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Epic Reading for Easter: Gilgamesh and Human Nature

Likewise, Silverberg reminds us that modern man often has a viewpoint that is limited by the very science that is supposed to give a more informed perspective. Substituting a scientifically understandable phenomenon for the mysterious shows a lack of ability to look beneath the surface to the soul beneath, which is all the more surprising because of Silverberg's undeniable deftness in communicating Gilgamesh's own interior struggles. 

That said, there is much about the ancient world itself in this story that will give readers food for thought. I was surprised that the people didn't ask for a new king, but asked instead to make their king good, which may say much about the modern approach to government. I was also struck by the fact that the gods do not destroy Gilgamesh, but give him a best friend who will help bring out his nobler qualities. This is an understanding of human nature that runs deeply through the story.

I listened to the audio book, and William Coon's narration is what makes this book come alive. His reading echoed the spare, simple style that one would imagine was faithful to early storytelling and which transformed the book into a trip to the past. 

As we take what we learned during Lent and celebrate the joy of Easter, the story of Gilgamesh is one that will show not only just how joyful we should be as followers of Christ, but also gives readers much to ponder about human nature itself, both in ancient days and today. It isn't often that you can find a rip-roaring good story that accomplishes so much.

Author's Note:  Wikipedia has a good summary of the Epic of Gilgamesh which I recommend in order to know where Silverberg diverges from the story to suit his own purposes. In keeping with ancient Sumerian worship practices and Gilgamesh's unbalanced character as a demi-god, there is a fair amount of sex, especially in the first third of the book. This is not lurid or explicit, but readers have been warned.

Portions of this review appeared at SFFaudio, which supplied the review copy of the audio book.

4/27/2011 4:00:00 AM