The White Abacus review

Michael Lorrey (
Fri, 11 Apr 1997 18:40:54 -0400

Today I spent most of my time reading front to back Damien Broderick's
new novel _The_White_Abacus_. For those of you on the list who have not
read it, I recommend that you do so as one of your leisure priorities.
Here are my impressions.

I stopped into the Dartmouth Bookstore in Hanover today, and was
browsing the SF shelves when I spotted _The_White_Abacus_, a title I had
just read about from Damien's past posts to the list. Hey! A book by
someone I "know". For $12.95, it was pricey for a paperback, but hell,
what are freinds for. ;)

After purchasing the book along with this quarter's issue of 2600
magazine, _Time_Station_Paris_ by David Evans, and
_Partisan:_Hostile_Takeover_#2_ by S. Andrew Swann, I strolled up the
street to The Dirt Cowboy for a double latte, and sat down to read TWA.

The first several pages went a bit slow as I shifted my perspective to
grow comfortable with the lingusitic conventions and slang of the
milieu. I didn't catch on to the parallels to Hamlet until the death of
the protagonists father, following which, the various character's
allegorical names helped me sort out the story based on the Shakespeare.
The one part I found I most enjoyed was that while Hamlet was a true
anti-hero, snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory, Damiens
protagonist, Telmah, is Hamlet's mirror more than in name.

At the same time, Damien weaves a future universe of very extropic
transhuman means, equal to that of Dan Simmon's Hyperion novels, though
in a thousand pages less. The pace more closely resembles that of
_Fall_of Hyperion_ in its suspense, rather than the plodding sloth of
_Hyperion_ that parallels _The_Canterbury_Tales. Brodericks
understanding of both physics and philosophy, their DMZ, and the facets
of the archetypal oedipal conflict make for a seamless dialogue with
the reader.

One plot hole which was evident in my mind seems to be a false construct
to justify the existence of the authoritarian belter culture. The
belters still hang onto belief in the immortal soul (and base some
technology on the same) and refuse to use the hex teleportation gates
due to a beleif that their souls become separated from their bodies
through use of such technology. THus they are stuck using plain old
reaction propulsion technology, which limits them to the solar system,
while the hex civilization has spread across the galaxy. WHile this is a
necessary construct, it seems to me that the very physics that enable
hex technology also enable development of Alcubierre Warp technology, a
means of traveling at hyper-relativistic rates relative to non-local
space while remaining within the bounds of relativity. As such a
technology would not require a dissociation of body from "soul", as the
body remains corporate within the local frame of reference, the belter
society would thus not become insular and stunted as it is in TWA.

Beyond this, which I imagine would not be evident to any but a few
readers, I found the book so gripping and fun that I only stopped once,
in the middle, to travel back to Lebanon, where I finished the book over

My only question left answered/unanswered is: Where are the
extraterrestrials in this galaxy?

			Michael Lorrey
------------------------------------------------------------		Inventor of the Lorrey Drive

Mikey's Animatronic Factory My Own Nuclear Espionage Agency (MONEA) MIKEYMAS(tm): The New Internet Holiday Transhumans of New Hampshire (>HNH) ------------------------------------------------------------ #!/usr/local/bin/perl-0777---export-a-crypto-system-sig-RC4-3-lines-PERL @k=unpack('C*',pack('H*',shift));for(@t=@s=0..255){$y=($k[$_%@k]+$s[$x=$_ ]+$y)%256;&S}$x=$y=0;for(unpack('C*',<>)){$x++;$y=($s[$x%=256]+$y)%256; &S;print pack(C,$_^=$s[($s[$x]+$s[$y])%256])}sub S{@s[$x,$y]=@s[$y,$x]}