Thursday, February 9, 2012

This Ain't Sparta!

According to the tracking, this is my 300th blog post. Now THAT'S Long-winded. Most other folks don't get that far, they lose interest, or get busy with other stuff.

Although this is #300, there is no Sparta going on here. In that movie, the Spartans proudly talked about being "free Greeks."

Um, somebody missing a concept there... They were about as unfree as you can get. They served a King, high ministers, the state, and a horribly rigid social code which prescribed killing for anyone straying from it even the slightest. Not really free there, fellas.

But I have something free for you today, a review of a terrific new book by Jennifer Pelland, twice a nominee for the prestigious Nebula Award in Science Fiction. The book is Machine, her new novel, and it's definitely worth a read. She'll be interviewed here soon, so send any questions you might have for her.


Whether you call it science fiction, or speculative fiction, or sociological fiction, or any other term, the genre field is about technological advances, but more importantly, what those changes in technology mean to us as humans. The best examples show us how people's lives are altered with this new leap in the sciences-- what about us changes, and what remains essentially the same. The humanity of the story is what truly matters.

In Machine, the humanity of the story is all, as it should be. Jennifer Pelland gives us a heart-rending tale of a life altered by a technological advance. When science can put our consciousness into a mechanical body, who would want to go back to their fleshly frame? When there are, in effect, two of you, which is the "real" one? Does that term have significance anymore? How would your loved ones react to your mind in a different shell?

These questions and more pop up in this masterful book. So many different viewpoints are shown as to what people would think about the technique, and what happens to those who undergo it. There are religious and ethical protesters, opportunists, fetishists, and others who are portrayed against the personal struggle of one woman to keep her identity and life together.

When, for medical reasons, the protagonist Celia Isoke Krajewski undergoes the procedure to put her fleshly body in stasis while she "lives" in a mechanical copy, she awakens to find that in the eyes of some, she is now a monster. Those now opposed to her include her nearest and dearest loved ones. She soon becomes an outcast, separated from all she has known. She finds unlikely allies in her struggle to understand who she now is and what that means.

The book realistically shows that although society changes in regard to some personal choices, people in the book continue to hold bigoted opinions about what others are doing with their bodies and selves. The characters are tolerant about their own choices, but demand that others submit to a different standard.

So we have a grand example of a book that examines what it is to be human when the boundaries of humanity are stretched and morphed into alternatives. Is it an evolution or an abomination? Machine will make you think and give you a new understanding about identity, gender, and beliefs.

When you have finished with Machine and want to read more by this talented author, get her book of stories, Unwelcome Bodies, with further explorations of identity and change.

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