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Saturday, September 6, 2014

2094

20942094 by John Lauricella
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for this review.

This book imagines life in 2094, 80 years from now. To give some perspective, go back 80 years from now, to 1934. In the US in 1934, phones were hardwired to the wall, radio and movies were the main form of entertainment, TV was still in the experimental stage, airlines were in their infancy, the main form of cross-country transportation was by rail, most cars didn't have radios, and about 99% of what is shown on cable now would have been declared obscene. Also, Jim Crow was still in effect, and the n-word was used in polite conversation. If you had written a book back then predicting a phone you could carry with you that connected to a large computer network, regular airline service and a superhighway system that would outpace trains as a means of cross-country travel, TVs that were over 10 feet wide that showed over 1000 channels, cars with TV screens in the back, and any other technology we have now, your work would at best be dismissed as science fiction, or at worst the work of a lunatic.

That was my thought while I was reading this book. Would it be possible to live in this world? It becomes clear, however, that all is not perfect in this world. In the combined North America and Europe, life is a paradise. Anatomically correct androids that can change appearance to anyone you want, TV is on a giant wall operated by a chip in your brain, and anything else you want. However, in Mexico, separated by earthquake from the US, toxic waste is routinely dumped, and anyone not taken for service elsewhere is reduced to subsistence living. Guantanamo Bay prison is still open, with descendants of the original prisoners. On Mars, scientists run an Earthstation, and see Earth only as a source of labor and raw materials.

There are shades of Orwell's 1984 in the book. There is a bit of irony here, because J Melmoth thinks that his world would write 1984 off as improbable fiction. The same chips that give you control of the TV can also be used to control you. The androids are malfunctioning, and J Melmoth is questioning what he's been told recently. Prisoners refuse to work, and Mexicans are swept up to Mars for manual labor.

This book bounces around between plots. It was hard at first to see how they connected to each other. Even at the end, you could see some connection, but not total connection. It continues a trend in current literature, which is present tense. It's a look at a dystopian future. I hope in 80 years not all of this comes true.

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