Search This Blog for Authors, Publishers, Reviewers and Books

Add Your Logo or Avatar to This New Book Review Reader List:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Title: Homage to Luxenben,
Subtitle: Adventures on a Utopian Planet
Author: Dan Hurwitz
Genre: literary science fiction
ISBN: 978-0-615-59517-7



Rebellious, highly erratic, nineteen-year-old Neuman carries the world’s miseries on his shoulders. And, as a fervently religious teacher of Hebrew, he is likewise dismayed by the way his fellow Jews regularly violate the demanding rituals of Talmudic law. In his daily prayers, the troubled Neuman implores God to help him reconcile these abominations with his proclaimed love for mankind. But to no avail. God remains immutable and the conundrum continues to haunt the young man. Then, quite by accident, he stumbles upon the following classified ad in his Sunday paper.



Male human being between ages of fifteen and twenty-one wanted for display in Luxenben’s prestigious zoological garden. DUTIES: During working hours, specimens are simply required to stroll about the zoo’s extensive grounds and make themselves visible to the zoo’s visitors. When directly encountering visitors, specimens may be called upon to exchange pleasantries, to pose for pictures, and/or graciously accept little bags of nuts when proffered. Mondays and Tuesdays off aside from occasional evening viewings for zoo benefactors. Participation in animal-act per­formances strictly voluntary. First class food and lodging. Rapid promotion to trustee possible. Among trustee privileges are guided tours providing first-hand exposure to the flawless workings of Luxenben’s utopian civilization. QUALIFICATIONS: Good moral character rooted in religious belief. Sociable disposition, natural rapport with children, and ability to relate to fellow inmates of dramatically diverse physiologies. Desirous of quiet, comfortable lifestyle, liking for solitude, and unmarried. Reply to Box E-19 with current photo.

From this single post, Neuman jumps to a number of improbable assumptions: One, the ad was the response from God that he had been praying for. Two, he was among the first to learn that God, being fed up with mankind’s scurrilous behavior and disappointed by the lapses committed by his chosen people, had decided to abandon humanity in favor of a more civilized and obedient population. Three, Neuman’s mission was to go to Luxenben to lay the groundwork for God’s relocation there by converting the natives to Judaism, God’s one and only true faith. Four, the conundrum that so puzzled him was now explained, or, more accurately, demolished. Earthquakes, tidal waves, wars, and so on were obviously God’s way of cleaning house prior to his departure.

Neuman applies for the job advertised and, as he expected, succeeds in winning it. He is given directions to a secluded site where he is to procure transportation. A slipup occurs, however, when the spacecraft sent to pick up Neuman inadvertently sweeps up an uninvolved observer as well, the middle-aged, conservative businessman, Stelzer. When the two men arrive at Luxenben, a second inexplicable turn of events takes place. It is Stelzer who is comfortably quartered in the zoo, whereas Neuman is whisked off to the Research Campus of Space Ventures, Inc., the planet’s largest interplanetary trading company. There Neuman is held incommunicado within its Product Development Division.

Thanks to his native skill at assimilation, Stelzer rapidly accomodates himself to life in the Zoological Garden devoted to Semi-intelligents such as himself. He is promoted to trustee, abides contentedly in his apartment, and, out of natural curiousity, studies how the planet functions. He is soon impressed by its coherent political, economic, social, and religious systems all based on a bedrock philosophical premise—i.e., the recognition that intelligent beings, no less than other animals, are subservient to the rule of nature. Accordingly, Luxenben’s political system is modeled on the workings of the mammalian brain with its separate autonomic and voluntary circuitry. Proposals for new laws percolate from the bottom tiers of society upward until being finally vetted by a rotating panel of experts—all without the necessity of legislative or executive involvement. Likewise, the planet’s economic, social, and religious institutions bear little resemblance to their counterparts on earth—that is to say, the planet’s efficacious systems lead to happiness and prosperity for all its inhabitants.

Neuman, meanwhile, emerges from Research mysteriously altered, but as messianic as ever. Despite their differences, he and Stelzer become close friends. Neumna marries a native girl and seems set for a normal family life when Space Ventures, at its annual meeting, announces that it has selected the young man to lead an expedition to instill Luxenben’s nature-based religion on earth. The company hopes that this first attempt to rationalize a Semi-intelligent planet will make it legally eligible to buy Luxan advanced technology. If successful, the experiment, when repeated elsewhere, will enable the firm to expand its sales territory and fatten profits. But Stelzer fears the campaign will prove highly dangerous for his friend and the book ends in a cascading series of surprises as the older man valiantly attempts to thwart the launch.

Not your usual science fiction.

~Author Dan Hurwitz also blogs at .

The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

No comments: