Science Fiction Though the Decades

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

1993: The Destiny Makers (Turner, George)

Bleak look at decisions to population: cull or control (5/5)

I was first introduced to George Turner by picking up a nice looking novel in the science fiction section of my local second-hand bookstore. The novel was Down There In Darkness and the cover alone was hypnotizing enough. Once in the meat of the novel, the plot, too, was captivating with its essences of psychology and dystopian post-apocalypse Australia. That same novel also happens to be his last novel. Destiny Makers also has the psychological element but pre-dates the apocalypse, where the Earth is home to 12 billion people. Destiny Makers is about the cusp of cataclysm. (PS: I just realized that the same characters are used in Down There in Darkness. The themes are similar, so the two are actually linked... which teaches me not to space books like this 34 months apart)

The setting of Destiny Makers is one to make you stop and think. There are many passages which describe the bleak future of an over-populated earth and the decisions which must be made in order for earth to survive and humanity to thrive again, once free of the restrain from the shackles of unbidden growth. The two major solutions to population decline are found on page 67; " to restrain birthing. Or perhaps, how to expedite dying." With only two solutions, the protagonists must decide... but keep in mind, it is also humanity which must decide the curtailing of population.

"We are sufficiently civilized to know what we should do; our problem is what we are." (Page 250) Harry is a police detective born of lowly Wardie status. His honesty and integrity highlight him for a specific job of guarding a mysterious man in a mysterious hospital. It's known soon enough that the man is the once-senile father of the Premier who has undergone the illegal operation of age-reversal, which has also unclouded his mind. This breach in population law by the Premier himself is large enough for a major issue, so security is tight.

"Humanity is a disease that slaughters everything in its ambit; now it must slaughter its own flesh in order to preserve a viable core." (Page 259) The Premier is clearly disturbed by his inability to make the decision of all decisions. International pressure is on shoulders on the Premier, which is why he brought back his father from the brink of death. However, any counsel sought by the Premier belittles the voice of the majority of Wardies. With a choice needing to be made, will the Premier crack under pressure?

"Who's killing the world? People. Can't stop eating, can't stop f***ing, can't stop living, can't stop anything. Everyone says it's the other man's fault so kill him but leave me alone to do as I like. You got to get people out of the world to let it live." (Page 275) Compound the hi-so Premier's break down in leadership with Harry's lo-so perseverance and the result is a gathering of peripheral characters which stabilize the plot: a psychologist, a trained security man and right-hand of Harry, political opposition, a blackmailing doctor, and the pregnant teenaged daughter of the Premier. It's wide enough cast to allow for all sorts of contingent outcomes and will have you guessing exactly WHAT decision must be made.

"...the race bred like maggots across the carcass of earth." (Page 310) As bleak and pessimistic as it may sound, the realist in me sees The Destiny Makers as a stepping stone in what the real world must eventually do in order to curb its own population. It's sadly inevitable that we can't naturally cull ourselves like rabbits facing starvation... a decision must be made. This is exactly what Georoge Turner puts forth in The Destiny Makers. He may have been aiming for the mind of reader when he penned this novel, but be aware that it'll leave you feeling as if you've been punched in the gut.

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