Friday, April 29, 2011

Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge

Science fiction.

It's one of those things that I hate to love, but I do love it. I'm on page 35 of Vinge's novel and already there are holograms, biological warfare, a cure for Alzheimers and rabbits. Is this the likely future of the world? No... Does it create possibilities for the future by imagining them? Possibly... So there are pros and cons to science fiction.

It's passages like these that leave me embarrassed. Here the speaker is looking at the Sagrada Familia in the future Barcelona:

"The cathedral was best seen without virtual elaboration; after all, the reality of Gaudi architecture was gaudy beyond the imagination of modern revisionists" (20).

Science fiction is by nature a commentary on the trends are society are taking, what we believe the world is "coming to." The implication of this passage, I think, is that we are moving away from a "pure" form of viewing the world and towards a more digitized, imagination-less form of experience. But is it so necessary to warn the readership about such an ubiquitous trend, something that has already been so touched upon and rehashed and hit over the head with shovels that the message is less inspiring than redundant? Yes, humankind now watches more television than it did one generation ago. Is there anything more to say about this?

But then there are also passages like this, which leave me a little more than satisfied. A recovering Alzheimers' patient is taking a ride in his wheelchair, driven by his granddaughter:

"'Some tour!' he groused. 'I can't see a Dam Ned thing.' The wheelchair abruptly slowed. 'Really?' The little wretch was all but chortling. 'Don't worry, Robert! There's some devious twiddling that can fix your eyes.'"

Devious twiddling. Will that be our attitude towards medical miracles in the future? That's a fresh and worthwhile thought.

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