Saturday, October 4, 2008

Shelter by Susan Palwick

Shelter by Susan Palwick the story of a constellation of troubled adults drawn to a troubled child named Nicholas.
"Everyone loved Nicholas. His parents and his grandparents and his friends. We're all together now. It's wonderful, isn't it?"
"Wonderful. Two of us are dead, and one of us is brainwiped. One of us is mutilated. One of us is on probation. Three of us have been in exile. ... We're just one big happy family."
One of the extraordinary things about this book is that it is Science Fiction. While there is plenty of science fiction - smart houses, AIs, people resurrected as AIs, pandemics, brainwipes to solve crime and mental illness, lots of bots, and citizenship for AIs. In spite of all this science and technology, the characters play the leading role.
She cried after he left, her losses hemming her in. She cried because she had nothing that had belonged to her own mother, and because her listening to Nicholas had done him no good, and because she couldn't give a piece of jewelry to Fred, whose willingness to listen had helped both her and Nicholas as much, it seemed to her, as anyone could have helped them at all. She cried over losing Doe, who had been willing to listen to her pains, but not to her joys; she even cried over losing Zephyr ...
This book, published by one of the premier SF imprints (Tor), might herald a new golden age for SF, except ...

Shelter is such a ambitious work that it's weighed down by its enormous breadth and its lack of focus. The telling clue is the Reading Group Guide at the end. What are the topics thought to be raised in this tome?

The symbolism of stormy weather; the criminalization of mental illness; the role of race in cultural conflicts; the ethics of people ressurected as AIs; the nature of AI; the politics of pandemics; injury and forgiveness; the role of the media; privacy; religion; and memory.

If your head is spinning after reading this list, you might want to skip this book, but if you think about all these issues before breakfast, perhaps you've been up all night, this is the book for you.

P.S. The book is not without some SF humor:
... She had lost faith in the Tooth Fairy, the Vernal Rabbit, and the Summer Solstice Sloth.

No comments: