Science fiction is just the best thought exercise

When I first read The Unincorporated Man years ago, what really stood out was that I didn’t like it. I couldn’t articulate why very well, just a vague certainty that if I wrote a review, it would be a negative one. There are a lot of very strong ideas in the book and I think I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if I agreed with the side the author was writing from, but without actually understanding what side the author was writing from.

And yet, for the next few years, I consistently reference it or talk about it at lease once every couple of months, and not even as rants or criticisms but because I was really impressed with the way the author teased out a few ideas about how our current culture is going to evolve. The book stuck in my brain like a splinter and last Christmas I thought of a couple of people who would really enjoy reading it. When I got it for them, I also picked myself up a copy (I borrowed it from the library first time I read it) and I found two (used!) books that apparently followed up on it. I didn’t realize it was a series, but given the nature of my complaint, I was excited to see what else the authors had done with the story line.

Rereading this book cemented a growing suspicion I had that I did, in fact, really like it. The first time through the book, I spent a lot of time trying to piece apart the flaws in the system the author created, or poke at the consequences to the system he theorized, but to do so really misses the book’s point. Science fiction is humanity’s best took to look at not just society, but to look at the essence behind humanity. It’s a way to hear it components of human behaviour that might not always be readily apparent. The Kollins use the idea of corporations and an incorporated structure because it’s a really great way to play out what I think is their basic philosophy regarding people. Ease of convenience leads to gluttony which brings a call for abstinence which grows into moderation. This theme gets played out through various elements, the primary one being the incorporated system.

My favourite part of the first book, though, and the reason I originally didn’t like it, were two little tidbits that I almost wondered initially if they meant to cut out before the final draft. They have a bit that deals with virtual reality, and they include some interesting ideas about their neuro (the future internet) and avatars. Those bits were hands down my favourite part of the book, but almost inconsequentially small. I’m trying to do this without any spoilers, but the next two books in the series confirmed that they weren’t throw-away accidental additions, but foundations for bigger elements in the later books. The more I read the series, the more fascinated I am with the whole system of ideas they play with.

tl;dr really fucking good book, which grew into a thought provoking series. Did not disappoint at all.


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