Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Robert Silverberg. Hawksbill Station (1968)

     Robert Silverberg. Hawksbill Station (1968) Premise: a “humane” totalitarian regime has replaced the constitutional republic of the United States, and sends political dissidents 1 billion years into the past. There is no way to return these exiles. Plot: A newcomer has no political knowledge of value, and it’s clear to the reader, if not the exiles, that there will be way to return. Setting: pre-Cambrian Earth, with no life on land. Silverberg’s depiction of this setting is limited both by his knowledge, and the gaps in contemporary understanding of this era).
     The narrator’s task is to make all this work in terms of character. Silverberg fails. The exiles are political stances and/or psychological case histories. Barrett, the central character, has a backstory involving an love triangle as well as political betrayal, and that’s as complicated as it gets.
     Silverberg is good at elucidating ideas, at presenting ideologies and politics. It’s fascinating to see how little has changed in the US political landscape. Silverberg is especially good at what makes America America: its unwillingness to change, which in practice means a major upheaval in every generation, when the inevitable effects of incomplete transmission of the culture forces changes that the old guard resents. But by the middle of the book, about the only impetus is the plot, which is thin. I’d guessed the resolution, skipped to end and saw my guess confirmed, so I stopped reading. **

No comments: