Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gravity Dreams - L. E. Modesitt

Gravity Dreams
L. E. Modesitt
Tor Books
Copyright: 2000

The amazon.com product description:
In Earth's distant future, Tyndel is both teacher and mentor, a staunch devotee to his conservative and rigidly structured religious culture. Then a rogue infection of nanotechnology transforms him into a "demon", something more than human, and he is forced into exile, fleeing to the more technologically advanced space-faring civilization that lies to the north, one that his own righteous people consider evil. Although shaken by his transformation, he has the rare talent required to become a space pilot. What no one, least of all Tyndel, expects, is his deep-space encounter with a vastly superior being--perhaps with God.
One of L. E. Modesitt's earlier books now, Gravity Dreams is a favourite of mine. It's written from the perspective of a character, Tyndel, who has grown up in a society at about a tech level of our current world, or perhaps a little above, who is forced into a world with a much higher level of technology and very different attitudes. Through the book we are watching Tyndel as he struggles to make his place in the new society.

In the process, Modesitt has laid out a book that, at least in my case, makes me think about ideas around personal responsibility. That's typical of all of this author's science fiction novels, that they center on a theme. Adiamante for example shares the theme of personal responsibility but also connects it with stewardship of the environment. I like this as it makes his books into something a bit different from the typical sci-fi novel.

Where this book is somewhat different from the others is that the main character is an outsider, and we learn about the world as he does, which was definitely not by taking the 'easy way'.

The author uses some interesting language, with Tyndel from the beginning referring to the high tech society as one of 'demons'. While that makes sense given the culture he is from, where it gets interesting is when those of the high tech society also refer to themselves as 'demons', and it seems to be their typical term for themselves. What does that say when a society generally seems to use a negative term for themselves, but without any obvious negative effects?

There seems to be a tendency to take these societies to somewhat of an extreme, which makes for a good read. However, I know that I wouldn't want to live in either society as described in Gravity Dreams. I like my illusions too much, and yet we should at least think about the consequences of the way we live.

One thing, the chapter headings are there for a reason. Modesitt seems to like to jump around, be it from character to character as in Archform: Beauty or backwards and forwards in time as in this book.

I do recommend reading this book if you can find it. The local library might be a good bet in this case. I know it's only available used through chapters.ca and I'd bet its the same through Amazon.

Updated with the cover image and amazon.com blurb in 2013. The content of the review itself is unchanged.

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