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What are you reading, Mr. Häcker?

Karsten Häcker is Chief Information Officer at the Max Delbrück Center. He loves the world of science as much as the world of computers. Sporting challenges and discoveries are his metier. In his reading tip, a science fiction novel, he takes you to the North Pole.

Two worlds, two civilizations meet that could not be more different. Today, this is a somewhat boring topos in literature and film; at the end of the 19th century, it was cutting-edge.

The trend was set by science fiction authors. Besides the well-known British H. G. Wells and the French Jules Verne, there was also a German writer who has unfortunately been largely forgotten today. Kurd Laßwitz was one of these early adapters of the time.

In his 1,000-page novel "The Two Planets," he created a fictional world on Mars that was technologically advanced and socially so "advanced" that conflicts or even wars were a thing of the distant past. The other world, on the other hand, is Earth at the beginning of the 20th century, and it is just as it was. The great powers are fighting over colonies, are the capitalists there, who are taking over everything, and the majority of mankind suffers from war, hunger, diseases.

Karsten Häcker

It all begins with an expedition to the Arctic: the North Pole is to be found and explored. It quickly becomes clear to the human protagonists, and shortly thereafter to all of humanity, that they are not alone on Earth. The Martians - as Laßwitz calls the Martians or Numen, as he lets the Martians call themselves - have established a base there years ago. This base resembles a station of the most modern type with oversized windows through which the species-rich underwater world can be admired. Laßwitz's world is full of gadgets that seem outdated from today's perspective, but weren't even invented back then, such as telephone systems or self-turning books.

In contrast to the characters of other authors, the aliens of the Laßwitzer coinage are cultivated. Reasonable, enlightened and technologically superior, they are the better humans. For this reason, they also become teachers who willingly make their technology available to humans and turn them into better beings. How or if this project succeeds, shall not be revealed here...

I can promise that even 130 years later, many topics are more topical than ever. The Martians successfully use the sun to produce electricity and heat. Laßwitz's vision of how energy is becoming the currency, the dominant component of society, is thought-provoking - especially in the context of current events. The multitude of small or large technological advances has a massive influence on living together, the world of work, and ultimately the society of the Martians.

Conclusion: 5 stars for these 1000 pages of reading fun or 24 h listening pleasure.

Kurd Laßwitz - "Auf zwei Planeten" / "Two Planets", published 1897