Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life – Lulu Miller

This book gave me some pause.

Not too long ago, I moaned about how annoyed I am at the over abundance of people using science-fiction to just write about there quotidian life problems in the thinnest trappings of science-fiction. I should reiterate once again that I don’t think doing that is bad per se, but mostly it is not frequently done well, and extremly over done in the industry at this point. Every god damn short story in Clarkesworld seems to be about a toaster that falls in love with smart-house (I’m not making that example up).

That’s kind of what this book was. Only this book was actually good.

To be perfectly clear, the recommendation to read this came with qualifier that it was very well written, and this is very much true. Miller has a great voice for the subject matter. I also liked the title, and I thought it would go into the complexities of the taxonomical problems such as those tackled by Eco in his lovely Kant and the Platypus. Alas, that was at best superficial to Why Fish Don’t Exist (although it did come with a recommendation if I were wanting to pursue that further. Two, perhaps). The book instead choose to focus on the figure of David Starr Jordan, an obscure figure of the American Sciences who had an extremely dogged determination in his own taxonomical work, even in the face of the very world around us seeming to conspire against him.

The author uses this to talk about how she handles her own share of life hardships, and what it is that she learned from reading about Jordan. Oddly enough, it reminded me most of all of Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Shape, and how at least one of the characters of that book is perpetually tortured by the universe’s unending march towards entropy.

Hell, who isn’t?

Interesting as well is the author’s bait and switch towards the end of the book, where she reveals a less than savory side of the Jordan’s life. Certainly that repulsive side of him needs to be recognized and understood, but it also seems that it did not end up diminishing the value the author found in Jordan’s perseverance, and what she came to understand about life from it.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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