Inconstant Moon, by Larry Niven (Orbit, 1991; original copyright 1973)

One of the advantages of having our son-in-law's book collection at hand is that I can indulge in my passion from a previous stage in life:  science fiction.  The disadvantage is that I'm beginning to suspect that my tastes have changed.

I thought I remembered liking the works of Larry Niven, and maybe I did.  But now, this collection of stories was one-for-seven for me.  The last, Death by Ecstasy, is an interesting mystery, but most of the tales are dated, with an embarrassing 1960s flavor—not surprising, since that is when they were written.  There's just too much of the holier-than-thou, making a point that the characters are of different races (racial tensions were a big problem in the 60s), and 'way too much emphasis on how in the (enlightened) future, the one-husband, one-wife, faithfully-married-with-children kind of sexual practice, so reviled by the sexual revolutionaries of the time, will be such a rare variation as to be almost unmentionable.  This might have been daring, titilating writing 45 years ago, but today it gets old fast.

On the other hand, I enjoy observing the ways in which the old science fiction writers mis-called both scientific and social changes.  As they say, anyone can predict the invention of the automobile, but it takes a genius to anticipate the traffic jam.  In a world of interstellar travel, enormous lifespans, and pleasure-stimulating brain implants, the computers are still huge, and ashtrays common in every home, hotel, and office.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 8:52 am | Edit
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