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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Son of Man

** Son of Man by Robert Silverberg. Science fiction.

I've been slowly collecting various science fiction classics I'd missed. Oddly, (to me, anyway) although I read almost nothing but sf/f and mysteries for at least two decades, I've never read a lot of the classics of the genre.

Son of Man was written in 1971. My copy was printed in 1977. If I'd read it then (I was 16), I'd probably have liked it, or at least thought I ought to like it.

Our hero, Clay (geddit?) is somehow transported to a distant future earth. Don't worry about why--nothing gets explained here. And there he meets a variety of forms of future humans, from the fairly recognizable Hanmer and the others like him, who are immortal and can change their gender at will to the creatures that do nothing but exist in the swamp.

And then there are some different zones on earth, like the slow zone, where everything happens very, very slowly, and the heavy zone, where everything's heavy, and the dark zone, and... well, you get the idea.

It was interesting in the beginning, when I thought it was going to be about Clay getting to know the one race of future humans and how the similarities and differences worked for and against them. When I thought there was going to be an actual plot. But as the book went on, and became just one description after another, I got more and more bored, to the point where this 212-page book took me three days to read. (I normally read a book a day, usually 300+ pages.)

Undoubtedly, there are vast philosophical truths to be gleaned from this, but I think it requires more drugs than I'm willing to take being willing to just sit and muse about the story's profundity, and every time I tried that, I fell asleep.

We never find out why or how Clay and all the various incarnations of the human race end up all in the same time, or what the point of those weird zones was. Even more annoying to me, half of the types of humans made no sense whatsoever. Some did--the ones that evolved to be mostly thought, or to be peaceful, but some were definitely not viable life forms, much less something humans would evolve into, either deliberately or accidentally as a result of some trend or event.

I'm sure it's a very good book, but it's not remotely my kind of book anymore, though it might have been when I was a teenager.

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Silverberg's most famous for, as shown by his website/fansite, the Majipoor series. I've read the first three books, and enjoyed them, but that was when I was younger, too.

Some of my sf/f heresies include having read mostly licensed-universe (Star Wars/Trek) novels, but my favorite authors in the field worked a fair amount of short fiction -- Zelazny, Bradbury, Dick. Sometimes I get hung up on the classic view of the future (2055 viewed from circa 1955), which like all predictions, is hit-and-miss -- lots of things we take for granted were inconceivable then, yet some of the forseen commonplace (personal aircraft, for one) have yet to materialize. Honestly, I think that 2008 has more in common with 1958 than 1958 has with 1908.
I know you didn't like it but your review has piqued my interest. I think I'll see if my library has a copy. :)
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