Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Genesis Machine - James P. Hogan

1978; 299 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : "Hard" Science Fiction.  Overall Rating : 4½*/10.

    Brad Clifford is a research scientist (specialty : Applied Mathematics) at a government-funded Think Tank.  What he's theorized might revolutionize the way we look at the universe.  But it doesn't impress our government who's only interested in ideas that can be used to defeat our enemies.  They want Brad to stop wasting time and tax dollars, and work on something more useful to the war effort.

    But Brad has other ideas...

What's To Like...
    The Genesis Machine is essentially James P. Hogan presenting Quantum Physics to sci-fi readers.  It was cutting-edge theory when he wrote this, and it still is today.  Hogan advances some fascinating speculation on how it could change our world.

    Brad Clifford, a "Ward Cleaver" sort of guy, teams up with Aubrey Phillipsz, who's more of an iconoclast.  But there's no culture-clash; both are brilliant thinkers who complement each other in exploring the new theory.

    Politically, James Hogan was a libertarian, so the governments in TGM come off - for the most part - as hopelessly flawed.  Published in 1978, it is set in 2005, and Hogan develops an Alternate History for the 27 years in between.  It's fun to contemplate, but it's only cursorily presented, mostly to justify our own government being paranoid.

Kewlest New Word...
Persiflage : light and slightly contemptuously mockery or banter.

    The popular notion of a molecule as a tiny, smooth ball of "something" - a model that, because of its reassuring familiarity, had been tenaciously clung to for decades despite the revelations of quantum wave machanics - was finally put to rest for good.  "Solidness" was at last recognized as being totally an illusion of the macroscopic world; even the measured radius of the proton was reduced to no more than a manifestation of the spatial probability distribution of a point k-function.  (pg. 7, and a pretty good introduction to Quantum Physics)

    "Scientists!  You wanna pick daisies while the whole world's up for grabs.  You're telling me about delusions ... and all that time you're chasing after reality and truth and all that shit!  Let me tell you something, mister ... that's the biggest delusion.  (...) Truth is truth when enough people say it is - that's the reality of the world we live in.  Your world is a delusion."  (pg. 77)

"Anything's possible until somebody proves it isn't..."  (pg. 120)
    The primary drawback of The Genesis Machine is that it's too much science and not enough fiction.  There's a lot of technical explaining going on, but the plot is thin and frankly, feels like an afterthought.  The government tries some dirty tricks, but they're so easily circumvented that the tension never builds.  And after all that hard science, the titled Genesis Machine turns out to be quickly-made and not very "hard".

    The story has a nice moral to it, but the bad guys seem remarkably dense when it comes to trying to thwart our heroes' plans.  I'm thinking an Israeli commando team could've taken out the good guys in no time at all, and without raising a sweat.

    It's a pleasant change to read some science fiction that doesn't involve dragons, space aliens, and/or convenient wormholes.  But there still needs to be a compelling storyline, and The Genesis Machine  just didn't have it for me.  4½ Stars.

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