Visions of Paradise

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Godlike Machines, part 2

The second story in the original anthology Godlike Machines is Stephen Baxter’s “Return to Titan,” which is related to the Michael Poole sub-series of his Xeelee series. I have not read the Michael Poole novels, although I know who he is through being mentioned in several stories in Baxter's Xeelee anthology Resplendent. This story reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Meeting With Medusa” and Rendezvous With Rama, since its primary emphasis was on exploring Titan and featured much scientific talk and discovery.

But since this was a Baxter story, rather than a Clarke story, there was also a strong human-interest aspect. The three explorers of Titan brought along a fourth member who was “gang-pressed” into joining them against his wishes, and the explorers were also breaking the law in disrupting a place which might contain sentience. Early in their exploration, their vehicle is destroyed first by being forced to crash on the surface by creatures resembling giant birds, and then it is totally torn apart for its metal by giant spider-like beings.

This was a good story along the lines of one of Clarke’s 70s “grand tour” stories, and while it is not Baxter at the top of his form, even middle Baxter is enjoyable reading.

Next came Cory Doctorow’s “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow / Now is the Best Time of Your Life.” Doctorow is one of the few writers obsessed with technology whose fiction I enjoy, largely because he never forgets to tell a human-interest story which uses technological advances to set the background. In this story, Jimmy is a near-immortal boy who for most of the story remains physically 10 years old even though he has been alive for four decades. At the story’s start, Jimmy and his dad are two of the few humans living in a shattered Detroit, using giant mecha in their struggle to keep the remnants intact against attacks by equally-powerful wampuses determined to destroy all remnants of the great cities.

After Jimmy flees Detroit, he spends the next twenty years living in a commune whose members are artificially joined in a common emotional-bond through wires in their head, but Jimmy’s immortality prevents him from total connection to the others. Still he lives there peacefully until Jimmy’s childhood friend from Detroit shows up, who happens to be daughter of the man who destroyed the city. This is a good story about people’s motives and relationships in the midst of constant warfare between city and country. The story got a bit muddled at the end though, when the technology got out of control and the storyline got buried as a result, but most of it was worthwhile reading.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home