Maquina Lectora

Notes of a curious mind

Category: Science-fiction

The Sea and the Summer by George Turner

“Nothing can save this crumbling planet except the elimination of three quarters of it’s people.  And we know that can happen.”

A few months ago I discovered George Turner. For someone who loves science- fiction, not to know George Turner is frankly embarrassing. My only excuse is that The Sea and the Summer does not feel like a science-fiction.  It is so closely based on extrapolation of proven scientific facts that it is difficult to describe it as science fiction at all. The plot is not great but the structure of the story is interesting and complex. There is an intense human feeling throughout the book; the novel is character-driven rather than plot-driven.

Born in 1916, George Turner was already an accomplished novelist before he started writing science- fiction in the late ’70s. The Sea and the Summer first published 30 years ago, in 1987, but it still holds remarkably well. The story sets in mid-21st century Melbourne; global warming, rising temperatures and sea-levels (from the greenhouse effect) combined with automation and economic collapse has created a caste line system between those with jobs “the Sweet”, and the unemployed welfare takers “the Swill”. The Swill (90% of the total population) live in big towers, in enclosed overpopulated enclaves at the edges of the cities, with just enough to survive on. It is a vertical slum in the Greenhouse Years.

There are also the people who live in “the Fringe”, a place between the two camps where the people who lose their jobs end up before being absorbed by “the Swill”. It is there, in the Fringe where the two brothers, Teddy and Francis Conway, end up after the death of their father.  They react differently in this change; Teddy passes a special exam to join a special police force, and Francis uses his talent for numbers to join the back market working for a Sweet wealthy businesswoman.

George Turner examines several issues in this novel. Overpopulation, environmental destruction, economic collapse, and the inability of our societies to distribute resources and opportunities in a fair and equitable manner. There is also a second shorter story with the main story, that takes place in the distant future. Humanity has survived the Greenhouse Years, and is preparing to face another Ice Age

The Sea and Summer is not an entertaining story. It is a vivid, remarkable and uncomfortable account of life on the edge.

The novel won the second Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1988.

You may think that it is just harmless science – fiction. Well, maybe. – New York 2140

It could be more relevant. The waters have risen 50ft (about 15 metres). New York is the New Venice, its streets have become canals, and its skyscrapers are linked with sky bridges and boat taxis.  The year is 2140, and humanity did little to slow down climate change.

You may think that it is just harmless science – fiction. Well, maybe.

But temperature is rising,  sea level is rising at an increasing rate. In the United States, almost 40 percent of the population lives in relatively high-population-density coastal areas, where sea level plays a role in flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms.

Earth and life will survive. But will we?

I don’t believe that leaders alone can change things. It’s us that we choose them.  And our choice tells the world a lot about us.  Each one of us can make a difference, starting by making a conscious effort to think differently. Educate ourselves.

Climate Change is the greatest threat facing our world today. There is no bigger challenge.

New York 2140 is an impressively ambitious and broad in scope novel. The structure is unconventional, and intriguingly complex. The characters, a diverse and disparate group of people that reside in the same building, Manhattan’s MetLife Tower, appeared unrelated, only to be connected when disaster stuck.

Kim Stanley Robinson explores a some great and challenging ideas. Influenced by by the 2008 financial meltdown, he links climate change to today’s highly destructive economic and political reality and explores the social and economic impact of climate change.

Kill the Science or how to contain a civilization’s development -The 3-body problem by Cixin Liu

Despite the recent boom for foreign fiction in the U.K., it is still difficult in getting English-language readers to pay attention to science fiction not written in English. There were a few translations from Chinese writers, I remember Lao She’s Cat Country translated in the 1970s, but Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem must be the first modern hard science fiction translated from Chinese in English. It is a story that combines plausible physics and high-concept ideas, such as the 3-body problem referred in the title, innovative nanomaterials and technology of energy transmissions with a compelling story that explores key social, political, and historical events in the People’s Republic of China since the dark years of the Cultural revolution.

In his Author’s Postscript Cixin Liu argues that

“science fiction is a literature that belongs to all humankind. It portrays events of interest to all humanity, and thus science fiction should be the literary genre most accessible to readers of different nations. Science fiction often describes a day when humanity will form a harmonious whole and I believe the arrival of such a day need not to wait for the appearance of extraterrestrials.”

The Three-Body Problem which was first published in China in 2008, is the first book of the trilogy titled Remembrance of Earth’s Past. It is a fascinating read; it explores the chaotic and doomed world of Trisolarans, an alien civilisation who see the colonization of Earth as their best chance at survival.

Central to the story is the 3-body problem, the oldest – it is dating back to Newton – unsolved problem in mathematical physics. Unlike the two-body problem, the numerical orbit integrations to determine the evolution of a three-body system are unstable, and decay either into three separate stars moving away to infinity, or into a binary star and a single star.

Kill the Science – A brief abstract of how to contain a civilization’s development.

“…To effective contain a civilization’s development and disarm it across such a long span of time, there is only one way: kill its science.”

The science consul said:  “The plan focuses on emphasizing the negative environmental effects of scientific development and showing signs of supernatural power to the population of Earth. In addition to highlighting the negative effects of progress, we’ll also attempt to use a series of ‘miracles’ to construct an illusory universe that cannot be explained by the logic of science. After these illusions have been maintained for some time, it’s possible that Trisoralan civilisation may become a target of religious worship there. Then, unscientific ways of thinking will dominate scientific thinking among human intellectuals, and lead to the collapse of the entire scientific system of thought.”

Post-Humans: Transcending our biological limitations

“When the boundary between magic and science had blurred until it was unrecognizable”

This a review of four books in one, they are small books, all interconnected and therefore makes sense to review them as one. It is the Post-Human series by David Simpson which has been an indie success in amazon kindle.

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Aurora: Our voyage from Earth began generations ago

Human beings live in ideas. That they were condemning their descendants to death and extinction did not occur to them, or if it did they repressed the thought, ignored it, and forged on anyway. They did not care as much about their descendants as they did about their ideas, their enthusiasms.

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Posthumans on the run – NEXUS by Ramez Naam

I am intrigued by the whole concept of  transhumans and posthumans. I am fascinated and terrified the same time by the technology, the possibilities, of this dynamic interplay between humanity and technology.  Some call this singularity, but there is no reference of this in the story.

Nexus is a  street “nano-drug” that allows people to  run software in their brains and connect telepathically.  There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it.

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