I just barely finished this book not ten minutes ago. I'm just going to try to put down the thought I have which has been in my head since I started r...moreI just barely finished this book not ten minutes ago. I'm just going to try to put down the thought I have which has been in my head since I started reading this thing. This essay will not full marks.
Anyone who reads this book is likely as confused as I was at how it started with a rape. More strangely, a rape that went unreported due to the shame felt by the victim.
Then the victim is thrust into this silly adventure with a caveman from another dimension, and you begin wondering, WTF? Why would the author use something so powerful as rape for what seems like no reason? What's the point?
I'll tell you what the point is. The point is the conversation Mary and Pontor have after watching the church service on television.
Basically, they discuss religion and the afterlife, which Pontor's people have none of. After seeing all the violence on our world, he attributes it to our acceptance of an afterlife. He says:
“Do you not see?” Ponter went on. “If I wrong someone—if I say something mean to them, or, I do not know, perhaps take something that belongs to them—under your worldview I can console myself with the knowledge that, after they are dead, they can still be contacted; amends can be made. But in my worldview, once a person is gone—which could happen for any of us at any moment, through accident or heart attack or so on—then you who did the wrong must live knowing that that person’s entire  existence ended without you ever having made peace with him or her.”
This gets Mary thinking:
God was the great compensator: if you were wronged in life, it would be made up for in death—the fundamental principle that had allowed parents to send their children off to die in war after countless war. Indeed, it didn’t really matter if you ruined someone else’s life, because that person might well go to Heaven. Oh, you yourself might be dispatched to Hell, but nothing you did to anyone else really hurt them in the long run. This existence was mere prologue; eternal life was yet to come.
And, indeed, in that infinite existence, God would make up for whatever had been done to ... to her.
And that bastard, that bastard who had attacked her, would burn.
No, it didn’t matter if she never reported the crime; there was no way he could escape his ultimate judge.
Essentially this whole long silly story exists so this single realization can take place. It is a call for humanism. If you truly believe there is no god, as many of us today do, that the only justice we get is in this world is what we get in this life, then you mustn't be able to accept concepts like war or killing an enemy.
It goes on. In Pontor's world, they always get justice because everyone is being constantly recorded by their implants. This bugs Mary, because of the obvious invasion of privacy this entails. Pontor doesn't mind. Who cares? It comes out that without religion, Pontor's people had no concept of *sin*.
If you had no religion, no list of things that didn’t actually hurt somebody else but were still proscribed behaviors—recreational drug use, masturbation, adultery, watching porno videos—then you might indeed not be so fanatic about privacy. People insisted on it at least in part because there were things they did that they’d be mortified to have others know about. But in a permissive society, an open society, a society where the only crimes are crimes that have specific victims, perhaps it wouldn’t be such a big deal. And, of course, Ponter had shown no nudity taboo—a religious idea, again—and no desire for seclusion while using the bathroom.
Mary shook her head. All the times she’d been embarrassed and ashamed in her life, all the times she was glad no one could see what she was doing: were they uncomfortable simply because of church-imposed edicts? The shame she felt over leaving Colm; the shame that prevented her from getting a divorce; the shame she felt over dealing with her own drives now that she had no man in her life; the shame she felt because of sin ... Ponter had none of that, it seemed; as long as he was hurting no one else, he never felt uncomfortable over acts that gave him pleasure.
Without shame, perhaps Mary would have reported her rape. Without shame, caused by the religious mores that pervade our society, perhaps we to could have an utopia.
Think about it. The NSA could be/is watching what you do online. We aren't unhappy about this because we're all terrorists, or that this makes it easier to catch criminals. We're unhappy because they know what we've googled, and everyone's googled something they don't want to have to explain to grandma.
Without that rape, this would be a thoroughly unremarkable book in terms of literary merit. I mean, it's kind of bland as it is. There's not even an antagonist. Everyone's a pretty decent person through the whole thing. (less)
I was lost at times. That might be the jet lag, but things seemed to come from nowhere. It wasn't a good mystery due to this, but as a work of alterna...moreI was lost at times. That might be the jet lag, but things seemed to come from nowhere. It wasn't a good mystery due to this, but as a work of alternate history and a character portrait, it's brilliant.(less)
Man, I wish I knew a few anarchists to talk to about this book. There are a lot of really heavy ideas in it that I want to talk about.
What gives one h...moreMan, I wish I knew a few anarchists to talk to about this book. There are a lot of really heavy ideas in it that I want to talk about.
What gives one human being the right to tell another human what to do? I suppose Le Guin might say "The other humans willingness to do what he is told."
I'm really debating with myself whether to give this a 3 or a 4. I wasn't really moved by this book. The characters weren't as strong or human as some other books I've given a 4 to, though the prose is better. The plot isn't riveting, but its purpose is to serve the ideas, which are fascinating.(less)
Billed as the stirring story of a "libertarian revolution", all it does for me is show how hollow th...moreWow... I could go on for a while about this book.
Billed as the stirring story of a "libertarian revolution", all it does for me is show how hollow that ideology is. How can a world where justice is a bunch of guys and an airlock be preferable? The only way this society works is if you just kill everyone who doesn't fit, which is of course exactly what happened.
I fail to see the difference between Warden's regime and the one set up by the protagonists through election fraud and sustained by killing thousands on two worlds.
There is even a point where Heinlein writes that some people signing the new declaration of independence can't even write their names. After all, school costs something on the moon... Some utopia.
Anyway, I could go on for far longer than I should. I found his arguments unconvincing.
However, as a piece of scifi, it was incredibly engaging! I loved the character of Mike (a character not unlike the Mike in Stranger in a Strange Land. Coincidence?), and the depiction of a revolution from the inside. (less)
What can I say about this? It's a truly revolutionary book. I wouldn't be surprised if "biopunk" doesn't start taking over the scifi section in stores...moreWhat can I say about this? It's a truly revolutionary book. I wouldn't be surprised if "biopunk" doesn't start taking over the scifi section in stores like zombies were a few years ago (or are they still?)(less)