06 December 2010

The Technicial - Neal Asher

Warning: This post is predominantly a political rant. Please don't continue past the jumplink if you don't want to be subjected to the first of what is about to become a series of cynical diatribes and doomsaying manifesto's.

  • Author: Neal Asher
  • Title: The Technician
  • Publisher: Tor 2010
  • ISBN: Dunno
I have only managed to read one book in the last (holy snapping alligators) two and a bit weeks. And that book was The Technician by Neal Asher, resident of Crete or Cypress or some Mediterranean island anyway, and Essex. Nice contrast.

Oh yes, the book was everything it need to be to make it a perfect record for Asher. He has yet to write anything that wasn't exciting, dynamic, funny, thought provoking and disgustingly violent, and I have loved every minute of it. Asher has, with the Technician, cemented his place in my own personal Top Ten Best Ever Writerstm list, which is, as you should know by now, topped by Frederik Pohl.

So no surprises there. The plot is nicely weird, the hero's were complex and strangely compelling, and the story ended with a real live Atheter (which is a Gabbleduck, which is the best monster name ever!!) with it's brain turned back on. Bravo, Mr Asher. I look forward immensely to the next chapter in the Masada stories portion of this brilliant future history.

I do, however, have a few differences of opinion with Mr Asher in the real world. I subscribe to Asher's blog, which is a mix of news about his writing and his personal life, with a twist of political commentary every now and then. It's funny that his fictional politics is much like my actual politics, while his real life politics is not.

Asher often takes a libertarian view on political evens. I get the sense that he is strongly opposed to social welfare being paid by governments, any 'socialist' government body (ie health departments, social welfare, climate departments and other such social service things) and is not convinced on climate change.

It's funny that he writes of the future as a partly democratic, certainly liberal, socialist dictatorship under the AI's. I actually feel that an awful lot of his fictional politics is actually very much in line with mine as a socialist libertarian. (No, there are not many of us...) That's right, I believe that an idea political system would essentially be one that oversees public services like education, health, basic (adequate!!) standard of living requirements, and other public services like domestic transport, libraries, police department (not FORCE) charged with assisting with the protection of individual liberties, so that people can live without fear of violence in any of it's forms, and so on. In all other regards, they butt the hell out.

No government should be able to prevent any activity or expression by any person if that activity or expression does not cause physical or psychological harm to others. Which I think is a pretty good system. Ya know, just everybody be nice to everybody, because we all have everything we need, so there's no need to be an asshole to get more money, and nobody is going to stop you from doing anything you want to do, whether that is selling a whole lot of stock options or growing and marketing cannabis online. I know it's pathetically Utopian and  completely unattainable. And those of you who know me will be shocked at the lack of cynicism in this idea.

The thing is, I don't think that our 'civilisation' has more than a few, maybe 3 or 4 centuries left in it anyway. The Corporatists are winning have won, man. The atmosphere is steadily being poisoned, and I really think it's too late to do anything about it. The climate will likely alter to be well outside livable conditions for humans in the not terribly distant future. A small scale technological society might survive in the short term, but a lack of new resources will kill it off eventually. And that our world leaders and highest achievers in society are unable to look beyond the computer games they play with diplomacy and economics in order to amass 'stuff' in their 5 bed 5 bath luxury homes is pretty much a rock solid guarantee that not a damn thing is going to change in the way we behave. And our whole system conditions people to need the money for the stuff from childhood, so it ain't gonna change.

This applies to every single problem the world is facing. Poverty, exploitation of the poor, political corruption, POLICE corruption, war, domestic violence, bullying, racism, famine, oppression of women, short life expectancies and so on... So you see? My dream future is completely unobtainable, in my opinion. Therefore, it can be as naive as it likes.

To this day, I struggle to fathom the idea that defrauding a bank will get you a longer prison sentence than raping a child. That being caught using heroin  can get you more time that killing someone because you were drunk driving. That the west dumps millions of tonnes of food waste while people literally starve to death in Africa. That Joaquin Phoenix has houses in multiple US cities because he can read out loud, while people are living in cardboard boxes or tin shacks even though they spend their days mining gold, copper, tin, nickle etc.. (Nothing personal about Joaquin, just saying)

Good book, bad outlook.