Titles Considered[edit | edit source]
Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash
Frank Herbert's Dune One
Greg Bear's Anvil of Stars
John Christopher The Tripods
Neuromancer[edit | edit source]
Essentially an exploration of a central computer mind or nexus, Gibson's Neuromancer has some of the most compelling imagery for the mental exploration of a cyber-landscape ever written. Although at that period of literature there was a pique of optimism about the future potential of computers, there was also a deep mutual dependence between the computer and the programmer. Programmers were respected as the philosophers of the medium, the only source for the nemesis of viruses, and the only critical solution.
The profound intermeshing of the computer and human mind offers the first innuendos that there will one day be a period where 'reality is unknown' and where cognitive metaphors dominate.
Snow Crash[edit | edit source]
A great novel well-read by Sci-Fi conneusseurs, Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash introduced the famous image of phone booths ringing one after another, following the protagonist. The image was re-used in the Matrix film, as a tribute.
Like many of Stephenson's books, Snow Crash is a platform for considering both the good and the bad, the wry and the rejectable qualities of post-virtual-reality existence. He introduces the concept of the Metaverse, which in his mind is a kind of emporium for ancient mythologies which have become virtual reality entities. In this sense, Snow Crash is important for entity concepts, the kind of simultaneously negligent and pan-historian occurences of the cyber-realm. For example, he believes that in some sense, there may be Gods in virtual reality, but that these gods must also have the powers of programming to maintain their godhood. It is thus an ironic look at the recurence of ancient philosophical thresholds as those of Thales who believed the world was made of water, and Heraclitus, who believed that everything passed away in a stream of fire. These philosophers become perspectives on a very finite experience, which has many perceptual qualities, namely tapping in and tapping out of "the grid"/ "the metaverse".
Dune One[edit | edit source]
I name Frank Herbert's Dune One because I believe it to be the best-written of the series of books by that name.
Dune takes the reader away from any obvious perspective on our own planet or even our own solar system, and focuses on an ambiguous future reality, in which a variety of life-forms, including the native Fremen, embibe a blue drug-substance and wrestle with the problems of their home world, and the politics of a variety of interloping empirial species, including the humanoid protagonist.
The concept of stoicism and wisdom training is introduced, along with psychic and telepathic concepts, in relation to the protagonist's training to become a great leader and join the elite. He is the first in a long line to not move when his thumb is pricked by a special super-painful needle, marking his passage towards some sort of prophetic ideal. The undercurrent of the book is something like, what is alien life like without obvious computers, or where is the future of mythological intelligence / what are the immortal myths when they play out on an alien planet? In the hero's return of water to the Fremen, there is a suggestion of the Biblical, but the book seems to accept some degree of indulgence and anarchy as part of the realism and the way that characters operate. In this sense it is a sort of moral novel, which favors individual identity, but also questions the difficult realities which are encountered.
Anvil of Stars[edit | edit source]
Greg Bear's Anvil of Stars introduces child psychology as a primary concept, introducing principles of the primacy of politics and developmental knowledge in framing future and xenoform concepts. The children are flying on an alien spaceship, and gradually uncover that their mission is to destroy a profound alien race responsible for destroying their home planet. Conflicts develop, as one political faction enacts the order, and another, led by the protagonist, resists. In a consideration of genocide themes, it becomes possible that the all-powerful starship is causing more damage than the enemy alien race had in the first place.
Another interesting theme in the book is the neutral race of Cords which constitute the starship and computer. It is as if the cords are ignored, while the political themes are allowed to dominate.
The Tripods[edit | edit source]
In a perennially down-to-earth psychological approach, John Christopher's Tripod books approach a context in which the alien race is intelligent and only half-malevolent, choosing to enslave the majority, and allow a few incompatible people to escape as madmen.
In this book, madness becomes the heroic concept, an allegory to the geniuses of already-extant history, and a forewarning of the ways the psyche may anticipate disaster before anyone has time to react.
The qualities of the alien pod structures are very richly detailed, with images of 'fog' and 'helmets' which must be specially adjusted to prevent mind-control, while allowing one to breathe the alien fungiform atmosphere.
The series does a strong job of depicting the psychological independence of the two species, who are still in very close physical proximity. What is alien is the alien's mind, the alien's sense of purpose. And yet, perhaps if humanity had become a conqueror, it too would appear menacing. What is also alien is unexpectedly---simply the environment from which the two species came from. As if it is inexplicable that humanity is not simply fighting with itself. In this sense, humanity is depicted as self-destructive, yet highly adaptive.
It is as though what is most valuable about the human condition is its unpredictable weakness, and its unfelt quality of superiority. It's will to dominate while accepting compromise. In that sense, this book offers some original politics.