Fast Forward Book Review for March 2007
Edward M. Lerner
Rockville, MD.: Wildside Press, 2006
by Colleen R. Cahill
The future is an often explored area in science fiction. These might be stories that look at the effects of technology on humanity, such as Neal Stephenson#39;s Snow Crash or cautionary tales of danger, as in George Orwell#39;s 1984. In Creative Destruction, Edward Lerner presents eight near-future stories that look at both the bright and dark sides of where humanity could be going, some that could be a warning and others that regale us with a glimpse of what might be, combined with a touch of whimsy.
The book starts with "The Day of the RFIDS," where a young man discovers that a data from a store#39;s inventory control system is being use by the Government for less than noble purposes. His solution is one that many might find unfeasible. One man also makes a difference in "Catch a Falling Star" as he tries to end a dark age where having a computer is a criminal offense. Computers, or more specifically sentient computer programs are the focus of "Survival Instinct." This work, which is actually a short novel, relates the chilling details of the release of a predatory computer program that could end the Internet if it is not destroyed. On the lighter side is "What a Piece of Work is Man". I chuckled over this tale of a psychiatrist who is trying to figure out why an Artificial Intelligence keeps committing suicide, in this tip-of-the-hat to Isaac Asimov#39;s Three Laws of Robotics. Another story with humor is "Iniquitous Computing" where one man seeks a way to silence all the computers in his life, ones he finds a bit too friendly and invasive. "Settlement" seems to be about a nightmare of greed in American society, until you reach the last paragraph where you will probably cheer this neatly planned revenge.
These stories all have computers in them in some form, but they are not always at the heart of the tale. The lead character in "By the Rules" is a sociology student who makes an amazing discovery when he begins an analysis of Internet chat rooms that are frequented by UFO enthusiasts. In the title story, "Creative Destruction," the murder of a close friend leads an expert on the impact of alien technology to a very devious plot by his employers, one that could throw the world into economic chaos.
This collection is not so much about predicting the future as it is about how today#39;s technology could impact us in the next few years. Lerner presents a set of tomorrows that are mostly familiar, but with possible perils, likely annoyances and potential bright spots. He also gives us stories that are full of creativity and feeling. For its compelling vision of what could be, you will want take more than a glimpse of Creative Destruction.