Thursday, June 25, 2015

Gulliver's Travels (Jonathan Swift)

Gulliver's Travels
Jonathan Swift
Project Gutenberg
Fiction, Fantasy/Humor
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: 18th-century Englishman Lemuel Gulliver, a surgeon by trade, succumbs to wanderlust in numerous voyages around the world. By various mishaps, he finds himself in unexplored lands amid the most peculiar inhabitants, from the minuscule Lilliputians to the titanic Brobdingnagians, the scientists of the floating island of Laputa to the immortals of Luggnagg, and the land of the noble equine Houyhnhnms and foul manlike Yahoos.

REVIEW: Predating the American Revolution by decades, this book's satirical faux-travelogue skewering of politics, government, and human folly in general remains quite relevant today... a sadly sobering testimony to the unchanging nature of Homo Sapiens. Gulliver himself is a largely transparent character, the everyday English patriot, mainly existing to relate his experiences to the reader (and unwittingly deliver Swift's cutting insights), though he grows visibly jaded toward his own country and species throughout his years of travel and abandonment. It bogs down occasionally, most notably round about Laputa and Gulliver's journeys through the lands (literally) under its reign, and - like many older works - can get a little talky for its own sake. Having mostly been familiar with the story through cultural osmosis and watered-down kiddie cartoon versions of the story, I was a little surprised at how adult and occasionally crude the original text could be, but it all goes toward Swift's criticism of humanity's flawed notion of itself as the divine pinnacle of creation. All in all, it's well worth reading.
Incidentally, some sources consider Gulliver's Travels a form of sci-fi. Given the alterations in physics between lands and other improbabilities, along with the fact that Swift himself doubtless had no intention of conjecturing actual science behind any of his satirical creations, I call it Fantasy.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (Douglas Adams) - My Review
The Daily Show with John Stewart Presents Earth: The Book (John Stewart et al.) - My Review
Gulliver's Travels (Widescreen Special Edition) - Amazon DVD link

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