Next: In And Out Of The Trench
Last time I posted in this series, I talked about the characters, major and supporting. This time around, I'll run down some of the major themes in the story as I saw them.
This is something of a staple theme of mine — the idea that there's one kind of family you're born into, and another kind you make for yourself. It's not a new idea by itself, but I try to find new things in it each time I come back to it.
Here, Aki finds himself dealing with the second situation — a created family vs. one he was born into — not once but twice, when he realizes the "new" family that came along to offer him freedom from the "old" one had sins of its own that had nothing to do with them being criminals. What he had to do, then, was find yet another family of his own, one that he had a hand in creating himself.
The human of the future will not be distinguished by his technological prowess, but his moral, ethical, and spiritual advancement. We tell ourselves this all the time, but we seem stumped as to how to fulfill it — we seem to think that simple perpetuating an existing power structure that lays claim to moral/ethical/spiritual authority will by itself be enough. But it isn't. New structures, new traditions, may be required.
Aki, and others, will find themselves becoming the heir to such new traditions, one designed to allow the old human race to give rise to the new, while at the same time allowing the old to continue to exist with dignity and freedom.
I'm going to introduce this theme by way of two of my favorite anecdotes. People who know me will find both of these familiar.
The first anecdote involves the invention the laser. Word has it (according to a piece I once read in OMNI Magazine) that they were first measured in Gillettes. A laser that could punch through one Gillette razor blade in one second was a one-Gillette laser; if two, a two-Gillette laser; and so on. What struck me was that the reason for this measurement was that at first nobody could figure out what to do with this thing other than punch holes in razor blades.
The second anecdote comes by way of Daniel M. Pinkwater:
Imagine you lived in a world where there was no such thing as an automobile, and then one day you stumbled across a fully-restored Studebaker Lark, all gassed up and ready to go. You'd invite all your friends to come and marvel at this strange wonder, but you wouldn't know that it was a machine with the power to take you from place to place. Instead, you thought the function of the Studebaker Lark was to sit in the front seat and play the radio. You'd pretty much have missed the point, right?
I've touched on this idea before in other books of mine (Flight Of The Vajra, to name one). The truly new things in our lives are difficult because they're new — unfamiliar, hard to grasp the implications of. And so too often we settle for the easy way of making them part of our lives; we settle for doing old things with them in trivially new ways.
Here, the new thing ends up in the hands of people who can't think of much to do with it except to perpetuate the easy and obvious things that appealed to people of limited imaginations: steal, cheat, kill, insulate yourself from repercussions. One of them has stirrings of dissatisfaction about the whole thing — surely there's something better to do with all this? — but he can't come up with anything better himself. Then others do, and it becomes a struggle to see which of those others wins out.
Next: In And Out Of The Trench
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind