Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Well, I got home from a tiring day at work yesterday to discover that one of the books I’d ordered from Alibris had arrived. I microwaved a frozen meal and eagerly tore open the package to discover it was Brennen‘s recommendation, John Brunner’s SF novel The Shockwave Rider. I began reading, and didn’t put it down until I’d read the last page at 1:00 a.m.

I’m still unsure if I agree with it. In fact, there’s at least one deliciously ironic underlying contradiction (or structural story flaw, at least). But on the whole I strongly agree with much of its fundamental premises—that modern people tend to put technology and social constraints ahead of others’ humanity, and that society has taken a lot of wrong turns lately.

Though The Shockwave Rider takes the unfortunately common tack of making these problems into a black-and-white moral take of Good People versus Evil People. There’s the wise college students sticking it to the evil military-industrial complex which is full of people who blithely hate and destroy. I’d have been a lot more impressed had the novel spent more time on everyone’s propensity for good and evil, and for that whole idea of the road to Hell being paved with good intentions. I’ve observed that much of the evil in this world is perpetuated not by actively evil men but by passively indifferent ones, by generally nice people who spend time with their daughters and read self-help books and squeeze money out of the weekly budget for a local charity and then go into the office and find ways to avoid dealing with that uncomfortable e-mail from a subordinate.

But I shouldn’t let my personal desires for a better novel detract from an obviously excellent novel, and The Shockwave Rider certainly is one. I was initially a little disoriented by the aggressive use of futuristic terminology and frequent leaps from character to character, but I soon got used to it. It’s tightly plotted, the characters are intriguing and three-dimensional, and I was fascinated all the way through.

…Hmmm. Reading over that again, I realize that I have the grist for another journal entry: How my nonfiction reading skills have affected my SF reading skills. I wasn’t reading that book right. But more on that later, if I can actually carve out some time in the evening to write journal entries.

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