Burn by James Patrick Kelly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was perfectly willing to suspend judgment on this book... and I did, refusing to look up any reviews until long after I was thinking about what I read.
I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. I don't mind pastoral-type SF all that much, but it has to be rich in the internal life and lots of great ideas being bandied about. The fact this was a reaction to Walden, a perfect Luddite if there ever was one, was also fine by me. I had problems with the guy, too, but not all the way. I like nature, I like technology. I do not want to simplify my life so much that I lose out on the necessities. At all. James Patrick Kelly basically makes the same argument in this novella.
Firefighting on this regressive world. If only there hadn't been such restrictions, more could have been saved.
I don't think there's any kind of counter-argument. Not realistically. Or at least, not in this century.
So what do we have to fall back on within the story? Characterization, a little worldbuilding, a kinda meandering live-your-life-tale that fits more in FAVOR of Walden than the counterargument, and then the big action and the reveals after the fire.
Of course, that's where I'm most interested. The many worlds and post-near-singularity galactic civilization. You know, uploaded minds. That kind of thing.
As a mirror to all that happened on the planet before, it kinda hammers a nail in the coffin.
There are some open-ended questions that make me squirm, too, regarding his wife, but that kinda detracts from the rest of the novella rather than adding a new dimension. I did kinda like the MC before that. A memory wipe is a total PKD issue and it might have been better explored in much greater detail throughout the tale or left out of the end entirely. It just raises way too many questions and concerns regarding all these Walden people.
Such as the idea that they might all be in a zoo.
Maybe that's the point. I WANTED to like this more, but the ideas are kinda all over the place and I'd like to come away from this story chewing on a single good idea rather than a number of unsatisfyingly explored ones.
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