Books I have read - delta_november
Oct. 4th, 2009
01:48 pm - Books I have read
I have just finished reading an interesting series of novels:
- The Cornelius Quartet by Michael Moorcock, purchased used. This consists of:
- The Final Programme
- A Cure for Cancer (which I had read last summer, and did not re-read)
- The English Assassin
- The Condition of Muzak
- Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, a gift from KD
- Anathem by Neal Stephenson, courtesy of leftofcool 's gift
- Transition by Iain M. Banks, thanks again to leftofcool
Everything that Moorcock writes revolves around the Multiverse. In essence he has only one story, and his career has been to write subtle variations on that. Some dismiss him for that, but I respect it. It echoes other variation-stories, such as the mummer's plays.
Anathem is a hard sci-fi look at quantum parallel worlds. Well, mostly hard sci-fi. The very act of transition between worlds is glossed over. I can get behind that too -- anything Stephenson said on the subject would just be technobabble so why bother. But transition is a monumental undertaking, and occurs only once in the book.
Transition, on the other hand, concerns a society that moves between worlds frequently. In Banks' tradition it's also extremely nasty in places. Not a book to read before bed. Where A Song of Stone looked at the significance of consent in sexual violence, Transition explores the similarities between gentle sex and torture. In both, one individual takes care to induce certain sensations in another. They often claim to be selfless in these acts, unconcerned with personal gratification or disgust. But how often is this true?
In the first sentence of Transition, the narrator announces his or her unreliability. There are elements of the book that are inconsistent. The question then, is what is true? Are some inconsistencies the fault of the narrator, or is the whole tale a confabulation?
First, I'm confused by flitting. Here a person moves to another world by taking over the consciousness of a body already in it. Their own body is left a mindless husk while away. So there is general conservation of bodies between worlds. Small items can be brought during the transition by those sufficiently talented. But then we have scenes where the characters have transitioned to lifeless post-apocalyptic worlds. Who's bodies are they inhabiting?
Then, there is Septus, the drug that enables flitting. In anatomy, a "septum" is tissue dividing one space from another. "Septus" is then a fitting name for a drug that allows the membrane between worlds to be penetrated. The origin of Septus is left mysterious in the book. But Adrian, in his ode to cocaine, mentions as one of the potential drawbacks that the long-term user can lose their nasal septum as well as become paranoid. Coincidence? Or did patient 8262 simply do too much cocaine and imagine the rest of the story?