Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book 45: The Crack In Space


"The mind of man was uncommonly stubborn and slow to change. Reformers, including himself, were always prone to forget that. Victory always seemed just around the corner. But generally it was not, after all."

Dates read: April 23-25, 2016

Rating: 7/10

So remember how I was literally just telling you last week that science fiction isn't my genre of choice? Here's another science fiction book! It's a very different kind of science fiction, though. The Crack In Space mostly falls under the sci-fi label by virtue of its author (Philip K. Dick) and the fact that it's set in a future world with some advanced technology. It throws out one of those historical what-ifs that I'm so fond of, except way further back then I'd think to go: what if homo sapiens were not the kind of humans that won out evolutionarily?

The Crack in Space posits our world about 2080 (which, at the time it was published, would have been over 100 years in the future): there is severe overpopulation, to the extent that many young people are choosing to be cryogenically frozen until the labor market is better. It's an election year, and there's a black presidential nominee for the first time ever. That nominee, Jim Briskin, is struggling in his campaign until he's tipped off about some major news: there's been a rift discovered to a whole new that looks like it will support human life. Briskin seizes on this development to announce that it will be his platform to thaw out the frozen and give them this world to settle, and his opponent jockeys to match his promises, when it's revealed that the new world is populated after all, but not by people as we know them. Instead it's Peking man that survived. So now what?

That's maybe half the plot of this slim volume (it's about 200 pages long), but it's the main one. First of all, let me say that I'm glad that we beat out Dick's predictions and had our first black president 75 years ahead of schedule. Moving on from that, though, what I really enjoy about reading Dick's work is that he poses interesting, thoughtful questions rooted in an understanding of human nature. As much as we might think that if we discovered a parallel Earth we'd learn from our past and thoughtfully go about exploration and potential colonization, the reality is that in an election year, politicians would be falling all over each other to posture and secure an important position for themselves. If the world's population was so huge that abortion wasn't just widespread but encouraged, that people were freezing themselves in hopes of a better life someday, it would absolutely end up with people getting sent through the door/portal/whatever without much in the way of an actual plan while news cameras flashed and the powers that be congratulated themselves on a job well done. Maybe I'm a little cynical (I was a litigator and now I'm a lobbyist, so that probably comes with the territory), but I feel like Dick gets how people would actually behave instead of how they'd prefer to imagine they would. I found it a quick and enjoyable read which had me pondering alternate realities.

Tell me, blog friends...if mankind found a new world, would you want to be one of the colonists?

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