Jewish Science Fiction

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Jewish Science Fiction

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Jan 26, 2008, 12:12pm

I'm curious to hear about any Jewish science fiction -- in terms of themes, or authors, or really any way you can think of? What's the best out there?

Jan 27, 2008, 9:17pm

Have you seen this link?

The site is a linked list of "Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy." It also has links to other such sites. I haven't read a single one except for Canticle for Liebowitz which I read so many years ago I can't remember it (but want to reread it for that very reason). Some of the titles on the list look pretty intriguing!

Jan 27, 2008, 9:29pm

I don't recommend Breakfast With the Ones You Love by Eliot Fintushel. I was intrigued by the combination of Jewish themes and science fiction, but the book ended up being one of the worst books I read in 2007.

I own an anthology of Jewish science fiction stories, Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction, but I haven't read any of it.

Fev 15, 2008, 4:12pm

What didn't you like about Breakfast With the Ones You Love? I thought it was good.

Fev 15, 2008, 10:15pm

I went into the book being very excited about it. I read science fiction, literary fiction and YA, which at various moments, this novel attempts to fit into. It’s exciting to read about Jewish and Yiddish stuff in a mainstream book (I went to a Jewish day school for middle school and high school). However, I read 144 books last year and it was among the 7 worst.

What started out as wacky fun quickly became confusing and uninteresting. I didn’t believe in the characters and felt like the plot was very disjointed. It did not cohere into a greater work and instead became a mishmash of ideas that did not have emotional or intellectual resonance. I did not find Lea likable or fascinating, and did not believe in her character development and coming of age.

I felt that Fintushel’s worldbuilding was very weak and I would have much preferred if the book had committed to being true science fiction and convinced me that the circumstances were happening or if Fintushel made it more clearly some sort of metaphorical craziness. The book was not satisfying and I wondered what the point of it was when I had finished. I had hoped that the writing would impress me, but it was more like Fintushel was trying hard to be clever and not succeeding, and would repeat phrases like “breakfast with the ones you love” in an attempt to be deep which annoyed me.

reademwritem, I’m glad you enjoyed the book, but it was not something that I would recommend. It annoyed me so much that I wanted to tell people rather than just quietly think that it was just something that didn't work for me personally. I really enjoy Atwood, Chabon, and Stephenson, so we do enjoy some of the same authors. I really should read The Yiddish Policeman’s Union at some point, I’m sure I will enjoy that more.

Fev 16, 2008, 2:16pm

I had the same reaction reading Sarah's Key. It had the potential to be a very moving book, but I couldn't get past the bad writing. I don't know if I'll ever try something else by Cormac McCarthy, whom everyone raves about, but I had to put down All the Pretty Horses after encountering the brave but impecunious hero, the haughty and beautiful daughter of his employer, and the grandmother who warns him not to get involved with her. McCarthy readers, please tell me it gets better!

Fev 16, 2008, 9:29pm

All The Pretty Horses can be viewed as a coming of age story set in the West with a Mexican twist...i read it several years ago...if you want some powerful reading try The Road or Blood Meridian.

In my opinion Cormac is a maestro!

Mar 4, 2008, 10:20pm

Last week on one of the blogs I follow,, they had a list of "The Twenty Science Fiction Novels That Will Change Your Life." One of them was a Jewish science fiction book, so what the heck, I ordered it from Amazon. Here is the blurb from the blog:

"He, She, and It (1991), by Marge Piercy
A woman and her cyborg warrior lover fight to protect a free Jewish town from being taken over by a neighboring corporate city-state in this cyberpunk homage to the Jewish myth of the Golem. The most fascinating part of the book is what happens when the cyborg, who has been programmed to love combat, realizes that his pleasures are morally wrong. What would it feel like for a weapon to grow ethics?"

Mar 6, 2008, 12:41pm

I read it many years ago. I thought it was pretty good. There must have been some back-and-forth about idea lifting, because she had to put in a disclaimer saying her book had nothing to do with Neuromancer.

Mar 6, 2008, 3:21pm

One of Ted Chiang's short stories incorporates golems and kabbalah in a Victorian setting. It's called Seventy-Two Letters, and is available online . His whole collection is excellent, Stories of your Life and Others, and the first story is actually about the building of the tower of Babel. The Babel story actually has a very different style than the others and I didn't like it much, so if it doesn't appeal, I would read the other stories first. Overall the book is excellent, with great writing and ideas, and I recommend buying it or getting it from the library, not just reading the story online.

