Usual rules apply: spoilers through the first six chapters of the book below the jump, but please don’t spoil beyond that. I’m finding this fairly quick reading, and I’m assuming the rest of you are as well, so let’s read through chapter 16 for next Friday.
The future is a strange place. It’s hard to figure out what things we’re going to take into it with us. Some human impulses, of course, will always find expression: it doesn’t surprise me to see characters in the Star Wars movies gambling, but it would be profoundly jarring to find them playing Texas Hold ‘Em instead of Sabacc.
I think that represents one of the things that feels odd to me about Chasm City. These things from our world keep popping up. Who would expect people from the significantly distant future to say things like “You can tell me about it over some pisco sours”? Pisco sours are undeniably delicious (as, on a side note, is abalone with mayonnaise, if you’re ever in Chile, where you can get excellent versions of both), but they aren’t necessarily something I think of as so powerfully compelling that they must necessarily persist into the future. Ditto with a reference a few pages later to a “fucking teddy bears’ picnic.” Seriously? We haven’t advanced beyond images of adorable woodland creatures eating crumpets?
I think this is the core of most of my problems with the novel so far: it’s a combination of the deeply bizarre, and the all-too-familiar. Society doesn’t seem that different than it is in our own time, and I’m not sure what it means to anyone to have viruses that transmit belief, or to modify their bodies with technology. These aren’t very post-human post-humans.
The one thing that I am enjoying so far is the Sky Haussmann sections of the book. I think this is in part because I’ve been thinking a lot about about theology and space travel for a piece I want to write. But I like the baroqueness of things like this:
By then one of the Haussmann cults had gained possession of the body. The Church of Sky, they called themselves. And—for reasons of convenience, if nothing else—they’d decided that he must have died not just near the bridge but right under it. And that the bridge was not really a space elevator at all—or if it was, that was just a superficial function—but really a sign from God: a ready-made shrine to the crime and glory of Sky Haussmann.
But again, I kind of wonder if this is a bit clumsy, a bit too obvious a way to throw at us that Everything Is Different. I’d rather just be in the world that’s not my own, with an author who is wise and subtle enough to navigate us through it and unfold it before us.