philosophical science fiction in a multi-media context


Songs of the Zhongzi: Professional Reviews of the First Book

Note: in the second edition, the title of the first book has been altered to "Songs of the Zhongzi" from the original "Shianshenka, the Rise and Fall of the Perfect Creation". The reviews below are from the first edition

Review from Future Fire
Extract: This is Sivertsen’s philosophical experiment. It is a major undertaking: the charting, through narrative, of the creation of life through to its destruction. The rise and fall of social constructs, ethics, creativity, and ideological conflict. It is carried off in an episodic fashion. Having read it through, and thought about it, there are huge issues here, big themes of existence, humanity’s response to life and social-political debate carried out on a level of fictional exploration. This is speculative fiction at its purest: an actual speculation.
See the whole of Kate Onyett’s review at Future Fire.

Review from The Dying Book Affair, score 5 stars:
Extract: The book was refreshing; the world was unique, the characters inventive, and the language beautiful. Sivertsen has built a beautiful world and created multimedia accompaniments to take the reader far beyond the experience of the printed page. Upon closing the pages of Shianshenka, the time spent with the Zhongzi does not have to end. If you haven’t read this book yet, you should, because it is unlike anything else you’ve read before.
See the whole of H.E.Saunder’s review at the Dying Book Affair.

Review from Troll King, score 5 stars:
Extract: It is criminal that this work hasn’t received the attention it deserves because it does what all literature aspires to do, to tell the human story in a way that inspires and urges us to reflect upon our own mortality and our ambitions to achieve beyond our limitations. This book is a postmodern classic and should be canonized amongst essential literary works to read. Therefore, despite the multimedia content, this book has earned the highest accolade of 5 stars.
See the whole of Noor Al Jahangir’s review at Trollking Reviews.

Review from Speculative Fiction, Score 8/10:
Extract: Shianshenka is an interesting book that will make you think, and that is a great. The characters may be simple feathery balls (that is how I pictured them in my mind) but they pack a very intellectual punch that I think many readers will enjoy. There are a lot of complex concepts brought to the forefront that are presented in the most simple and entertaining way. Big picture ideas that will make the reader think. Recommended.
See the whole of Tyson Maurmann’s review on Speculative Fiction Reviews (you may have to use the search field - search for "shianshenka).

Review from Bill Silva of Reviewers in Black:
Extract: If Star Wars is the rock and roll of Science Fiction, Doctor Who the Disco and Star Trek the marching band, Shianshenka is the Discovery channel documentary, with native music spread throughout in the form of the actual soundtrack of the book. Like the book, these short music videos (which can be found on Youtube or by scanning a QR code inside the book) are slow, colorful and moody, and spare no effort. While they have no flashy visuals or million dollar budget, they’re on the outer end of what someone at home could produce, meaning that they clearly took both effort and talent, both in the audio and video side of the production.
See the whole of Bill Silva’s review on Fantasy and Sci Fi Loving Reviews.

Songs of the Zhongzi: Reader's Comments on the First Book (from

“Seed the Universe!” a philosopher wrote in a well-known science magazine around a year ago. Now Rowen Sivertsen has done it and I like her story better! Colorful, thoughtful and intelligent!
Guro Tarjem, Nesodden – Norway

To begin with it was difficult to imagine that it was even possible to become interested in these strange little creatures, but as it turned out I quickly became curious as to what would happen to them. In fact it got quite enthralling and by the end I didn’t want to put the book down.
Kari-Anne Selvik, Hellvik – Norway

I was hooked right from the beginning. I became immersed in the strange world and its characters, and as I approached the end of the book I was sorry that it had to end. I could have happily consumed twice the number of words! I was also impressed with the author’s poetry skills.
Philippa Barker, Bradford – England

A fascinating parody of the human condition. The Zhongzi live a simple existence, rendered complex by curiosity and ingenuity and are finally brought down by misunderstandings and megalomania. I was gripped by the story and liked the little spark of hope that the two surviving colonies offered. I hope that it is not too close a parody!
Nick Gamble, Chippenham – England

This book really set me thinking: What would I communicate to my children if I only have one golden hour? What would our world be like if we did not have to struggle for food and water and shelter, but could engage in everything else? It all happens in the beautiful, colourful world of Shianshenka. Long after I had put down the book and seen all the videos, I couldn’t let go.
Marianne Hendriksen, Nesoddtangen – Norway

Not quite science fiction, not quite fantasy, not quite moral fable, but something interesting in between.
Karen Lisa Kirkengen, Oslo – Norway

Shianshenka, the book and the videos together, draw the reader into a world of innocence and adventure, creating inner pictures of beauty and enchantment. What would happen if the agents that we believe lead to evil were removed? Would curiosity, good intentions and engagement eventually lead to “evil” actions? Are human ethics universal? Quite apart from being a fascinating story well told, for me, this is where the unique tensions at the core of this book lie. Read it!
Lasse Naess, Oslo – Norway

Shianshenka creates an engaging world of curious creatures and deep meaning. This world is unlike any other fantasy or science fiction novel I have come across. It is precisely the alien nature of the world and the creatures within it that create such a wonderful and fascinating platform for exploring and highlighting the very human issues of love, survival, social progress and betrayal. It is a real page-turner, and I particularly enjoyed how quickly the reader is immersed into and naturally grasps a fundamentally different universe, with all it‘s consequences.
Stefani Pellinen Chavez, San Francisco – USA

The author has managed to create a complete, consistent and fascinating world.
Tarjei Selvik, Hellvik – Norway

I thoroughly enjoyed Shianshenka, every time I thought I have figured out this bizarre world another strange surprise would come along. A delightful retreat from everyday life!
Will Gamble, Loughborough – England

Imagine a world where life is totally different to life as we know it. The protagonists are intelligent creatures with an appetite for life, creatures unlike anything on Earth, that create a society based on an ideology and a love of beauty. This book can be read on many different levels. It takes our imagination on a long trip and will be a godsend for anyone looking for fantasy and adventure “with that little extra”.
Rose-Marie Kristiansen, Oslo -Norway

This book can be read on so many levels. As an adventure it takes the reader into strange situations, new sets of rules and a colorful kaleidoscope of strange creatures, all of which is fun. But at a deeper level it parodies very human questions such as how to develop healthy communities, how to cater for a questing intelligence, how to deal with diverging ideologies and how to prevent boredom in a perfect society. Taken together with the song videos, the result is a product that will capture the imagination of people of all ages from young teenagers upwards.
Siri Skåre, Oslo – Norway