Monday, October 31, 2022

Perfect Storm Book Club

Aldus Huxley's Brave New World reinterprets Shakespeare's Tempest with a then-modern twist of displaying technology as the poisonous vehicle that spawns the new world order, a division wrought by imperious, impersonal logic, the depiction of our twentieth century unshakeable faith in the redemptive power of technology, all answers cloaked in science as we are shown "the best society." This new order is one no less hateful than Prospero's passionate machinations, and perhaps even more horrific for its sterility. Emily St. John Mandel continues the Bard's legacy in Station Eleven, leaving off of either magic or science, and giving us, instead, art and a cultish adherence to our own role in the story at hand. Mandel opens the scene onstage with King Lear, an immediate signpost to the folly of imagining ourselves kings, making divisions among those who flatter him and banishing those who loves him, courting rejection of everyone in the process, leaving us to wander alone in the storm.

In many ways, I believe Mandel's work succeeds more genuinely for placing our own egos in the middle, reflecting the post-apocalyptic mire as a snare we set for ourselves, and one we could not help but spring, with the ego at the helm. 

William Gibson continues the tempestuous theme (though with less of the Bard on display) in his Jackpot series, again returning to the ugliness and destruction that ensures after a perfect storm destroys the planet, rendering it nearly uninhabitable, and the deployment of technology to save us, all while creating a better new world, sterile and deadly and false. 

I confess that I wasn't a fan of Neuromancer when it came out; I fond it a bit predictable, unsatisfactory, and superficial. I did like Pattern Recognition,  though, and if this series makes good on the themes and depth Gibson introduced then, this will be a nice addition to works that plunge into the depths of our need to sacrifice our souls on the altar of science and technology.

It feels like today would be a perfect day to launch a Perfect Storm Book Club.