Category Archives: science fiction

Autonomous

There is a certain flavor that nearly all science fiction seems to contain. It’s not just the “future” aspect of the situations. It’s not only the “stuff” that appears, things that we maybe only vaguely imagined might come to be – that is all to be expected. Otherwise, how do we know we are in the future? No, it’s something about the tenor of the dialogue, or the particular way the scenes are depicted, that says, “yes, there’s just a little bit of affectation here that exists because I want to tell you something really cool that’s coming, but without sounding like it’s any big deal.”

That doesn’t describe with sufficient clarity what I want to say, but it does certainly apply to the present novel. I have no problem with it, per se, except that it does tend to detract from what would otherwise be a deeper engagement in the novel. I didn’t get lost in the narrative, because I was always listening to the author’s voice.

On second thought, maybe that’s not a flaw that is particular to science fiction. Maybe science fiction just shows it up more, because we are being asked in the first place to accept situations that seem, almost by definition, to be fantastical.

And yet, that’s the thing that makes a book such as Neuromancer so wonderful – the fact that everything seems so just out of the reach of the present day that I can accept it all, hook, line, and sinker. And yet Autonomous, although it is compared to Neuromancer in the liner notes, just doesn’t seem to have the same “of course” feeling.

And that is coming from one who has no problem at all accepting that humans and machines are going to merge, both physically and mentally. Yes, let’s take the best of both realms and see if we can’t make something better. Both heart and mind. It’s just a matter of evolution.

Zero History

by William Gibson

This was a fun read, and a fast read, but it didn’t blow me away. I’m not sure that anything Gibson writes from here on will ever top Neuromancer. That book set the bar for the particular brand of science fiction that places the future so near that you can practically smell it. And in fact the most recent books, Spook Country included, are set in what is recognizably the present.

And so while with Neuromancer Gibson seemed able to show us the world as it would be tomorrow or next week, Spook Country in some respects feels already dated. To be fair, it was published in 2010, and has been sitting on my shelf for months. A Gibson book published in 2010 must have been written in 2009, no? Therefore I should not be too critical of his use of the MacBook Air as the prop of choice, rather than the iPad… Plus the fact that the iPhone does play a prominent role, and this seems dead on. There’s an app for that.