Read: 19 December, 2008
Throughout my reading of this book, I kept thinking of the classics of dystopian fiction such as Brave New World, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451. In the end, that’s exactly where this book lost its points for me. The televisions that cover every wall, the underground railroad for books, the total saturation of society with sex, food, and entertainment, etc. All of it was lifted directly from the exemplars of the genre. The only difference was that when Huxley, Orwell, and Bradbury wrote their novels, their visions were prophetic in a way. Elton’s novel, on the other hand, merely took much of the world as it is and changed the names (FaceBook becomes Face Space, YouTube becomes MyTube or just Tube).
All this might have been forgiven if the characters had been better fleshed out. Instead, Trafford is merely a modern man stuck in a totally different world with little explanation for why he thinks as he does. In his conversations with others (particularly Cassius and Sandra Dee), he comes off as either pathetic or overly dramatic. This might have worked had it been clearer that many felt as he did but were, like him, too afraid to show it. It might have worked if we could see him incorporating bits of media into his speech so that we can, at least, know that the reason he makes such dramatic speeches is simply that this is how he has learned to talk. Instead, we just have a thoroughly modern character who regresses into the role of a babbling idiot when he meets like-minded people, and then suddenly takes on this obnoxious and self-important attitude when he decides he has a “mission.” It all reeked of Hollywood.
Compare this to Winston Smith who, despite his doubt, remained thoroughly a man of his time. Or compare it to John of Brave New World who at least had a good reason for being an outsider and a surrogate for the reader.
All in all, I found it to be a bit of an ego-stroke – a vehicle for ideas that are finding themselves increasingly in poor favour. All the atheist and scientific talking points were puppetted out by the various characters, which is all well and good. I would have liked a better setting for such gems, but this is what I got instead. Worth a read, but don’t expect too much.
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