybe it gave us a clearer sense that intelligence or awareness doesn't have to look exactly (or at all) like what we'd call human. I guess that's something, but I think we had more or less gotten there already in TJI. I actually like the narrative better in TLE, so there's that. On occasion my eyebrows would raise as I read the occasional peculiar and intriguing section, and although I'm biased I could swear I was reading a part FH had written in between other parts Ransom wrote. The styles were different enough that it felt like the other author stepping in.

Perhaps I'll find out more in The Ascension Factor, but I had an idea near the end of TLE about Ship, maybe spurred on by Bickel's cameo. It strikes me as unlikely that the authors intended Ship to be the actual God; either the God of Earth's religions, or 'the' deity in the universe. What they did in D:V was to try to make it a real intelligence, and perhaps conscious. It would appear that they did make it fully conscious, unlike humans who are mostly asleep. The fact that it began to speak as a God doesn't necessarily mean that it became God, or always was God, or anything like that. Assuming there was a God already out there, I would imagine that Ship becoming conscious would make it fully aware of God, to the point where it would speak God's thoughts; not because it became God, but rather because it was now a conduit for some consciousness out there, sort of like what happens to a lesser extent when kelp and human touch. I would guess that the reason Ship communicates God's thoughts is because it can help through them, and being fully conscious, can hear them clearly even though humans can't hear due to being mostly asleep.

I'll wait to see in the next book if they had a destination in mind for all this...
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Re: Pandora Series

Postby georgiedenbro » 04 Oct 2018 10:20

I just finished The Ascension Factor, finally. Here's my review of the entire series:

Destination Void: Very exciting character story with quite a bit of hard tech, reminiscent of Dragon Under the Sea but better IMO. Enough subtle hints are dropped throughout that it's about more than just creating an AI but is about human consciousness itself. One of my favorite books.

The Jesus Incident: A bit of a slog to read through, with many details that didn't fascinate me, and several graphic scenes involving mutants that I could have lived without. Some of the characters are interesting, while others are either incomplete (like Jesus Lewis) or else uninteresting (like Morgan Oakes). The thematic material follows weirdly upon what was created in D:V but it does make sense to explore consciousness in various intermediate forms between old humanity and Ship. The narrative never really sucked me in, though, making it overall not that enjoyable a read.

The Lazarus Effect: Even more off the designated trail than TJI was, this one seems almost superfluous thematically and doesn't seem to say much more, even by the end, than the TJI did. However there are some more fully developed characters in this one and the story strangely did pull me in for most of the book. While it's hard to see how the story needed to be told this way, at least we do get a look at two new cultures and learn about them in meaningful ways, which is more than can be said really about TJI. Ultimately it was quite an enjoyable read, even though some sections are much better than others (and in my biased manner I assume Frank wrote the better parts). However this book also amplifies the practice of the last book in having nondescript villain-type characters whose only purpose is to be Bad Guys (TM). Without giving spoilers, the villain in this one is paper-thin and less than two-dimensional; as a result his scenes are basically a bore.

The Ascension Factor: By far the most irrelevant of the series, and seems to barely go further than the previous books did in establishing anything canonically interesting. I can't think of much good to say about this one; the protagonists are less fully developed than the previous book achieved; the story plods along, sometimes taking great length to tell very little; the pace is slow; the villains here are even more cartoonish than in the previous books; most of the thematic and metaphysical material isn't alluded to in mystical fashion as was Frank's habit, but is sort of clubbed over your head; and the ending feels so inevitable that there's scarcely any dramatic tension. Basically this is a bad book. Sorry to Mr. Ransom to say so, but he wrote a book that in theory had an interesting architecture (designed by him and Frank) but is ultimately tedious to read and doesn't even pay out for the reader in terms of food for thought. Or not much, anyhow.

I don't exactly think that TJI and TLE were worthy successors to D:V, but on the balance, between the three final books I do see how Frank's vision of what was happening towards the end of D:V is explained. I wish those books could have gone much further than that, and been better just as sci-fi reads, but I'm pretty satisfied that, having finally read the series, I've learned something about Frank's thinking in general. The series does have the feature - so I suppose - that it shares principles with Dune and that much of what we see only performed in Dune has its basis for explanation in the Pandora series. I wouldn't be so quick to jump to the conclusion that Pandora's 'physics' are shared with Dune - since they were perhaps only made up for this series - except for the fact that it's precisely the same set of principles that I've seen declared in the Hyperion series, and also in other unrelated sources to boot. The system in question existed prior to both of them and both series draw from that common source. As a result it makes me far more convinced that Frank actually subscribed to this system and allowed it to be the backdrop for Dune and D:V.
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Re: Pandora Series

Postby SadisticCynic » 05 Oct 2018 08:29

What do you mean about the shared 'physics'? I remember making a loose connection in my mind regarding Hyperion's idea of love as a physical property and Herbert's emphasis on exploring that quality in Heretics and especially Chapterhouse. Is that in the area you're thinking of?

