November 20, 2012

Der Elfenbeinturm (The Ivory Tower) by Herbert W. Franke

I didn't know any German science fiction authors before this week, which is a Genre Fiction week of the German Literature Month. I started by plain googling, and discovered that German science fiction is a big field with a lot of well known authors in it. This one caught my attention with a beautiful allegorical name, and I don't regret I've read it.

The Ivory Tower (although I'm not sure it is correct translation, as I read it in Russian) is a science fiction novel which takes place in the dystopian (or utopian?) future. All decisions are made by a giant computer, which has all the information about everything. This computer, as well as the government itself, is situated on the moon, where only authorized scientists can get. But a group of liberal revolutionists plan to destroy this big computer to make people "free" in their understanding of the word.

I cannot say more about the plot without including any spoilers here, so I will just say that the novel is very dialectical and philosophical. Of course, there is a lot of action there, but sometimes characters just stop to discuss some theoretical issues concerning the destiny of humankind. Sometimes you even feel that the situation was created specially to give the characters an opportunity to talk. But the ideas themselves are rather interesting and uncommon, so this book will be interesting for the adepts of the genre.

Herbert W. Franke (born 14 May 1927 in Vienna) is an Austrian scientist and writer. He is considered one of the most important science fiction authors in the German language. He is also active in the fields of future research, speleology as well as computer graphics and digital art. You can see the list of his works here.


  1. Now the riddle is solved. I was wondering whether there were many English translations of German sci-fi but of course not. Russian makes sense, there is a mutual interest and I just saw that Franke's novels were published by the same renownend publisher in Germany as the brothers Strugatzki.
    This sounds interesting. I couldn't find a novel with a similar German title, he has written a lot.

    1. It seems English translations are a real problem. This short stories collections I was going to write about is also in Russian, and I have a lot of problems googling for authors, leave alone the names of the stories. Why isn't English-speaking world interested in German authors? =)


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