Monday, June 28, 2004

Ex Libris: A Comment on David Brin's "Earth"

David Brin is an optimist. Brin admits it himself in the afterword of his book, Earth, that he was hopeful for the world's future.

Considering the apocalyptic and dystopian stories that science-fiction has made famous (like the dying-earth stories of George R. Stewart's Earth Abides, Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon, John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar on one hand and the cyberpunk-esque Neuromancer of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's Mirrorshades anthology on the other), that's supposedly saying something.

I really haven't read most of the above except for Gibson's book. However, having read Brin's 'global opus', I can say that his optimism is apparent despite his 20-minute extrapolation of a rather bleak and ecologically-ravaged future of the world.

This becomes more obvious during the story when Brin throws one curve ball too many. This certain idea-- which I can't say to avoid spoiling it for those who haven't read the book yet-- kind of threw me out of my reading groove as he more or less absolved mankind of the crime central to the plot.

(This left me wanting to shout, "But wait, where's the guilt in that? Dystopic and apocalyptic SF books supposedly should make you guilty!" Ah well...)

Despite this, Brin makes good with this stew of a book with more than enough interesting ideas, enough characters to people Roland Emmerich's latest disaster flick, and enough plot twists to keep you all tied up. Lastly, Brin avoids making the mistake of being preachy about the subject matter. Well, not that obvious anyway.

All in all, a satisfying read about a not-so-interesting topic (for me anyway) from one of the masters of SF. After all, if a book can keep you reading despite its lackluster selling point, that should say something, doesn't it?

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