13 May 2010

Day 47: Plague Year

Plague Year by Jeff Carlson.  ISBN: 9780441015146.

Sadly there's not a whole lot to say about this.  The nanotechnology is kind of described in amorphous terms.  The lack of detail about the surrounding world makes the whole thing kind of boring and the majority of the book is taken up by an 8 hour trek from one mountain peak to another with very little that actually happens besides a gun fight in which most of the party dies.  Eh.

I normally love Frankenstein novels.  By that I mean novels which explore and exaggerate the downside of new or potential technology.  I think I'm going to have to stick with Michael Crichton books for that kind of thrill.  The man can write some good scientific fiction.  A good Frankenstein novel will explore the deepest, darkest parts of the technology and how humans will use it.  Carlson touched on it but didn't go far enough.

He mentioned that nanotechnology could potentially make people live forever and change their bodies to be perfect machines.  Well, we don't get that.  Instead we get the chaos in transition.  Which can be interesting, but you have to be very good at putting pieces back together.  This just kind of fell flat and didn't really get me anywhere I wanted to go.  Dammit, this is turning into a review.  That's how little there actually is to write about this book.

Okay, if nanotechnology could make us live forever, would you want to?  I've been watching Highlander on Netflix for the past couple of weeks, so Queen's refrain of "Who wants to live forever" runs through my head pretty much any time I read about vampires or other immortal hoodoo voodoo.  I'm not even sure that it's feasible for nanotechnology to make us live forever.  There would still be cellular decay, although I suppose you could create nanos to replace those cells.  

I would love to live a healthy life until the end, with little to no physical decay, and to keep my wits and memories.  I might even enjoy having a slightly prolonged life.  But I cannot imagine living forever and I honestly don't think I'd want to.  What would be the point?  There'd be no point in having children in that kind of future, or if we did they would have to be rationed out when other people decided to pass on.  You might have couples who decide to let one partner die so that the other could reproduce and raise a child.  And what about aging?

We wouldn't age anymore if we had nanotechnology.  We'd all be stuck as nubile 20-somethings.  There would be no variety in our bodies, no fat people, no thin people, no balding people or overly hairy people.  How mind numbingly boring would that be?  Aging has its own particular grace to it and brings its own wisdom.  I think we need the chemical changes and the aches and pains that come with aging.  Old people bring a mellowing to our society, they're capable of thoughts that aren't completely dictated by hormones or selfish impulse.  People at the end of their lives, who know they're at the end of their lives, seem to become more generous and deliberate in their actions.  I think having billions of 20 year-olds run the planet is a phenomenally terrible idea.  But I'd love to read a novel about it.

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