Mar 18, 2008, 12:59pm

OK, I'm reading Blood Meridian. I'm trying to unpack it, but I see no inner lives in any of the protagonists,and their myriad victims aren't described enough for me to understand them, either. The guy is really poetic about blood, shit, pus, snot, etc. I don't know what an "apishamore" or "sark" is. I think it would have made an excellent short story (like the one in the New Yorker by Haruki Murakami about lonely Japanese soldiers and terrified prostitutes and the compartmentalization of the soldiers' behaviors. This just goes on and on with no obvious development. What am I missing? Am I an idiot?

Mar 18, 2008, 1:19pm


i read your comment on Blood Meridian in the Jewish Fiction group- although I don't know if this is where you wanted to post it?

I read Meridian many years ago and always remember it as a quite haunting, engrossing tale...since then I have read several of Cormac's books and do consider him a master. His use of words are unusual and I believe I saw somewhere that some of them are self-invented.

Mar 18, 2008, 3:35pm

I'm in the middle of He, She, and It and I'm really enjoying it, which isn't usually the case with a dystopic book. So I'm wondering: do I really like it because it's basically a love story, and (therefore?) even possibly a "chick book"? Any males out there who have read it and have an opinion?

Mar 18, 2008, 7:17pm

You mentioned it a month ago and I bought it. Well, I read as far as the page where the judge buys two puppies, throws them in the river, and shoots them (where one of them is observd to "blossom and sink"), and the next page where six or seven people are shot for no particular reason (not even for their scalps, a common currency in the narrative), and gave up. Does he hate all humans? Is he a deep ecologist? Why do I learn nothing about anyone's inner life, killer or killed? It's just page after page of violence and minutely described malodorousness. It would do much better as a short story.

I am thinking that Cormac McCarthy is the John Coltrane of American literature. When some people hear his name (like my cousin), they fall to their knees in worship, and others (like my husband) just shrug. Look at my library; I am reasonably well-read. But I am not getting McCarthy at all.

Libby Cone aka reademwritem

Mar 18, 2008, 8:49pm

you certainly raise interesting issues...i do not think his use of violence is (totally) gratuitous (see No Country For Old Men)...perhaps it is more a commentary on the history of these United States which, some would say, are built upon the the subjugation and violent oppression of Native Americans and other ethnic groups not of European stock.

THis response is immediate and not fully thought out but I do think of McCarthy as coming from the Southern vein of American Fiction- see William Faulkner, Flannery O'Conner, Harry Crews. He writes about the underside of America. Indeed, he can be quite graphic and apocolyptic (see The Road), yet in addition to his grim descriptions , one can also find a glimpse of human hope, love and comradeship.

To my liking he is a great writer who provides a unique voice and vision.

by the way, I also think John Coltrane was(is) absolutely fabulous! My Favorite Things is one of the all-time Jazz albums.


Mar 19, 2008, 4:54pm

I wonder if Coltrane lovers are also McCarthy lovers? Although my cousin loves Coltrane and is so-so about McCarthy.

I don't know if I can read any more of Meridian to get to the glimmer of hope. I don't care about any of the characters. I am certainly glad someone is exposing this sordid side of American history, but I don't see what distinguishes these guys from SS men, who killed all day and then went back to their chess games and trysts at night. Hey, at least some of the SS guys were conflicted! Some of them secretly rescued Jews, or committed suicide. That can make for interesting reading. I don't think the cowboys can redeem themselves.

My reading of southern literature is limited, I admit. I read Richard Ford; that's about it.

Mar 19, 2008, 6:16pm

Now I finished my book He, She and It so I'm going to answer my own question (in my usual manner of talking to myself anyway). I think it isn't just a "chick" book, nor is it just a take-off of William Gibson. Chapters about a Jewish community in the future in which a cyborg is created are alternated with chapters about a real Jewish community in the past (Prague at the end of the 1500's) in which (rumour had it) a golem was created. Ideas from kaballah infuse both the Jews of the past and the Jews of the future. Yes it is also a love story, and yes it leans toward empowered women, but overall I think it is full of interesting notions for both scifi fans and Jews, whether male or female.