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Download A Diversity of Creatures (Twentieth Century Classics) epub

by Rudyard Kipling

Download A Diversity of Creatures (Twentieth Century Classics) epub
ISBN: 0140186948
ISBN13: 978-0140186949
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Contemporary
Author: Rudyard Kipling
Language: English
Publisher: Penguin Classics (May 3, 1994)
Pages: 368 pages
ePUB size: 1523 kb
FB2 size: 1627 kb
Rating: 4.3
Votes: 393
Other Formats: lrf doc azw mobi

Kipling is The Master. It is useful to know a bit of history for background, but other than that...Kipling is The Master.
A Diversity of Creatures was published in 1917, but most of the stories predate World War I, and it shows. The book resembles the just preceding adult collection, Actions and Reactions, more than it does the postwar collections such as Limits and Renewals. Indeed, I would classify A Diversity of Creatures as something of a disappointment, if only relative to Kipling's high standard. It does include one of his all-time great stories, "Mary Postgate", and one other very fine story, the odd SF piece "As Easy as A. B. C." Perhaps not surprisingly these close and open the collection. There is also the famous comic story "The Village That Voted the Earth Was Flat".

The most obvious recurring theme in the collection is revenge, and not always in a good way. Quite often the revenge is by characters Kipling appears to approve of against hapless or awkward antagonists, and seems out of proportion to the original offense. For example, in "The Village That Voted the Earth Was Flat", a group of people in an early motorcar are caught in a sort of speed trap, clearly a revenue grab by a local Baronet. They are newspaper people, as well as an M. P. and (in another car) a theatre man. They get together to subject the village in which they were mistreated to humiliation by such means as arranging for them to be hoodwinked into voting that the Earth is flat after a presentation by a fake member of the Flat Earth Society.

"As Easy as A.B.C." is a sequel to "With the Night Mail". It is set in 2065. The world by this time has become a mostly libertarian paradise, with a declining population and a horror of invasion of privacy. One form of invasion of privacy, in this formulation, is democracy, with its imposure of majority will. Paradoxically (or not), the generally libertarian nature of this society is maintained by the Draconian rule of "The A.B.C., that semi-elected, semi-nominated, body of a few score persons", as the introductory paragraph has it. In this story some members of the A.B.C. are travelling to Chicago, where it seems a few idlers and no-accounts have been assembling and trying to force votes on various issues. The other locals, horrified, call in the A.B.C. demanding that they take over -- if they don't, they say, people might get killed. And so the A.B.C., rather drastically it seemed to me, takes things in hand -- though with magic tech that supposedly won't actually really hurt anyone. Politics aside (the views put forth are, I think, purposely exaggerated for effect), I really liked the story. It seems very fresh, very science-fictional and well thought out, for all that it dates to 1912.

The title character of "Mary Postgate" is a spinster hired to be companion to a well-off woman, Miss Fowler. Miss Fowler's nephew Wynn is orphaned, and she and Mary Postgate more or less raise him, until he joins the nascent Flying Corps at the outbreak of war. Soon he dies in a training accident. Through all this we gather something of Mary Postgate's relationship to him: clearly she dotes on the boy while he treats her with casual disrespect that one supposes includes a reluctant admixture of affection. Mary Postgate suffers in silence through the funeral, and the cleaning up of his effects. The two women decide to burn some of Wynn's belongings, and as Mary is working on his there is another accident -- a building collapses, and a local child is killed. At about the same time an airplane crashes near the incinerator where Mary Postgate is burying Wynn's effects. Mary immediately (and almost certainly erroneously) decides that the airplane had dropped a bomb, causing the building collapse. When she finds the downed pilot, she refuses him any help (though he speaks in French, albeit possibly German accented French), instead guarding him until he dies -- an event she reacts to in a stunning scene in which she seems perhaps to come to orgasm as the main dies.

It's an odd odd story, and Mary Postgate is one of Kipling's stranger characters. You might think that the story, written in about 1917, in the midst of the War, should be read straight -- that Mary is simply doing her bit for the War effort, killing her German, as it were, while mourning her lost surrogate son, who died as a result of the War. But everywhere this is undermined. Mary's actions are hardly heroic, and her orgasmic reaction to his death is distasteful. The German pilot isn't even necessarily German -- he could be French, an ally. Mary assumes he dropped a bomb on the village and killed a child -- but that does not seem likely. Mary's beloved Wynn does not die in action but in a training accident. To me the story seems rather to be concerned with the tragic waste of war, with the danger of excessive vengefulness, and with one particular character: the spinster Mary Postgate.

These stories are the cream of the crop in this book. There are other fine stories (for example "In the Same Boat"), and even the lesser stories are Kipling -- thus hardly to be ignored! The 4 star rating is only relative to the greatest Kipling collections, such as Limits and Renewals and Traffics and Discoveries.