García Márquez and Arthur C. Clarke meet for coffee. “One Billion Faces” brings to life the unexpected entanglement of fantastic realism and hard science fiction.
In a collection of seven short and ten flash stories, the renowned scientist and 2019-awardee of the ERC Advanced Grant Mario Barbatti invited us to contemplate the extremes of the human condition. Either delving into the psychology of some of the founding myths of the western culture or speculating about our place in the universe on unthinkable time scales, “One Billion Faces” is a profound imagination journey.
The amazements and frights of the near future, the superation of all human limits within thousands of years, the wonders of our descendants millions of years from now, the reemergence of life after all stars are burnt, these are some of the themes carefully crafted into the absorbing stories of this book.
The Parabole of the Men
Kamal was the oldest son of a wealthy merchant of the village of Roch. Since a young age, he was famous for his bright mind, already mastering all arts and sciences, while other kids at his age barely could speak. He grew up to become a respected scholar, known in the whole land.
When his father died, he alone inherited all the family’s fortune, as it was the law.
What he did next surprised even those who always took him for an eccentric scholastic: he decided to build an ivory tower, to isolate himself from mundane distractions, and solve every natural and human problems he judged to be outstanding. Why the tower had to be made of ivory, nobody ever found out.
The tower construction, with all provisions he would need for a life in there, revealed to be extremely expensive. It consumed most of Kamal’s wealth. The little that rested, he donated to his brothers and sisters, granting them certain comfort, but far below what they were used to.
The tower sprouted in an isolated spot in the central plain, equidistant from the village of Roch, the holy city of Vacan, the great city of Oir’yn, the conjoined cities of J’lem and G’zar, and the forest of Amzan. Following the detailed projects of Kamal, the best masons, carpenters, builders, and architects from Oir’yn gave shape to the tower, working on the massive amount of ivory imported from Amzan.
The tower grew impeccably white, as a solid five-faced polygonal structure. It looked like a monolithic pentagonal regular rod, almost without any particular structure or decoration. Its only remarkable features were the crenelations on the terrace parapet and the five small windows, one on each face of the highest floor, where Kamal had his apartment built.
Although Kamal’s apartment took the whole floor, it contained only a small bed and a work desk laid in the middle of the ample pentagonal space illuminated through the five windows. The floors below stocked everything he would need for the next years of work and solitude. At a corner of his apartment, a set of spiral stairs communicated to the floors below and the tower terrace above.
In the days immediately before the ivory tower was finished, Kamal moved to his apartment in there. The masons were instructed to seal the only entrance, as he was not supposed to leave, or anyone to enter until his work was accomplished.
As the workers left, silence waved through the tower. Kamal’s endeavor was about to start.
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About the author
Cosmopolitan defines Mario Barbatti. Don’t let the Italian-sounding name deceives you. Born and bred in Brazil, in the last sixteen years, he and his wife, Carla, have lived and worked in Austria, Netherlands, Germany, and France, as well as visited three dozen countries.
Mario Barbatti is a renowned scientist. He earned a Ph.D. in physics in 2001, and since 2015, he is a professor of theoretical chemistry in the University of Aix Marseille in France. He has published over 150 papers in prestigious scientific journals, which have been cited over four thousand timed by his peers. In 2019, Mario Barbatti was awarded an ERC Advanced Grant, the most prestigious and competitive research funding in the European Union.
“One Billion Faces” is Barbatti’s first incursion in the fictional realm. The stories composing this book span a wild variety of topics and styles, to contemplate our role in the universe, often from an unexpected entanglement of fantastic realism and hard science fiction.
Table of contents
- The Ghosts
- Future Canvas
- The Last Digit of Infinity
- Parables of the Men
- With Love, Human
- Abram and Sarai
- The Grinch’s Trial
The Bibelots on the Shelf – Flash Stories:
- One Billion Faces
- To Live Is Too Dangerous
- When Icarus Flew Over The Hidden Side of the Moon
- The Time of My Selfish Altruism
- The American’s Pen and The Soviet’s Pencil
- The History of My Deaths
- The Statistician’s Love Life
- The End and the Life
- The Borderless Truth
- The Parable of the Ant