War with the Newts, by Karel Capek, Ewald Osers, translator (older vers. ok too)

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Green Line Cafe

4426 Locust St · Philadelphia, PA

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Usually 5-10 of us sitting at two tables pulled together. Instead of open laptops on the tables we'll probably have a copy of the book. We look kind of bookish and friendly.

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This legendary but previously hard-to-get novel is a hilarious dystopian satire about the choice between ecological catastrophe and making your quarterly financial goals. As both a commentary on capitalism and the rise of fascism, as well as an early work of science fiction, it is one of the most important books of the twentieth century.

When the curmudgeonly sailor Captain von Toch discovers a breed of large, intelligent newts in far-off Polynesia, he realizes that, with a little training, they could be used as a virtual army of complacent pearl-divers in shark-infested waters. Then von Toch’s financial backers realize that the newts can be trained for all kinds of underwater civil engineering projects, or to build new islands, even to defend shorelines—wielding weapons, no less!

There’s only one problem: released from their previous environment, the newts replicate like, well, aqua-bunnies. And soon they aren’t so complacent anymore.

Acclaimed by many as the first dystopian novel, and others as the best book of science fiction ever written, Karel Capek’s masterpiece remains all that and more: smart, funny, and relevant.