Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sci-Fi or Speculative Fiction?

I’ve always thought the term, “speculative fiction” was a silly way to try and get readers to take science fiction seriously. But in the case of Tony Daniel’s 2001 novel, Metaplanetary, the term is apt. Cloaked in a classic space opera setting is a novel that dares to ask radical questions, posits far-out concepts, and challenges the reader to speculate on the nature and validity of their own biases and beliefs.

A thousand years from now, in an age where the biological and the algorithmic have merged, what does it mean to be human? Can wiping out an entire population of computer programs be considered genocide? And what about their children?

Ames, dictator of the inner planets of the solar system, is bent on adding the outer planets to his list of conquered territories. And he is willing to enslave or kill millions of virtual humans, known as free converts, to achieve those ends. As refugees, real and virtual, stream out towards the edge of the solar system, a young woman named Aubry joins up with a partisan group, The Friends of Tod, to stop Ames and liberate the free converts from their concentration camp on Mars. One of those free converts is her mother, Danis.

A simple plot synopsis hardly does justice to some of the compelling ideas and situations that inhabit this wildly inventive novel. A sequel, Superluminal, came out in 2004, and I’ve just started reading it. If you like your science fiction, dare I say, speculative, give Metaplanetary a try. You can reserve it here.

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