Shaman – by Kim Stanley Robinson

And it’s a beautiful book, possibly one of the most touching I’ve read in ages.  These are the kind of books that make it all the way through the year to my “best of” lists.   

Shaman
Kim Stanley Robinson
2013
read by Graeme Malcom 15h 9m
Rating:10 ? A+ / literary SciFi

Reading Shaman might seem somewhat slow if you’re used to thrillers, but I was totally immersed in that tale of one small tribe at the dawn of civilization

It’s as much about the setting, the characters, and the history (to us) as it is about any one plot.  Of course it reminds us of The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean Ariel; 1980) where II read the 1st book in the series and lost interest. Robinson’s take on prehistoric life his is sooooo much more complete it could well be called “the thinking reader’s” version.  Robinson does his homework and is an expert world-builder, using both the research and imagination to create whole settings.   

Science fiction is almost as much about the whole setting, the world the author created, as it is about the characters. I’d even say it might be as important as the plot.

This is the story of prehistoric humans in the area of Southern France, in the location of one group of cave paintings.  (More below but no spoilers – promise.) 

 I got the book because it looked so good after I’d read a couple others by Kim Stanley Robinson.  A friend mentioned this one and I put it on my Wish List. Now, when I was in the mood for Sci-Fi and recollecting Robinson’s books, I already had it. 

AND!!!  It’a about Earth’s prehistoric peoples like a few in Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World by Philip Matyszak or The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity (David  or a couple other books we read in the All-Nonfiction Reading Group.   

This will be the 4th of 22 novels (series and stand-clones) Robinson has published since 1981.  He’s won many (!) awards and today he’s widely regarded as one of the best sci-fi writers alive. An astroid was named for him.  All that is said to emphasize the veracity of Robinson’s work.  He does his research and is probably right in line with what science is saying today.  He tends to be a positive thinker, no doomsday stuff for Robinson, although New York 2140 is no utopia. These days he’s also very active in the field of climate change. 

This book includes medicinal practices, nature, male/female relations, tools, ideas of philosophy, ideas of art and aesthetics and “religion” or spirituality and more. And Robinson describes the natural elements so magnificently.

It’s a beautiful book, possibly one of the most touching I’ve read in ages.  This is the kind of book that make it all the way through the war to my “best of” lists.   

Radiocarbon dating conducted on 80 charcoal samples from the paintings determined that the majority of the works dated back 36,000 years—more than double the age of any comparable cave art yet uncovered. 

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/france-chauvet-cave-makes-grand-debut-180954582/
(May have a paywall) 

https://www.npr.org/2013/08/28/214525930/shaman-takes-readers-back-to-the-dawn-of-humankind

https://www.kimstanleyrobinson.info/content/shaman

Rock paintings in the Lascaux and Chauvet Caves indicate that the cave hyena had the characteristic patches and mane of the spotted hyena. 

https://www.worldhistory.org/Chauvet_Cave/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_hyena




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