The Spaced Out Library

Reviews of Surging-Ahead Modern Science Fiction

     And now let us venture BEYOND INFINITY as we proceed from the previous volumes we have looked at here which dealt with finitude, infinitude, mortality and emortality, and various way ahead conceptions of space and time, to Gregory Benford’s book of that title which surpasses them all in its conceptual scope and wrestles with the passing parade of human progress for a new foothold on the ungraspable realities of existence as contacts with the present are virtually scrapped and the farthest dimensions of reality and non-reality are sought for a truly spaced-out exploration.

     The book opens, after we have looked over its packaging and some inter-related back slapping from others in the industry, with an introduction to its chief character, Cley, who is a sole survivor of the human species virtually re-created to represent what mankind has been by new superhuman life forms of fantastic longevity, or what would seem fantastic in comparison with our entrenched seventy-two-year probable mortal lifespan. Don’t go with that all the way or you’ll drop dead on your seventy-third birthday just as the party reaches its peak, possibly with your friends calculating your odds of surpassing this age based upon statistical studies of those who didn’t make it anywhere near this ideal age and others who have surpassed it, spritely people one and all.

     Cley, too, has great longevity, and an interested and inquiring outlook which does not ignore the surveying of life and its constituents and meanings, an analytical tendency which seeks out its elements, and an abstract consideration of all things surrounding those proceeding through this thing of existence, yet in many ways she is a yokel because she has not taken in a whole lot of what others think about things, not that there are many others for her to identify with.  She can’t help being how she is, is something she thinks about. Her home life is looked at, and we see impoverishment, cruelty and nymphomania. This future isn’t very pleasant. The people don’t exactly have a will toward good, though Cley has a progressive instinct. Her boyfriend is slain by monsters, but she’s disengaged from him; nobody shows any concern about life, really, and they seem to have schizophrenic outlooks and catatonic defenses. Apparently she has a destiny that others are trying to create for her, and it’s to contend with a cosmic entity who seeks to destroy anything that looks at all human, a sort of affiliate of the universal contraction which would lead to the next Big Bang, but maybe life should go on instead of that happening. As the book ends progression is being maintained and they are coming out of things more naturally than they would with a big bang.  There are some sportive references to science fiction fandom in the book, the author having once been a fanzine editor, and one who might be expecting appreciation of his transfer to professional science fiction writing. He was doing that when the talk was of new writers coming out of fandom. So his book is an ambitious one, and has big results to it, regardless of the writing.

     I note what I consider to possibly be an influence from his brother Jim, a co-editor of their fanzine VOID, in Cley’s trek, which proceeds through Wonderland, Oz, and Winnie-the-Pooh, with something like Treebeard in it too; this trek ventures out of normal space and time, with some of the viewpoints of Lovecraft expressed in it (“heeding geometries of outer space”).

     All in all it is a thought- and even discussion-provoking volume, which thought and discussion would have to be sought out in our modern spread. One should not perhaps dismiss science fiction when taking an appraisal of our modern world and circumstances. Next issue I will continue our spaced-out tradition with a review of John Scalzi’s THE END OF ALL THINGS.