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Pilot's Mess [chit-chat zone]

This is the forum to get to know your fellow pilots and the ONLY place to talk about everything else not really relevant to sci-fi movies, including your personal loves and interests. A true pilot doesn't discuss these issues while on duty.

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Old Feb 18, 2003, 05:49 PM   #1
Iwata
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Thumbs up The best book I have ever read! Simply phenomenal!


I have finished reading "The Empire of the Ants", by Bernard Werber, and I can say that I have NEVER stumbled upon such a beatifull book.

Marvelously written, with a compelling plot, and a will of it's own, the book is a masterpiece. I stumbled upon it on a 2nd-hand bookstore yesterday, and read it in almost one go. I had purchased the PC game of the same name a few months back, and found it to be a good strategy game, where you lead an ant colony. So, I picked up the book to check it out. And what a surprised awaited me! I never expected it to be THIS good!

The plot is this, extracted from a review I found on the internet:

"The book opens simply enough: Jonathan Wells has been bequeathed a Paris apartment by his brilliant and eccentric uncle Edmond, who has been stung to death by wasps in the forest. The apartment at 3 rue des Sybarites, is a godsend to him, since Jonathan (revealed to us as a somewhat timid-hearted man) has just been fired from his job as a locksmith, because he will not go into the more dangerous sections of Paris at night. Jonathan, his wife Lucie, son Nicolas and dog Ouarzazate happily move in.

The apartment has a mystery: a cracked cellar door shut with a huge lock, and a scrawled note from Uncle Edmond: "ABOVE ALL, NEVER GO DOWN INTO THE CELLAR!" The Wells are quite prepared to obey -- until Ouarzazate slips through the crack in the door, and disappears.

Meanwhile, six kilometers away, the mighty metropolis of Bel-o-kan (population 18 million) is rousing from its winter hibernation. The 327th reproductive male, one of the first to wake, goes forth on a hunting expedition, which, except for him, is inexplicably wiped out by some mighty weapon. Yet when he tries to communicate his experience to the other ants, he finds them oddly indifferent. Worse still, he somehow runs afoul of some strange assassin ants, who live among the others in the city, and can only be recognized by a smell of rock. The 327th male evades the assassins' first attempt, and finally communicates his frightening tale to two others, a winged female and an asexual ant. Soon, all three are desperately searching for the answer to the deadly riddle.

Meanwhile, at 3 rue des Sybarites, matters are taking an almost Cthulhuian turn. After vanishing for eight hours, Jonathan returns, half-crazed, with the hideously tortured body of the dog. He purchases an assortment of odd items, and over the protests of his wife, disappears down the cellar again, and does not return. Shortly afterwards, she goes down to look for him. When she has been gone for two days, a policeman and eight firemen go down -- and disappear. Then Nicolas goes down into the cellar, and disappears. Another seven policemen, equipped with mountaineering gear and radios, go after him. Of those seven, only one returns: covered in cuts that look like knife wounds, and completely insane.

"Empire of the Ants" is really a mystery, posing plenty of questions. Who are the rock-scented ants, and why are they trying to kill the three who know about the great threat to the ant metropolis? Who is behind that threat? Where does the mysterious tunnel on the lowest level of Bel-o-kan lead, and why is there a whole other store of food down there? What is in the cellar of 3 rue des Sybarites -- and what is its connection with the ants? What is the answer to Uncle Edmond's favourite intelligence test, which is the password to the secret heart of the cellar? And where is the manuscript of Edmond's great work, The Encyclopedia of Relative and Absolute Knowledge?"

The ant sequences are great, they look like some alien civilization, but yet so like us! And you trully see that they are ants, you see them as they are, for EVERYTHING the ants do in the book, they do in real-life. the The book feels like a cross between Agatha Christie/Tom Clancy/National Geographic. Simply amazing!

I cannot recommend it enough!

Anyone else read it?
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Old Feb 18, 2003, 05:56 PM   #2
Iwata
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Re: The best book I have ever read! Simply phenomenal!

Read this part of the book. You'll like it, and it gives you an idea of the ant side of the story.

Excerpt:

In ancient times, when the first ants of the Ni dynasty (the legendary ancient original colony of russet ants in the region) came to this stretch of water, they realized it would not be easy to cross. But an ant never gives up. If necessary, it will bang it's head against an obstacle fifteen thousand times in fifteen thousand different ways until it either dies, or the obstacle gives way.
This might not seem a very logical way of proceeding, and it has certainly cost the Myrmician civilization (the current crowd) a good deal of time and lives, but it has paid off. In the end, at the cost of enormous effort, ants have always succeeded in overcoming their difficulties.

At Satei (the local place name by the river), the explorers had initially attempted to get across on foot. The skin on the water was strong enough to support their weight but they could not get a grip on it with their claws. They skated about on the edge of the water as if it were an ice rink and could take only two steps forward and three steps sideways before being eaten by frogs.

After a hundred thousand fruitless attempts and the loss of several thousand explorers, the ants decided to try something else. Workers formed a chain, holding each other by the legs and antennae until they reached the other side. The experiment might have worked if the river had not been so rough and wide. It left two hundred and forty thousand dead, but the ants did not give up. At the instigation of their Queen, Biu-pa-ni, they tried to build a bridge of leaves, then a bridge of twigs, then a bridge of pebbles. Those experiments cost the lives six hundred and seventy thousand workers. Bui-pa-ni had already killed more of her subjects to build the bridge of her dreams than all the territorial battles fought during her reign had.

Nevertheless, she did not give up. They had to cross over into the eastern territories. After the bridges, she had the idea of bypassing the river by following it north to it's source. None of those expeditions ever came back, and it left eight thousand dead. Then she said to herself that ants should learn how to swim. Fifteen thousand dead. Then she told herself the ants should try to tame the frogs. Sixty-eight thousand dead. Or glide across on leaves from the big tree. Fifty-two dead. Or walk under the water by weighing their legs with hardened honey. Twenty-seven dead. Legend had it that, when told there was only a dozen unscathed workers left in the city and that she had to abandon the effort for the time being, she had declared: "Pity. I still had plenty of ideas left."
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Old Feb 18, 2003, 06:18 PM   #3
The one......
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Re: The best book I have ever read! Simply phenomenal!

Must say that it does seem like a good read. Might just have to get me hands on a copy soon...

Nice one!
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Old Feb 18, 2003, 07:04 PM   #4
Dwayne Hicks
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Location: Dominican Republic, a litle island in the sea...
Re: The best book I have ever read! Simply phenomenal!

it ia beetter that LOTR?
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Old Feb 18, 2003, 07:06 PM   #5
The one......
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Re: The best book I have ever read! Simply phenomenal!

You been drinking Hicks?
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Old Feb 18, 2003, 07:25 PM   #6
Dwayne Hicks
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Location: Dominican Republic, a litle island in the sea...
Unhappy Re: The best book I have ever read! Simply phenomenal!

Sorry im a litle sleepy right now
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Old Feb 18, 2003, 07:27 PM   #7
The one......
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600 flights since Dec 2002
Location: inside my mind-wanna join me?
Re: The best book I have ever read! Simply phenomenal!

Your forgiven. The dribbling smilie makes it all worthwhile!
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Old Feb 18, 2003, 08:06 PM   #8
floyd
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Re: The best book I have ever read! Simply phenomenal!

lord of the rings isn't the indisputable best story ever told. It's an okay set of books, and fellowship of the ring is an okay movie. Let's not presuppose that this novel could never attain the quality of lord of the rings.
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Old Feb 19, 2003, 01:53 AM   #9
Nexus
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Re: The best book I have ever read! Simply phenomenal!

If Iwata says it's the best book he's ever read i don't think you'll need to ask him "Is is better than..." questions anyway.




















Is is better than "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy"?
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Old Feb 19, 2003, 05:56 AM   #10
Iwata
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Location: Helghan
Re: The best book I have ever read! Simply phenomenal!

Well, they are different types of books.

"LotR" is the best series in Fantasy books, just like "HGttG" is the best series in humour, but "Empire of the Ants" is, overall, superior.

Bear in mind this is a personnal opinion. There are of course points in which the book does not stand up to either "LotR" or "HGttG", but in the whole, I enjoyed this book more. It reads in a fluent manner, like a Tennis match, and is quite pleasant storywise, though at times disturbingly violent... which I don't mind at all, and nature is actually just like that. Such as a point in the book when teh ant city is attacked by a woodpecker. The ant's defense and posterior counter-attack are sure to turn some people's stomachs... but I quite enjoyed it. Very graphic, very real, very natural.

Just a piece of trivia for you: The author was inspired to writte this book when returning from an expedition to study some warrior ants in Africa, in which he was deeply wounded by those same ants when they overran him. Nasty...
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