Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Parables



As part of my Nebula reading project, I read Darwin's Radio in June. I also read the sequel, Darwin's Children. Not as good.

The latest (15th) book I've read in that project is Parable of the Talents. But first, I had to read Parable of the Sower, the first book in the series.

Yep, had to read it. I can't stand to pick up the middle book in a series and start there. When I was a kid, I read all of the Hardy Boys books in order, up until, I think, Number 33. I read them in order, even though the only connection each book had with others in the series was in the beginning, where the book would say something like, "The young detectives had recently broken a car theft ring...", or at the end, with, "The young detectives did not know that events were already occurring which would soon involve them in another challenging case, The Great Airport Mystery."

(I stopped reading when I thought I had lost Book 33. It turned out, I think, that I had forgotten returning the book to the library. Still, the experience spooked me enough to stop reading the series. Yes, I was the kind of child who was spooked by overdue library books.)

Where was I? Ah, yes, the Parable of the Sower. The book is set in a dystopian near-future in the US where climate change and...er, something or other...fuel shortages, I think...have plunged the United States into something approaching Third World status. I found the whole scenario fairly implausible, but then I noticed the word "parable" in the title. Well, why was I taking things so literally? But then, after finishing the book, I read the author interview that was included with the "reading group" edition. Apparently, this book reflects the path that she feels the country is headed down if things continue as they are.

Huh. I sort of recognize this point of view from my days on college campuses --- it's a particular kind of leftist "things are doomed" worldview. I say this, please understand, as a registered Democrat who thinks we aren't taking climate change and alternate fuels seriously enough. But America doesn't rely on a good climate and oil supplies for its position in the world economy. If anything, Third World economies are more dependent on raw materials (oil, food) than the US. So I found the premise of the book (well, both books) hard to swallow.

That said, I found the narrative fairly compelling, if bleak. The characters were extremely nuanced and human --- unfortunately a rarer occurrence than it should be in science fiction. They were books I had a hard time putting down, but I was also happy to be done with them and to move onto lighter fare.
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