After almost four weeks without posting, it seems strange to write again here. I’m breaking a rule about not posting on a borrowed computer, but there’s some light ahead in the tunnel of computer despair so I’m taking that silly risk anyway. Looks like a hardware issue brought down my Mac (after fourteen years of using Macs, it’s the first time such an event happened), but no indication as to the cause or solution yet. I’ve let a multitude of posting opportunities go by, and if I write about them now they’ll seem dated (though I really do want to address a recent study on music availability and apathy, and list books received for review). Blame at least one week on my first vacation in two years, a brief sojurn in Southern California without any computer access. I decided to give up sodas of all kinds for 2006 (in particular Coca Cola), but I’m not sure if giving up computer access was harder, since I had fewer temptations while away. We hung out near Palm Springs for a couple of days, then drove to San Diego for another three. That latter part was mostly for the three-year-old in the family, and so the days were spent at the zoo, Legoland, and on the beach. This was only my second time in SoCal, and quite unlike Anaheim at the Worldcon in 1996, ten years ago. I had no idea the desert played such a huge role south of LA, nor that San Diego was that hilly, though I can see why people flock to San Diego, as it’s a beautiful city. Maybe next time I can hit some of the book stores we spotted along the way.
The good news is that I did manage to restore and complete the January issue of Prometheus, which goes to the printer next week and almost a month behind schedule. This issue contains 16 pages of reviews, letters, fiction, news, and an editorial. For now, here’s a brief review as an example.
By Richard Mgrdechian
iUniverse, 2005, $16.95
Reviewed by Anders Monsen
3000 Years is a sharp thriller, one that at times sent my heart racing with excitement and anticipation. Richard Mgrdechian’s first novel blends scientific speculation with elements of the near-future thriller genre. Ostensibly the novel deals with a sort of time-travel, but the underlying focus really deals with human society and how individuals acting in certain, often narrow ways leading to far-reaching implications and unintended consequences.
Professor John Bennett is driven to find ways to cheat death. Motivated by the death of his dog during Bennett’s childhood years, and later his much-admired grandfather, he pours all his energy into physics. He also is a man with many heroes, studding his walls around his punching bag with images of boxing greats like Ali, Dempsey, and Marciano, and his office walls with Einstein, Newton, and other scientists. Bennett’s mood upon discovering a startling new application makes him almost ebullient. By slowing down the speed of light, Bennett is able to place living tissue in a stasis field, preserving youth over great lengths of time. He stands at the cusp of changing the world, granting him instant acclaim and recognition. He’s blessed with admiring students, a wonderful girlfriend—Dawn Whitmore, a cultural anthropologist—and a wide open future at PacTech; all seemingly intended to keep him anchored to the present.
Tom Walsh, the arrogant bureaucratic president of PacTech, despises Bennett for his success. In the aftermath of a bar brawl when Bennett protects one of his star students, Paul Branning, Walsh gets his chance to publicly humiliate Bennett. Yet instead of going down meekly Bennett resigns; he has other plans. He decides to make personal use of his discovery, placing himself into stasis. While the outside world continues along its unabated pace, Bennett will sleep for decades at a time, appearing briefly to witness the progress of history, skipping like a pebble across the river of time. When he finds out that Dawn suffers from incurable ovarian cancer with scant years left, he hatches a plan to place them both in stasis and leap forward until they find a future with a cure. Along for the ride is Sam Tobin, one of Bennett’s old college friends. They fake their deaths and enter stasis in an abandoned missile silo that they bought on the cheap from the government, setting the timer for fifty years in the future.
They arrive into a fragmented America, with California split in several parts, none of which seem enticing or welcoming. They still manage to somewhat adapt themselves into society, with a few mishaps along the way. Bennett secures a visiting professorship at a local college, while Tobin hooks up with Linda Moreno, an attractive attorney after he spends some time in jail for the unpardonable sin of the times, Abhorrent Vocalizations. Speak ill of anything, or have someone find offense in your words, and you end up jail. Farewell free speech. Political correctness runs amuck.
The second act of the novel thus deals with how the trio handles the fifty year leap into the future. Friends and family left behind now are dead, or aged naturally into post-retirement years. Almost alone they face a two-pronged threat: how can they integrate themselves—even temporarily—into a culture of fear and social repression, and also deal with an escalating threat of nanotech hackers bent on tearing apart integral communications technologies?
In their new world, the trio seeks others of like minds, from Sam’s attorney friend, to a student (who later proves false), and another professor that Bennett meets at his new university. Against the latter they team up with a former hacker, Harold Fu, who immigrated to America from China on the advice of his brother.
With Harold along for the ride, the novel takes on a thriller aspect, as they race to locate the nano-hackers, only to discover a ghost from Bennett’s past. Can they defeat this threat, and is there a chance of saving Dawn from her cancer? Indeed, the effects of the statis appear only to have accelerated her illness, and instead of a possible cure, time grows ever shorter, with another stasis trip seemingly impossible, even fatal. The twist thrown in here certainly highlights how deep-reaching a simple event can become, even decades after the cause.
Some of the secondary characters encountered in the novel receive short treatments. I expected more about the young boy, Tommy Vesely, who Bennett befriends as a fellow science fan. The swift transformation of Tinny Morrison, from flirtatious student to predatory troublemaker, took me by surprise, but played out well in showing the interplay between Bennett and Dawn. It also makes for one of the more interesting scenes in the book, in the virtual global “mood-bar.” Linda Moreno, the attorney who latches onto Sam, also is dropped later in the book, but not before she walks us through some of the stranger new legal aspects of this society.
Despite these few misgvings Richard Mgrdechian succeeds in writing a convincing thriller rooted in present day technological, social, and legal trends. Blending moments of fast-paced narrative with occasional and brief info-dumps, Mgrdechian crafts an enjoyable work that I believe many libertarians and futurists will enjoy. In fact, I felt many of the chapters were too brief, leaving some threads unfulfilled. I felt the title of the novel to be a little misleading, although the novel certainly leaves open the possibilities for sequels. However, writing about how present day people deal with events fifty years in the future probably is quite different from one hundred or one thousand, but not altogether impossible.