In memory of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, I would like to introduce you to one of the first sci-fi novels I have ever read, “Preshit” (Preshit: Marathi – A man sent, by someone or from something) by Dr. Jayant Narlikar.
A young couple finds a baby abandoned in a field, and adopt him. Growing up, the boy starts to display signs of extraordinary intelligence. When he derives a theoretical solution for “travelling salesman problem”, as an assignment, his teacher and doctor tell him to try for an international school for gifted children. Reaching the school, he continues to shine, while finding close friends, and love.
He develops a liking for astronomy and has no problem in getting a “summer internship” at Project Cyclops. He finds out about two scientists who, years ago, probably had made contact with some alien planet. Meanwhile, his girlfriend and his best friend at school find out his nightmares may be the result of some repressed memories, and his “interest” may have some deeper secret.
Although the start of the storyline reminds you of Superman, the similarities start and end there. This “Kal-el” does not develop any superpowers, except maybe showing super-intelligence. But the book is more about science fiction, questions about alien contact than about anything else. Which is why the characters are more human than found in Superman. The actual time is in recent future, with trips to the moon, and on-screen classrooms etc. Then again, the kids may go to a special school for geniuses, but the new kids are still ragged. Of course, the ragging assignments are not what you expect to see in any other school (I seriously spent some months of my life visualizing how you can pass through a A4-sized paper).
This is one of those books where every event is one more step “towards zero”. That is, the last few pages contain almost the entire essence (at least, the most important point) of the book. In this case, the point is one of the main questions asked whenever the quest for alien intelligence is mentioned. Of course, the characters in the book finally come down on one side of the argument, but still, it does leave a lingering thought in reader’s mind.
By his own admission, Dr. Jayant Narlikar writes for spreading awareness about scientific subjects in common readers. This makes his books (including the non-fictional ones) a great point for introducing scientific concepts in simple language, especially to kids (look at his biography and you will see why). Of course, the books fall mostly under kids (or YA) category, but still, even adults will enjoy the humour and the storytelling.
P.S. If you read this properly, you will notice some major things missing from this review. That is because I have written this entirely from my memories of the book. So, any reader is welcome, indeed requested to correct me when my memory seems to go AWOL.
Quote of The Day:
Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination.
– Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)