EARTH, by David Brin
reviewed by Luisa Spairani
What effect does it make to read a science fiction book 15 years after the first issue?
Does it maybe look like reading some Giulio Verne’s novel? Not really, the Verne’s sci-fi refers to our past, thus it belongs to the adventures gendre. To read a next future chronicle (2038 is the year of the novel, when I hope to be still here :-), where cellular telephones and other large consumption electronic products are unknown gave me some impression. Such discrepancies give the measure of the science fiction’ obsolescence, they make us to realize the occurred changes and how "naturally" they were absorbed (and never foreseen before).
The writer himself quotes that "all the ones who try to foretell the future are.." In short they are generally denied.
The book descriebs an Earth upset by a disruptive greenhouse effect, with tornados and hurricanes with ultrasonic winds. In such an apocalyptic scenario, someone develops very small artificial black holes, sending forth gravitational waves, obviously with fatal consequences. The Internet has its own preponderant role too.
The end is multifarious. We can choose the one that catch us more. And the author’s imagination breaks out. Which interconnections are possible between the human mind and an artificial neural net?
What fascination remains in the vision of a next future?
Quite a lot of hints lead us to think over.
The described future is possible and believable; New Orleans under water, damaged by floods, is even already experimented.
The role of science and the responsibility of the scientists is another very interesting aspect described in the book. The incoming technological power gives rise to a contrary reaction, pushing therefore toward an extremist ecologism. The traditional religions lose their power, in favour of new (obviously fanatical and aggressive) sects.
The problem of a more and more old society, where relations with young people are growing difficult, is also stressed.
Yet the more relevant and dreadful aspect that the author bangs us in face is that the concept of privacy for men and women doesn't exist and it won't exist anymore. Such a fact was already nowadays soundly confirmed by famous criptologist Shamir (he is the S of the algorithm RSA, and therefore the maximum security expert), who gave a lecture on the theme of security and privacy - Venice 22/9/2005" The future of Science." All of our exchanged data are somehow recorded, everything we have done and everything we are doing, is traced. (As a sample, our cellular phone makes us always traceable; and such data are kept for years by the TelCom’s, will be such data well protected?).
Then the author gives us a very realistic, and at the same time fascinating, picture of the use of hacker tools: they are represented with images of appalling monsters, intruding the computer.
Some concepts of small but friendly philosophy are also express. For instance:
The structure of the novel follows the typical scheme of the American large consumption fiction: carrying on different stories and characters, apparently not tied by relationships; then to weave the stories in decisive way. As a reader, I find by now such scheme enough discounted and predictable.
Furtermore the book is a bit too much long, certain concepts could be express with less words and with great benefit for the novel. Too much quotations of myths: about the Maoris myths I don't have knowledge, but the Greek ones were not accurately quoted.
Despite the above criticisms, I was strongly impressed by this book, and it stimulated me to look for other David Brin’s books.
[English translation by Diana Baroni]
[019.LS.TDF.2005 - 10.11.2005]