As with all reviews on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete overview of the book; rather, it is to examine how the book relates to the meaning of life.
Screaming Planet by Alejandro Jodorowsky is a science fiction collection of short stories told in ten pages or less, that were featured in Metal Hurlant. The version we read was released in two volumes in 2014 - vol 1 and vol 2.
The first story, The Last Word, revolves around the Humghar race (perhaps an obvious spin on the human race), and the planet which created them. The planet believed it had made something divine, dreamed that the Humghar race would sing songs of love and peace. But that was not to be. Instead, the race of beings destroyed the planet, scorched the ground, and fought each other. Eventually there was nothing left but ash and soot. The planet, distressed and tortured, fashioned itself into a face resembling that of its creations—its creations that wanted more of everything, while simultaneously destroying everything in its path. Having nothing left, the Humghar race then wanted to conquer the universe spreading more death and destruction. The face, who would become the Screaming Planet, saw its creations, and saw that they were not good, and hence destroyed the inhabitants in a deluge of fire. The face of the planet then had nothing left to do but to travel the universe screaming in agony and despair, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. As the planet would cross paths with other sentient beings, agony and despair would fall upon them as well.
So how does the series relate to the meaning of life? In volume 2, Masters of Destiny, there are a group of people fighting space Hydras. Down to the last ship, the last two crew members face off with the last Hydra. The Hydra dies and so does one of the pilots—Khull. But before dying, Khull tells the other crew member, Hondo, that he could have known that he would die on this day, at this time, in this year—his greatest regret was not knowing. For there is a race of beings that have this information. Hondo at that moment decides that he doesn't want to die like his friend not knowing the time or place. So, he takes off to find the species, the turtle-sapiens. Upon finding the turtle-sapiens, he learns that he has six years left to live. At the same time he meets the love of his life, a woman who also has exactly six years left to live.
The two live the last six years of their lives passionately, not wasting a single moment.
Finding love, they believe they have found the meaning of life.
But eventually they realized that their love was actually hate, and they kill each other. This, of course, occurs after the screaming planet enters the atmosphere of their planet. So the question is, where they ever in love, or where they just caught up in the moment, caught up in carnal desires?
So, although this story doesn't get as overly philosophical as some of Jodorowsky's other works, what we see here is a very light garnishing of meaning and love, on top of a story about life, death, and divination. It also raises the question, if we could know the day of our death, would we want to know? Most say no. Hondo bucked the trend, having saw what misery the lack of knowledge brought to his friend in his final moments.
Overall, the Screaming Planet series is highly recommended. Other stories, e.g., Robochrist examine the concept of machines having souls (or the lack thereof) and perhaps even says something about ourselves having souls (or the lack thereof) as biological beings. Then we have the story, Tears of Gold, where a child one day wakes up crying ... you guessed it, tears of gold! His family, who is quite poor is elated. They can finally pay rent, buy some food, some clothes, and lots of luxury goods! Though they survived while poor, once they are rich, all their material possessions never seem to be enough. To live, they need more! So, they quickly do anything and everything to make the boy cry even more. More is more! Eventually the kid develops some tolerance to the torture, so the antics of the family become more and more extreme as their greed grows exuberantly. This story is a clear jab at out of control capitalism (a concept Jodorowsky also explores in the The Technopriests series) and you'll just have to read it to find out what happens in the end.
If you've read the series, let us know what you think by commenting below. What is your favorite story in the Screaming Planet series?