Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Man's Curiosity (and why it makes for a good story)

Let's face it: more often than not, when we're reading a book, a book's plot comes because we're just too.  Damn.  Curious.  This week's book, Robopocalypse, comes because a professor wanted to create and AI that could work WITH mankind, but continually made ones that wanted to take it over (14 of them, in fact), until he slipped up and couldn't control it (I don't mind telling you this because I found this out about 20 pages into the book.  Pretty non-spoilery.)

Ayn Rand's book, Anthem, that we reviewed a few weeks ago was all about how we had shoved ourselves back into the stone age because of knowing too much, and therefore we then punished people who were curious.

We see the theme every where (Martial Chronicles: We destroyed the Martians and then ourselves.)  So why do we keep seeing it?  And better yet, why do we, as readers, keep reading it?

There's not a lot better, in my book, that apocalyptic fiction, which is what a lot of this is.  It's the idea that humanity became too ambitious and destroyed ourselves and bam, here we are (Time Machine anyone?)  And yet, in all these stories, we always seem to be able to pull ourselves back out of the hole.  The Martian Chronicles a few families survive.  The Time Machine, they destroy the enemy and are able to progress as a society.  As a reader, we never really know if the author is telling us to hold ourselves back, because we could destroy ourselves, or to let loose, because at the end of the day, the Human Race is enduring and we're going to survive in the end anyway.

That's part of the reason that we read these books.  We, as a species, are absurdly attracted to disasters.  How many times have you slowed down and taken a good long look at the accident on the side of the road on your way home?

Stop lying you have too.

The truth of the matter is, for some weird reason, we are attracted to this disaster like moths to the flame.  It makes sense that we would be attracted to it in our literature too.  Think about the non-fiction that you read.  Now how much of that is about the Holocaust?  Or scandal?  Or a tragedy of history?  My two most favorite time periods to read about?  The Romanov Family (everyone is tragically murdered) and Tudor England (Henry VIII kills all his wives so that he can sleep with some new woman.  To be fair, I like to read about his daughter also, who brought about an English Golden Age, but mostly it's the beheading Man-Whore ways of Henry.)

The apocalypse almost has its own sub-genre in sci-fi/fantasy.  You see so much of it, robot uprisings, zombie take overs, nuclear warfare, that it could have a section all on its own titled "end of the world."  And it would probably be the best selling section.

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