Future Quartet

The Jerry Pournelle series continues with his involvement in a project that included Ben Bova, Frederik Pohl, and Charles Sheffield.

Raw Feed (1995): Future Quartet: Earth in the Year 2042: A Four-Part Invention, eds. Ben Bova, Frederik Pohl, Jerry Pournelle, Charles Sheffield, 1994.Future Quartet

Introduction”, Charles Sheffield — The origins of the project and its assignment to Ben Bova, Frederik Pohl, Jerry Pournelle, and Charles Sheffield to provide perspectives ranging utopian to dystopian. There is also an interesting list of technologies and sociopolitcal events and problems not considered by futurists of 50 years ago.

2042:  A Cautiously Pessimistic View”, Ben Bova — Bova’s futuristic speculations related in fictional form as an address by Chiblum C. Lee, Chairman of the World Council. Bova postulates a world of climate change from global warming (desertification and famine), cheap energy (fusion and solar power satellites), aquaculture, and deep-sea mining where space is starting to be exploited. However, it is also a world of over ten billion people with a large gap between rich and poor countries. Lee proposes taxing rich countries to better the lot of poor countries. (The old foreign aid scheme which doesn’t work now because poor countries are poor through internal political and social problems and nothing else.) He realizes that the rich countries must see this to be in their self-interest, that coercion will not work and that vested interest will resist change. Nothing real new here. I thought Bova was more conservative and had faith in free markets as the tool to enrichments.  This is a scenario of bigger foreign aid.

The Kingdom Come”, Ben Bova — An alright story narrated in first person and a take-off on Bova’s “2042:  A Cautiously Pessimistic View” before it in the anthology. It involves protagonist Salvatore Passalacqua from the grim inner city of Philadelphia and his prostitute girlfriend (an unrequited love). Both don’t legally exist, and both get involved in a plot to take World Chairman Lee hostage. This is a pretty standard sf tale of a poor, violent future urban America with only a few points of interest. First, Passalacqua is a electronics genius. Second, the terrorists kidnapping Lee are not entirely bad. They want the World Council to depose dictators in their own countries, but the World Council refuses to interfere with nations’ internal affairs. Third, the Controllers are accused of all sorts of things throughout the story but seem to be a branch of the Controllers who help certain individuals out of poverty via education. Lastly, Passalacqua rejects a world of interconnectedness, a world where the poor can be helped and things changed. In a plot contrary to the usual poor-person-accidentally-given-the-chance-at-betterment–and-taking-it plot, he rejects his chance at education and returns to die in Philadelphia (it’s presumed). His girlfriend takes her chance, though, and studies law. Continue reading “Future Quartet”

Tin Stars

Sloth, indolence, sickness, and working on another review for Innsmouth Free Press mean you get another retro review.

It’s a robot book and a August 26, 2000 retro review.

Review: Tin Stars: Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful World of Science Fiction #5, eds. Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles Waugh, 1986.

“Robots in Judgment” was editor Asimov’s preferred title for this anthology since the stories cover more ground than just robot detectives.Tin Stars

Oh, there are robot detectives here all right. Asimov’s famous human and robot detective team of Lije Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw are here for their only short story appearance, “Mirror Image.” The murderous mobile law enforcer of Ron Goulart’s “Into the Shop” captures the same criminal — again and again. A robotic Sherlock Holmes, his Cockney-rhyming robot dog, and a Watson of mysterious origins investigate the case of a possibly mad industrialist on a future greenhouse Earth in Edward Wellen’s “Voiceover”.

Wellen also gives us an interesting, proto-cyberpunk story, “Finger of Fate”, with its hard-boiled, if immobile, computer who prowls databases and public records to solve his cases. The machines of Harry Harrison’s “Arm of the Law” and Harlan Ellison’s and Ben Bova’s “Brillo” are not exactly detectives but robot cops, and each must deal with police corruption and the difference between theoretical law enforcement and carrying a badge in the real world of humans. “Brillo” also deals with blue collar fears of being replaced by machines. The tin stars of Larry Niven’s famous “Cloak of Anarchy” supervise a Free Park where anything except physical violence goes — until an artist decides to put his political ideas into effect and disable them. Stephen R. Donaldson’s “Animal Lover” is a cyborg federal cop sent to investigate a hunting preserve with an oddly high body count of hunters. Continue reading “Tin Stars”