Friday, 30 January 2015

Back To The Beginning

Sometimes, the opening sentences of a novel indicate in advance the plot or theme of the work but, of course, the reader does not understand the references yet. In such cases, it is good to remember to reread that introductory passage after reading to the end of the book.

In Poul Anderson's Genesis (New York, 2001):

"The story is of a man, and a woman, and a world. But ghosts pass through it, and gods. Time does, which is more mysterious than any of these.
"A boy stood on a hilltop and looked skyward." (p. 3)

On the first reading, we might notice the author's use of language:

man, woman, world - rhyme and alliteration, progression of ideas;
ghosts, gods - more alliteration, literally haunting language;
at the climax of the paragraph, the most evocative words of all: time and mysterious.

After reading the book, we know:

the man, Christian Brannock, and the woman, Laurinda Ashcroft, both preserved as AI uploads;

the world, Earth, preserved from an Ice Age and an interstellar nebula, given peace, depopulated, repopulated, lovingly studied by the Solar intelligence, close to its death, the subject of unprecedented controversy among nodes of the galactic brain.

Christian and Laurinda are ghosts. The nodes are gods. Much more time passes than is usual in an sf novel. The boy looking skyward becomes the man who, as an upload, goes to the stars. We now understand every obscure phrase. And we might, just possibly, start to read the book all over again.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I can see why you might soon reread GENESIS. This is a very philosophical novel densely packed with ideas richly rewareding repeated reading and concentrated thought. It might even become the focus of meditation!