Thursday, October 03, 2019

Book review: WAR WITH THE NEWTS by Karel Capek

WAR WITH THE NEWTS (1936) by Karel Capek

This is a genuine science fiction classic, and an outstanding work of satire, from the author of R.U.R. and THE ABSOLUTE AT LARGE.

Using a variety of stylistic devices - straightforward narration, found documents, metafiction - WAR WITH THE NEWTS describes the discovery of another intelligent species on Earth (the "Newts")... and how humanity goes about to exploit it.

The Newts are large salamanders, who can be taught human speech and how to use tools. A businessman invests in a scheme to capture specimens and breed the Newts for "mass production" as cheap slave labor. The world is transformed... but also the Newts are changed. The ruthless exploitation of the Newts is clearly meant to remind us of similar treatment of humans (i.e. slavery, bigotry etc.).

It's quite a feat to make such matters funny, and Capek succeeds. The novel is suffused with black humor and dark irony - especially when the Newts turn on mankind.

WAR WITH THE NEWTS is a very modern novel. It could have been written today, or even be an episode of the Netflix series BLACK MIRROR. Highly recommended!

You can read this book for free on

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