Sunday, 3 June 2012

When you can't review, reflect.

I'm currently reading David Brin's Earth which I first read years ago.  I've been giving some thought to how I might review it since I'm not even a third of the way through and already have so much to say but then I wonder where I'm going to get the cans to do a review any justice at all. has over 2100 reviews of Earth already.  The fact that this book still speaks to me although very differently after twenty some years is enough for feelings of inadequacy when it comes to giving Earth any sort of rating.  It's going to get five stars, I know that already but not for any reason I can readily put my finger on.

I follow David Brin on twitter and have read many science articles he posts.  I imagine him to be the kind of person who'd sit on my back deck and turn the barbeque down when it needed it and be comfortable enough to wander around my house to find the bathroom.  And I'd feel comfortable enough to let him.  I may be delusional but let me have my fantasy.

Brin's works have been so much a part of my reading history I can honestly say they have influenced my vision of the future.

Earth was first published more than twenty years ago and I read it then after adoring his Uplift novels.  I especially enjoyed the (what seemed at the time) futurist statements about global warming and the results of the careless habits of billions of humans.  I compared the images of thick sunblock and covering up with the cavalier attitude we had toward the sun in the seventies and early eighties when a kid with a sunburn was even more rare than one who shaved off her eyebrows thinking they'd grow back before her parents returned from a weekend away.

Now however I enjoy another cool and rainy (and some say global warming induced) June in my yard.  Socks and shoes instead of sandals and a blanket over my shoulders when the laptop doesn't provide enough heat.  The windows are closed and sometimes the furnace still comes on.  When the sun does show I cake the sunblock on the kids every hour.  When I was their age there wasn't sunblock and a kid with freckles had no more than a dozen.  As a teen we used baby oil to enhance tanning and you couldn't buy more than spf 8.  That was for wusses.

So much of Earth was fantasy to me then.  It's fact now: desertification, polar caps melting, extinctions.  Science struggles to find ways to preserve our cheetahs, elephants and polar bears as human encroachment and habitat changes make their way of life untenable.  Unfortunately science seems to be able to do nothing more than document their decline with stoic resignation.

I've taken to reading Earth as if it were a series of short stories.  No more than a chapter a day.  I need the time to incorporate the imagery properly.  When I first read it I recall licking the words from the pages in only a few sittings.  I remember loving it although today I'm not sure why.  Those memories are lost with the passage of the past two decades.  There's suspense, intrigue and action of course; more than enough to hold the interest of a much younger Elizabeth.  I took the futurist science as complete fiction.  Very well done fiction, but fiction none the less.  Now however so much is entirely believable.  If we just push a little harder we can get there and therein lies the drama for me today.

If you've read Earth in the past I highly recommend doing so again.  For me, little memory of the plot remains having been so long ago so it is like reading it for the first time.  How often can we do that?  But I'm alarmed by the differences between the childhoods I'm guiding and the one I remember.  Other things have changed too.  I remember my kids' amazement at the sight of a typewriter.  Or mothballs, anyone remember those?  I don't remember the last time I encountered someone bearing that distinctive smell.  Not that mothballs or typewriters would effect much global change today.  Most of those typewriters sit in landfills like the local one we visited yesterday.  It's a true mountain.  I remember when it was a hole and we called it a dump.

I've read my chapter for today and put my Kobo in the drawer.  I wonder about that piece of plastic and silicon with its touch screen and its wifi.  Is it any greener than the paperbacks it replaces?  I suppose it is although I'll likely have to pay a fee at the recycling centre one day as a penalty for leaving a tree alone in favour of a toxic battery.

It's time to move on to other things.  The sun is out.  I'm not going to waste it.

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