For weeks I’ve been earnestly waiting for the release of Ian McEwan’s latest novel, Machines Like Me. McEwan is one of my favourite authors, he has an uncanny ability to be able to build a series of apparently independent scenes which, only when reviewed in the full context of the story, mesh beautifully with the theme of the novel. So when it was announced that he was to release a science-fiction novel I was ecstatic, especially one dealing with artificial intelligence. So, when it arrived I jumped straight in.
It’s an Absolute Truth that Dune, Frank Herbert’s 1969 classic novel, is the greatest work of science-fiction ever put to paper. The sci-fi equivalent of Lord of the Rings, Dune is a without competition, a fully realised world of ecology, history, and human societies that interact and devour one another. Dune is the finest the genre has to offer, of that there is no doubt or argument.
The internet is a black box into which people pour their lives, their photos and videos, their most private and intimate messages, their relationships and their finances and it’s not until something goes wrong that anyone even considers how the magic box works. And that’s a huge problem, and there’s probably nothing we can do about it.
For most British people European history stopped somewhere around 1950. The Europe most people have experience of is a continent in stasis, and it’s this that breeds complacency. We British are so used to getting on with our daily lives that it’s impossible to connect modern Europe to the tumultuous nation-states of the recent past.
It seems unfathomable to someone living in 2018 that Germany could be at war with France, or that Poland could be considered “virgin territory” ripe for invasion, or that European nations would step back as Czechoslovakia was subsumed under another country, but these events happened within a human lifetime, and will happen again if allowed to.
Oryx and Crake tells the story of Snowman, a strange, bedraggled loner who lives outside of what remains of human society as he struggles to stave off hunger and survive. To say much more would be to spoil the story, but Oryx and Crake is one of the most intelligent, clearly defined works of dystopian — or is it utopian? — science-fiction I’ve ever read. Atwood clearly understands not only the science of genetics in some depth, but also the worrying implications for the development of the human race.