Friday, November 4, 2011

La nuit des temps [Books]

I'm not sure how to literally translate the title of René Barjavel's book La nuit des temps--"The Night of Time" and variations thereof sounds really weird. The book has been published in English under the title "The Ice People", which makes it sound like a tale about the Inuit. In fact, this SF novel begins with a polar expedition discovering strange signals emanating thousands of feet below the surface of the Antarctic. A massive international force is assembled to unearth the cause of the signal, and after a period of digging a small structure is found. Inside, are two people frozen in suspended animation. The first one awoken, a woman named Eléa, tells of an ancient, highly-advanced civilization that existed almost 900,000 years. Eléa and another member were placed in suspended animation with the purpose of leading whatever remnants of the civilization survived after an impending war threatened to annihilate the planet. Part of the book takes place in flashback form to this civilization, with the rest concerning how the international expedition struggles to decide what to do with its discovery.

It's a bit of an odd book, and it takes a while to figure out where the story is going--though there's a nice twist at the very end. It certainly has an interesting premise, though only a couple of the characters are well-rounded and memorable from page to page. Wikipedia says Barjavel's work "often involved the fall of civilisation due to technocratic hubris and the madness of war", and that seems to fit La nuit des temps to a T.

No comments: