Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Heir of the byte that dogged us

In David R. Palmer's Emergence, the world has ended in a bionuclear apocalypse, and only the smart people survived. The survivors are not just smart, they're literally a superior species of humanity, a homo post hominem of rational geniuses who have quietly evolved among us. Immune to all disease, and aware of the apocalypse in advance, they survive both the nuclear war and the ensuing plague. The world is now clean of normal people. It's the Day of the Übermensch.

The protagonist is an 11-year old girl, a speed-reading genius who can use her karate skills to perform superhuman feats of strength, and we follow her on her search for other survivors in the American wasteland.

The premise and the style of Emergence is so Heinleinian that you can read it as either a homage or a parody. It works as both. Every major and minor character we meet could be the hero of a Heinlein novel, which is both ridiculous and adorable.

It's like someone has made a wish fulfillment fantasy out of Heinleinian elitism. "I liked that story where those people were smarter than everybody else, now let's make a story where everybody is super-smart, except this little girl who is even smarter than that."

Right. But still: Adorable. And fun. Misguided, but in a unique way. I can't take it seriously, but I can't hate it either, and apathy is not an option here.



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