A Choice of Gods by Clifford Simak 

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book 

  • 1, 2185: So we begin again. Actually, we began again fifty years ago, but did not know it then. There was hope, for a time, that there were more people left and that we could pick up where we had left off
  • The technology had been too complex and too specialized and too regimented to be picked up and carried on
  • The robots are not technologically minded. They were not built to be. They were built to bolster human vanity and pride, to meet a strange longing that seems to be built into the human ego—the need to have other humans (or a reasonable facsimile of other humans) to minister to our wants and needs, human slaves to be dominated, human beings over which a man or woman (or a child) can assert authority, thus building up a false feeling of superiority
  • They are a part of the white man’s culture and are readily acceptable to us upon the basis of our one-time preoccupation with machine
  • There can be little doubt that the disappearance of the human race and the inhibiting of aging must somehow be connected
  • Knowing is the goal, not the using. We aren’t users. We have somehow risen above using. We can rest content to see resources lying idle; we might even think it shameful to try to use or harness them
  • It seemed that we should not leave Earth entirely. Someone belonged here. An anchor man, perhaps, for the others who had gone. To keep the home fires burning. Be here to welcome the others back when they wanted to come home
  • I can talk with flowers and flowing rivers and they can talk back to me, but an alien—I’d not know how to start.
  • “I saw one once. I was told it was a book. It was said to me that it would speak to me if one knew the way. But the person who showed it to me had lost the way.”    “You cannot read?”    “This reading is the way? The way a book will talk?”    “Yes, that’s it,” she said. “There are little marks. You read the marks.”
  • Who was there anymore to say that, lacking humans who were interested, robots had no grounds to assume the task of keeping alive the spark of mankind’s ancient faith?
  • It had been a victim of man’s mismanagement, of his overwhelming concept of property and profit. It had been manifested in lordly buildings filled with pomp and glitter rather than being nourished in the human heart and mind
  • With man’s heavy hand lifted off the Earth the little, humble creatures are coming back into an olden heritage
  • the way to truth was longer and more difficult than they had imagined and they still held no real inkling of the truth
  • Hezekiah asked himself, that there was no room for both the faith and truth, that they were mutually exclusive qualities that could not coexist?
  • Not the vain unraveling of truth, but the succor of one’s fellow men?
  • Something worse than evil. A great uncaring. An intellectual uncaring. An intelligence that has lost what we think of as humanity. Perhaps not lost it, for it may have never had it
  • Perhaps it had been something he had said: “Here you can trace and chart the path of man up from darkest night.” Saying it proudly, as if he were a man himself and alone, in terror and in hope, had trod that very path
  • burning words had not been so much the work of many individual minds as the impact of a pattern of existence upon the minds of all mankind
  • Would the humans rest with having satisfied an intellectual curiosity, or would they reassert their ancient ownership—although he doubted very much that at any time man could have been said to have truly owned the Earth. Rather, they had taken it, wresting it from the other creatures that had as much right of ownership as they, but without the intelligence or the ingenuity or power to assert their rights. Man had been the pushy, arrogant interloper rather than the owner
  • Sitting in the silence and hushed loneliness, he was surprised to find himself untouched by the loneliness. For this was home, he thought, and no man could be lonely who stayed close within his home.
  • The conservatism in me will not accept that so great a thing can be conferred upon the human race without the exaction of some sort of heavy payment
  • Agricultural people who worked continually in the fields, following the plantings, the tending and the harvest. Ground down in poverty, living hand to mouth, tied so close to the soil they became the very soil
  • Education we might have been capable of and even have enjoyed, but it was a dead end, for except for a questionable self-satisfaction it might have given us, we had no use for it. Humans used education for their self-improvement, to earn a better living, to contribute to society, to assure themselves of more enjoyment of the arts
  • You’ve thought of a robot as a machine and it is not. It is a biological concept expressed mechanically…
  • For that reason we would not want the humans to come back. They would interfere. They could not help the interference; it is intellectually impossible for them not to interfere in any affairs that touch them, even most remotely
  • We certainly gave you no world for which you have occasion to be thankful. But now, as it turns out, we’re all in this together. If the People come back to occupy the planet, all of us will suffer
  • And yet the fact remains that robot, rather than man, has kept not only Christianity, but the very idea of religion alive
  • There is a plan, it seems to me, that reaches out from the electron to the rim of the universe and what this plan may be or how it came about is beyond my feeble intellect
  • It had all begun, he told himself, when the first man had scratched the ground and planted seed and must, therefore, secure to himself the ground in which to plant the seed. It had started with the concept of ownership—ownership of land, ownership of natural resources, ownership of labor. And perhaps from the concept of security as well, the erecting of fences against the adversities of life, the protection of one’s station in life and the ambition to improve that station and, obtaining that improvement, to fortify it so well against one’s neighbors that they could never wrest it from one
  • The man who owned was safe
  • It was only his own people who held to ownership, and that was the sickness in them
  • As if a great compassion came rolling out of him to make all things well and whole and yet, quite strangely, he felt no great compassion. Rather, he felt an uneasiness when he sensed an unwell or aching thing and somehow he must make it right again
  • A machine does something to a man. It brutalizes him. It serves as a buffer between himself and his environment and he is the worst for it. It arouses an opportunistic instinct and makes possible a greed that makes a man inhuman
  • The question, it seems to me, is not whether he will persist, but whether he has the right to. I shudder when I envision man, the prehistoric monster, continuing into a time and world where he has no place…
  • You either are parapsychic or you aren’t. You are technological or you aren’t. You can’t be both of them. They are mutually exclusive because so long as you remain technological, you can’t be parapsychic and once you’re parapsychic you have no use for technology
  • The Indians dare not touch it, for it would ruin the kind of life they’ve fashioned. They live with nature, not on it.
  • Pride, he thought—pride and vanity. Would he ever rid himself of his pride and vanity? And he might as well admit it—when would he be rid of doubt?

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