I'm curious about the unrelated sources... I'm sensing additions to the infinite to-read list. :)
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Re: Pandora Series

Postby georgiedenbro » 05 Oct 2018 10:37

SadisticCynic wrote:What do you mean about the shared 'physics'?


I was afraid someone would ask me that :shock:

Basically I mean the principles that govern what people can do, why they can do it, and other things like how space travel works and so forth. So in Dune we have specific instances of physical principles that are extraordinary, such as Other Memory, prescience, folding space, and finally Duncan's recovered memories. In the Pandora series we have things like the possibility of communal awareness, and access to memories of people both alive and dead, as well as the various activities Ship did between D:V and TJI. My contention is that the same set of principle is assumed in each universe and that we're seeing different manifestations of it in each series. Prescience is hinted at in the Pandora series, and OM is basically stated outright, while Ship's movement at the end of D:V may well have been folding space.

I remember making a loose connection in my mind regarding Hyperion's idea of love as a physical property and Herbert's emphasis on exploring that quality in Heretics and especially Chapterhouse. Is that in the area you're thinking of?


Yes, this is definitely part of it. In Hyperion (SPOILERS) the capacity to travel instantaneously from one location to another is called 'the music of the spheres', which is a way of describing sensing the personality, if you will, of another location and being able to understand it as not actually being distant from you in 'reality'. This is indeed a physical explanation of love as a 'being with' another person or place; being in sympathy with it. My expectation is that the physical principle enabling this is what allows for prescient sensing of seemingly distant people or places. In Dune, mind you, the actual space folding is done with Holtzmann technology and not with the mind, however I believe it's hinted at in CH:D that there is some intrinsic connection between Holtzmann's equations and the power of the human mind; that perhaps folding space and prescience are government by the same basic principle that bridges the gap between the distant and the near ('the shortening of the way'). So you might say that in Dune they only hadn't quite yet discovered what is known by the end of the Hyperion series.

For another example: in Hyperion we learn that space isn't just an empty void but that it has a sort of sentient quality, or at least is a sort of living connective tissue between sentient beings, and itself stores information about all that has gone before. People attuned to the ability to sense distant places and people can also tune into the 'memory banks' of space and access past memories. Likewise, in Dune, the BG had learned how to do something just like this, and as we've discussed many times it probably doesn't make sense to suppose that they have mastered genetic magic. I think what's actually going on is they've learned how to partially tap into the spacial memory banks, but are only capable of tuning into past lives genetically similar to them (let's call it the resonance effect, where similar frequencies vibrate enough to be detected, like a sympathetic vibration). And this is why I think Duncan in CH:D can recollect all past memories, even ones whose DNA he doesn't have; they're similar enough that he picks up on them.

Overall I don't really see how either series makes much sense unless it shares the 'physics' of the other series.

I'm curious about the unrelated sources... I'm sensing additions to the infinite to-read list. :)


This is the part I can't quite answer. The first clue I had was an inner monologue near the end of D:V where Flattery realizes that reality is actually holographic. This is a theory I've heard before, and I believe it derives from an old mystic tradition from who knows when. But I've seen instances of it all over the place, and one of its principle (which you may have come across sometime) is "as above, so below", which is a way to describing a reality where things are self-similar over both large and small scales. The analogy to holography is that if you look at a holographic image you might see the 'picture' displayed over a large surface, however the actual encoding of holography is that each point of the hologram actually contains all of the information of the holographic image; and so the properties of the small scale contain the same data as the large scale. You can look at it very closely, or from far away, and it looks the same structurally. The way this is described on a physical level in the mystic tradition is that reality as we know it is real, but is a large-scale manifestation of a reality that is also true without all of the spatial expansion. So from a certain point of view we could say that 'distance is an illusion'; it isn't, exactly, but rather it's just a form of expression of something that also doesn't require the distance. It's hard to make this clear without analogies; sorry.

Another aspect of the tradition is something which we might call Buddhistic, which is that consciousness is a more fundamental force than spatial characteristics; that the way in which physics is expressed is actually a property superimposed on top of a prior consciousness that was already there. It doesn't mean (or have to mean) a God, but it does mean that space isn't just an empty void that may or may not be populated with intelligent beings.

You can find smatterings of this 'theory' here and there if you're into any combination of conspiracy theories, occult mysticism, or fringe physics. I've seen instances of it here and there but never one solid source that just spells it all out. Mostly it's kooks spouting this and that, so the best I've been able to do is piece together what the theory actually is, which is of course different from saying it's true or really amounts to anything. What's noteworthy isn't that I think it's the magic answer to everything, but rather that some authors (like FH and Dan Simmons) seem to have included it wholesale into their books as backdrops to stories; actually the Hyperion story is about little else other than the theory itself. What's fascinating to me is that I don't think Simmons was intending to portray a fake sci-fi premise as a fantasy element; I suspect he legitimately believes he's describing the way things really are. I'll have to read more of FH's books to see if I come to the same conclusion about him, but it's telling that two series seem to use that common understanding of reality.

I hope that helped...it's not an easy topic to describe as I've been investigating this for years, and most of what you find is nonsense.

I should mention, though, that although I've personally never come across a 'magnum opus' simply laying all of this out, I find it hard to believe that there isn't one. I mean, where did these guys pick it up? Piecemeal, just like I have? I guess that's possible. Or maybe there's some club somewhere where they talk about this stuff. Maybe the Rosicrucians or something, who knows. But there's got to be some 'group' out there that subscribes to this stuff, even though they don't make themselves known publicly. I'm not sure what it means for people like Simmons to be laying out all of these beliefs out in the open. I think it doesn't much matter, though, because I doubt almost anyone would read it and take the premises seriously.
Last edited by georgiedenbro on 09 Oct 2018 10:07, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pandora Series

Postby Omphalos » 05 Oct 2018 12:11

Read this one next: https://www.amazon.com/Aniara-Harry-Mar ... dpSrc=srch

I have not read this series yet, but I would think this work - Aniara - an interesting one to follow it up with.

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Re: Pandora Series

Postby georgiedenbro » 05 Oct 2018 14:11

Omphalos wrote:Read this one next: https://www.amazon.com/Aniara-Harry-Mar ... dpSrc=srch

I have not read this series yet, but I would think this work - Aniara - an interesting one to follow it up with.


Thanks for the recommendation!
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Re: Pandora Series

Postby SadisticCynic » 05 Oct 2018 16:30

I won't quote everything you've said, to save space.

I didn't take it so far, but I'm glad to hear I wasn't alone in noting the Hyperion/Dune connection. I don't have any concrete thoughts on it, and if I ever did it was years ago and I've since forgotten.

As to finding a magnum opus, it's possible such ideas were sort of in the social atmosphere at the time. I've had lucky experiences in reading Naomi Klein's No Logo before reading Gibson's Pattern Recognition, which relies heavily on her analysis of branding. The same happened with Neal Stephenson's Anathem, which had a lot of things to do with Roger Penrose's ideas of objective wave function collapse in Quantum Mechanics and a fair bit of mathematical platonism. There was also a lot of contrast with the Many Worlds Interpretation, which I hadn't read much about. It is pretty neat to come across things you've studied in novels like that. Adds to the appreciation.

The holographic principle is something I only know about in the background, basically to the extent you described. One of the Hitchhiker's Guide novels relies a lot on that, if you haven't had the chance to read them all. What else? Oh yeah, when you say similar at all scales the concept of fractal dimension in maths pops out at me. In fact, as I give this more thought I'm starting to remember more and more of the things I used to read during undergrad. Now I'm getting nostalgic.
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Re: Pandora Series

Postby Omphalos » 08 Oct 2018 11:43

georgiedenbro wrote:
Omphalos wrote:Read this one next: https://www.amazon.com/Aniara-Harry-Mar ... dpSrc=srch

I have not read this series yet, but I would think this work - Aniara - an interesting one to follow it up with.


Thanks for the recommendation!


I recommended it for the poetry connection, Georgie. Not because they are similar.

Hope you like it.

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Re: Pandora Series

Postby georgiedenbro » 09 Oct 2018 10:18

SadisticCynic wrote:I won't quote everything you've said, to save space.
The same happened with Neal Stephenson's Anathem, which had a lot of things to do with Roger Penrose's ideas of objective wave function collapse in Quantum Mechanics and a fair bit of mathematical platonism.


FH includes something about this in one of the chapter headings in Dune, IIRC...or is it Messiah?

Oh yeah, when you say similar at all scales the concept of fractal dimension in maths pops out at me. In fact, as I give this more thought I'm starting to remember more and more of the things I used to read during undergrad. Now I'm getting nostalgic.


People into "sacred geometry" LOVE fractal designs. The principle is that simple procedures of a certain type, repeated indefinitely, can create extremely intricate larger patterns that share a basic shape with the smaller pattern. I idea seems to be that the universe can be seen as being a large-scale manifestation of something that is similar on very small scales, and that you only have to look at the small scale to get the information contained in the larger scale.
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