At the brink of self-destruction: A review of The Agony of Survival

The Agony of Survival: A novel by Dr. Spyros Vrettos

The Agony of Survival is the first book in a trilogy in which Spyros Vrettos addresses the vital issue of survival in its entire manifestation as well as the fate of the modern humans. The advance of technology, the degradation of the environment, the neglect of nature, and the exploitation of natural resources have brought upon humanity multiple imminent dangers and threatening disasters: natural disasters, pollution of the environment, mass murders, epidemics and deadly diseases–mainly cancer, destruction, failure of the worldwide economic system, and other extensive horrors that afflict our planet. Despite the threatening visible or invisible dangers, Vrettos is optimistic that there is hope; there is still time to save our planet and the human race, by seeking intelligent avenues of escape and rebirth. The plausible question of whether human intelligence suffices to prevent the course to destruction is the related theme of The Incredible Machine, the second book in the trilogy (published in Greece in 2009). The last book (in process of writing), The Peacemaker, addresses the general conditions which could salvage our planet by diminishing the agony of human survival, and creating the global passage to an optimistic future.

The Agony of Survival evolves around two couples who must have escaped the dreadful reality and seek peace, love, and art in a remote village (possibly Lefkada, an island drowned in light and rare beauty). Aris, the main character, is an exceptionally endowed man and a brilliant investor. He senses that destructive forces are developing worldwide and he can trace them through his complicated electronic systems. He thinks that he can survive them. That’s why he has constructed a modern building with rare electronic equipment which allows him to live in, and communicate with the entire planet to obtain information. This way, he can successfully and universally control his investments. His friend, a film director who is now dead, has helped Aris to comprehend better the threatening reality with a film a friend of his, now dead, has made, where Dante and Virgil fly over the entire Earth and witness horrible disasters and diseases that plague the planet. Aris realizes that the salvation of the economy of the planet, and life itself require a far greater capacity of human intelligence.

Although Aris tries desperately to escape everyday perils, his attempts prove an illusion and the vital question arises, if he will be able to survive as death treats all humans the same way. “He certified his passport, he travels everywhere, and he is welcome. The nations of the earth greet him–this is not a war–a hunter certain of his prey, he advances in short steps. Yet, on and on he goes, a true democrat, without class distinctions. He strikes continuously…” (p. 35). This shows that all humans without exceptions must strive to survive.

Aris lives with young, joyful Danae, a woman full of optimism and femininity, and with a smile always on her face. He met her during his visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Danae is “a true breath of life” for Aris, whose actions are governed by love. She stood by his side and her presence is an essential strength for his stability and action. Aris assumes that the reason Danae stays with him–besides fear and obligation–is love. Danae is a painter and in her works, she tries to immortalize the beauty of life.

Thomas, a brilliant, emerging economist, collaborates with Aris–and like-minded people–he seeks to apply his economic theories. Later in the story, Thomas replaces Aris in the modern building with the library-workshop and the investment projects. He cannot comprehend what heights Aris has approached, but he does know that something menacing is developing and something frightening can happen at any time. He himself cannot do anything about it–or so he thinks–other than devote his time to his investment projects. When Thomas moves in the building, Danae recognizes him. The two had met at the same university once. Thomas brings along Eleanor, a blonde young woman with refined movements who seeks the true meaning of modern life that will free her of her frigidity and psychological shrinkage in which she lives. She wants to regain strength and youthfulness, and to feel love. She searches mainly through study, and she experiences life through art.

The timeliness of The Agony of Survival is verified constantly today: the massive earthquake in Japan (March 11, 2011) that triggered the 23-foot tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant explotion, devastating weather phenomena, financial crisis, diseases, and various other threats plague our planet daily. Despite the negative incidents of the story, the author does not wish to spoil the serenity of his readers, but rather to offer them the joy of involving themselves directly in issues about their lives and their survival. He wants to believe that humans will survive all odds; that our planet will survive–a planet which will never cease to emit the beauty and joy of life. The romance that interweaves with the main philosophical ideas makes this book accessible not only to philosophically inclined readers but to the everyday man or woman who searches for meaning in the chaos of modern life.

Enjoy the book! Χαρίκλεια

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