Sunday, July 8, 2012

In the Absence of Apocalypse

Rumor has it that there's a Mayan Apocalypse coming in December. But just in case the world doesn't end, it might be worthwhile to wonder what's going to happen in the future. Today we're looking at some speculative fiction that imagines the world as it exists a few years down the road. Or a few hundred years as the case may be.

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson jumps forward three hundred years to a time when humans have spread out into the solar system. It includes the hard science and philosophy elements of classic science fiction, while also exploring the effects new technology has on human relationships. Because of the broad range of subjects pondered in its pages, it may be a good idea to keep a dictionary handy. (While I was reading it, I looked up the words "parthenogenesis," "widdershins," and "Goldsworthy." Just to give you an idea.) But don't let that stop you from picking it up. The deep thoughts are interspersed with mind-blowing imagery, pulse-pounding action, and a whodunit mystery to top it off. If you've ever imagined walking on the sun-scorched surface of Mercury or floating in the vastness of space, this is a book for you.

2030 by Albert Brooks doesn't go quite as far forward in time, but the changes imagined may be even more jarring because they hit so close to home. Brooks imagines that in eighteen years medical advances have cured cancer, which leaves all the Baby Boomers living well into their 90s. This puts a huge strain on the economy due to increased numbers of people tapping into Social Security. Young people, feeling bitter about the difficulties they're having making ends meet, begin thinking about revolution, which turns to violence. Meanwhile, America's first half-Jewish president is dealing with the catastrophe of the biggest earthquake ever to hit California. Los Angeles is leveled, and America can't pay to fix it. To tell his story Brooks bounces back and forth between common people and the mega-rich, the "olds" and the young, those with power and those without. It's unsettling, but interesting. While it's not the brightest future, who can say it's not the real one?

Review by Danny Hanbery

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