Humanity’s main problems in this particular dystopian novel come in the form of overpopulation and too much coddling. Emphasis on the coddling. Two hundred years from now, after many trials and tribulations, mankind sends a colony ship to an exoplanet. At least three or four hundred years after that (exact time never given) the Pearl colony consists of people who are much like the Eloi of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine but with no Morlocks in sight. They are fed, clothed, and cleaned up after by hidden machines that they never have a single thought about. When those machines start to break down our protagonist is there to puzzle things out. It was this puzzling out that kept me reading through to the end. I love a good puzzle.
He finds scraps of paper with drawings on them, sees people that he calls the heroes acting more intelligently than others and seemingly saving the day but soon the heroes stop showing up and Samuel is left to figure things out on his own. But the puzzles and the way he figures them out don’t always make complete sense. In fact, there are several things that bothered me about the story.
First of all, the idea that having all needs met and no adversity in life means society becomes so lazy intellectually that language devolves and people become like placid, empty animals. I think all that time would be spent in the pursuit of art, relationships, basically all the things everyone feels there is never enough time for. There would finally be time. That’s assuming that every problem can be solved which in itself just seems silly. Well, that’s just my opinion but how long it takes for a species to evolve/devolve so considerably isn’t just my opinion. Let’s just say it takes longer than a few hundred years.
I was also bothered by clunky writing in general but especially when it came to describing how Samuel, a man with very limited language skills, perceived the world. I know that it’s a difficult task, one the writer took on with risks, but this was such an obvious case of too much telling, not enough showing that I really couldn’t stand it at times. Describing technology the way Samuel would have seen it first and foremost – using his limited language skills and knowledge and then elaborating for the reader if necessary – would have been much better.
Speaking of technology, there is a machine that controls the weather so perfectly that it turns a blizzard into a warm spring day in seconds. This machine would absolutely not have switches and dials like something out of a bad scifi movie from the seventies.