In this post I’ll offer a summary of the plot so far, followed by observations and questions for reading. If you haven’t read the novel yet, you might want to avoid this post if you’re leery of spoilers.
But first, let me pull together online commentary and links from readers so far.
Mike Richichi blogs about his reactions, including observations about infrastructure, technology, and today’s politics.
Many, many comments flowed like the risen Hudson from last week’s post. A few to savor:
- Babette Kraft notes the link between a section title (about value and price) and its contents (personal and urban backstories).
- We continued to discuss the uneven or relatively low level of technological development.
- A major article about climate change and failed attempts to address it appeared in the New York Times. (thanks, Tom)
- Steven Kaye thinks Mr. Hexter echoes British historian J.H. Hexter.
Bill Benzon blogs about his views of the city, offering several terrific photos of downtown, including the Met. For example:
It’s winter, so New York ices up until a February thaw. Idelba (Vlade’s ex) successfully extracts gold from under the Hudson using a giant dredge, much to Stefan and Roberto’s delight. Vlade then discovered and helped free Mutt and Jeff from a hostage box. We learn more about Henry Vinson, a shady trader. The Met co-op’s population narrowly rejects a buy-out offer. Most of our characters brainstorm what to do with the discovered gold. Amelia survives another accident, then tours Greenland and Siberia.
Mr. Hexter tells the boys a Herman Melville/smuggling/ghost story (referencing the Moby Dick chapter “The Line“), which inspires them on a new project. Franklin rescues them again and works on his floating building project. Inspector Gen tries to close in on Vinson. Our characters’ brainstorm for dealing with the gold has become a revolutionary effort to decapitate or reboot the global economy. The boys head out on the water once more, but run into a rising storm, and our selection ends there.
The politics are now openly revolutionary and anticapitalist.
We see more technology in these chapters, I think. There are underwater sleds riding subway tunnels (Kindle 4800), hostage boxes (4819), “milk of amnesia” inducing memory loss (4917), remotely operated submarines (5010), “giant robot freighter airships” (5542), skyvillages (5543), containerclippers (5630), and “mayflies” (little recording devices, I infer) (5721). Visual surveillance has expanded quantitatively since our time, or at least the police have:
“How many cameras do you have deployed now?”
“It’s a few million. The limiting factor these days is the analysis. I’ll try to figure out some questions and see what I find.” (4943)
People still use personal response systems, a/k/a clickers (5041). Automation of human work didn’t happen (5777). Most meat eaten by humans is artificially created (5796).
I enjoyed some passages, like “…the middle of the glaucous cronking of the upsuck…” (4699) and “‘We persist in living,’ Jeff said sardonically.” (5080) “Vlade the derailer” is a goofy pun that still makes me smile (5208). “Escher Protection Services” is a great name for a security firm (6259).
Henry Vinson is the novel’s only villain that’s a character and human being. He has a lot of heavy lifting to do, and he has come too late in the tale, from my rereading. Bill has some thoughts on this.
- “Assisted migration” is a theme from the book’s first section, and it keeps returning throughout (35 times by my count). What do you think the term means at this point in the novel? How many senses does it have? Who assists whom?
- Education: still no sign of formal education. Is the book celebrating informal learning?
- Escalation of commitment is when people double down on sunk costs. Where do you see this in your world?
- Charlotte gives a speech against a certain kind of economy (it starts “Fuck money…”, 5048). Is this the book’s idea? Do you agree?
What do you think? Let us know in comments below. Or share your thoughts on your own blogs, Twitter, or wherever you like. I’ll harvest everything I can find with each week’s starting post – and ping me if you want to make sure I catch you.
If you feel a bit swamped (sorry, couldn’t resist), take a breath. Remember, all blog posts for this reading are organized under a single tag, NewYork2140, so all of that content is available in one spot. That includes the full story of this reading, along with our guide and process.
August 13 – Part Seven. The More the Merrier; Part Eight. The Comedy of the Commons
August 20 – leftover and concluding thoughts. This may include reactions to the 2018 Hugo award, scheduled to be given August 19th.
*Please use that link if you want to order a copy of the book. We get a small benefit from each purchase.