Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Review: Inherit the Earth

For a time, I reviewed the movies I would watch. I'd like to do that again, as well as with the books I read. It's as much to augment my own memory as for your benefit, but hopefully it will help you get something good to watch or read as a result, one day. I'll start where I most recently finished.

Inherit the Earth

Author: Brian Stableford
Year: 1998

I had never read a Stableford novel, though I'd come across a short story or two and had a vague idea that I enjoyed his work. And I did. Inherit the Earth is a story about the challenges humanity will face as it ambles toward radical longevity, Stableford's "emortality" (to distinguish it from true immortality).

Although the novel is not political in tone, it does ask some of the most central political questions, most obviously, "Who should inherit the Earth?" Even today, populations are aging, wealth is ever more intensely concentrated, and the disaffected youth of the world grow restless. What will the world be like when the real people in charge, not the politicians but the capitalists, live for centuries instead of decades?

The actual plot centers on Damon Hart, reluctant heir of the man most responsible for remaking the world into a "New Utopia." He is drawn into a web of terrorism, kidnapping, and corporate infighting ultimately centered around finding his father, dead for fifty years. Damon has rejected the fruits of his father's labor, but finds himself drawn right into the middle of the fray.

Stableford does a fine job of technological and sociological worldbuilding, positing nanotechnical "internal technology" to keep people healthy and artificial wombs to compensate for the infertility plagues that have kept the population in check. My only complaint on the science end of this science fiction is that Stableford seems to have been too conservative in his assumed progress. Many of the developments that seem recent in the twenty-second century could happen in as little as fifty years. That there seems to be essentially no experimentation with human genetic engineering (it is mentioned as a future possibility) is the most glaring standout.

What most impresses me about the novel, though, is that Stableford writes an immensely compelling story. I think it is a sign--though not the only one--of good storytelling when you can write chapters in which nothing but a conversation happens and yet the reader still feels compelled to read on. And while Inherit the Earth is not short on action, it is the intrigue and mystery which drives the story forward, the genuine desire to figure out who is pulling the strings and why.

There are several novels set in this universe, and I look forward to reading them in the future.

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