Let me first of all say that I was given a free copy to review, and that M.C.A. Hogarth is a friend of a friend. Having said that I was reviewing this from a clear perspective, and if I didn't like it, I would simply not write a review on it. I did like it, and a lot of things about it as well.
What's the difference? Well, let me clarify. First, from a pure componented perspective, I liked numerous elements separate of the work as a whole. I like the fact that this story followed the patron model. The author wrote a series of stories, which about 50 paid for because they wanted to see more. Thus, without their interest and input, more would not have been made. I think that in the modern world of the internet, this is the ideal method rather than giving substantial amounts of money to middle men who take a cut and give nothing in return. There are those channels which are good, but there are many who are not. And I favor direct patronage as the highest model.
The second was the fact that this was social science fiction, but it wasn't just that, it was well done. Science fiction is always a method of looking back at ourselves through a prism that is simply not possible in the real world. I learned a lot by watching the Naked Mole rat in the zoo. What the hell? You ask.
Let me clarify. A common criticism in science fiction is that aliens are not sufficiently alien. They should be tentacled horrors rather than humanoid. And yet...did you know that Naked Mole rats have a hive structure? Yes, that's right. They aren't a herb, but have a queen just like certain kinds of insects. Thusly, I have come to find humanoid aliens potentially more plausible than something that would have to evolve an entirely different way of using technology than ourselves. I don't consider the latter impossible, just not as likely as a humanoid. And the aliens Hogarth presents in his story are in many ways like us. There is a distinctly asian feel to their culture, but they are not simply ancient Japan or ancient China with the serial numbers filed off.
No, I argue that the reason the culture feels this way is because it is obviously ancient. Let me give you an example of what I mean. If someone from the 15th century were somehow magically transported to the present day, they would be generally very rude by our standards. They would not do this intentionally, but dozens of elements of etiquette that we take for granted in our society are simply instilled in us by birth. As time progresses society has ways of working things out.
The thing I like so much about the Aphorisms is that it portrays what is obviously on the surface a very static society while at the same time answering any questions I had about how they manage to avoid ossification and thus ultimate destruction. It has a vibrancy beneath the surface that thus legitimizes its longevity.
In other words, Hogarth has created a society I can actually believe in, doing so in the actual format that an alien would write it no less. This feels not a book written by a 21rst century writer set in an alien world, it is written by a distant alien and translated into English.
But the best element of the book is the actual skill of the writing itself. Hogarth knows how to write and does so quite impressively. I highly recommend the book to hard core sci fi readers or those who are interested in philosophical musings in fictional form.