Thursday, January 31, 2002

I recently read some criticism on the Usenet newsgroup alt.peeves of the Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle/Michael Flynn novel Fallen Angels (one of many with that title, but this is the 1991 science fiction book which you can read online at Baen Books). The Usenet post argued that the future in which the novel is set is ridiculously inconsistent. Glaciers cover most of Canada and into the U.S.; the city of Winnipeg is ice-free due to a heat/power beam from space, but the same effort is not made anywhere else? I have to agree that there are holes in the setting, and certainly the persecution of people who like technology seems an awful lot less likely since the Internet has become part of so many people's lives.

Yet if you can engage your suspension of disbelief, Fallen Angels is a whole lot of fun. The idea of underground science fiction fans fighting government, bandits, and the new Ice Age to rescue two space station residents from their crashed ship will appeal not only to those active in SF fan organizations , but to anyone who doesn't consider themselves normal and who's willing to see stupidity made fun of. The extreme nutcases of the environmentalist, feminist, New Age, Christian fundamentalist and other movements are portrayed as the cause of all problems (though it sometimes does irk me that the book rarely points out the existence of more moderate views in many of these movements). The science fiction fans (not necessarily the only remaining technophiles, but the only ones who can use SF references to identify one another) turn the rescue of two "Angels" into hope for all humanity's future, and give an example of the power of community, despite the peculiarity of the community. (And, of course, those readers who are SF fans will also have extra fun identifying references to other works and picking out the characters who are based on real people.)