Monday, January 28, 2008

No future for you

In an interview with Powells (to which I cannot link as the Chinese censors are apparently not down with Powells), George R R Martin identified five novels which should have won the Nebula (or maybe it was the Hugo, I can't remember.) One of them was Wilson Tucker's The Year of the Quiet Sun from 1970. While I expect it made for a riveting read back in the Nixon days, today it reads as a dated tale of the apocalypse. Its quite good but is really meant for those whose reading tastes lean to the eschatological.

The book starts in 1978 where the Vietnam war continues at the ferocious level of the 68-70 period with China becoming directly involved. Crime has escalated to the point where trains are armored and the President is a tad wacky.

Super-smart, Bartlett's quoting Brian Chaney (who reads like a stand in for the author) is known for his Biblical writings about Revelation. The government asks him to recommend changes for the nation and he produces a creepily statist report (another 70s peculiarity) that calls for all kinds of paternalist stuff like banning emigration to California. Chaney is recruited into a time machine project along with a two military men. Unlike nearly every other time travel tale ever, they decide to go to the future rather than the past.

The crappy present of the book is just a teaser for a really crappy future. I won't spoil the surprises, as there are some bleak twists and a nasty little ending. The main problem is that the scenario created feels so far from today's world, that it will really only appeal to those who like to see different versions of how our world might end.

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