“It’s cold on the wall. That’s the first thing everybody tells you, and the first thing you notice when you’re sent there, and it’s the thing you think about all the time you’re on it.” The Wall by John Lanchester…
The two collections, published seventeen years apart, both demonstrate Chiang’s ability to subtly weave very human stories using the mechanics of traditional science-fiction tropes. Yes, there are aliens and teleportation devices, time machines and androids, and artificial intelligence but these are just tools used to tell something of the human experience.
“You think that festering shithead can be renewed?” I said. “Burn it all down!”
“Why would you want to harm so many people?” she asked gently. “It’s my country. It’s where I grew up. It’s being ruined by the leaders. I want it to be better.”
As we see flashes of an emboldened right-wing across Europe and the Americas, the thing that fascinates me most is how does a liberal, modern society transform into a population capable of killing on the scale seen during the 1930s and 40s.
Timothy Snyder’s book Black Earth gets closest to this answer than anything I’ve read previously, but what’s most disturbing about it isn’t the descriptions of violent death and acts of cruelty carried out by the Nazi’s, it’s that western societies are scarily close to repeating history.
Dr. Dorothea Morrell’s world is one in which the existence of god is an accepted fact with which all branches of science agree. Biology, physics, chemistry and archaeology all point to the fact that the world was created little more than eight millennia ago.
But when Nathan McCullough, the director of the Museum of Natural Philosophy, reveals a scientific paper that could shatter faith of mankind and the religious foundation of the scientific method, Dr. Morrell is at first sceptical but ultimately has her faith shaken to destruction.