Science Fiction Though the Decades

Friday, December 30, 2011

1972: The City Machine (Trimble, Louis)

Vertically segregated city imbues social revolution (4/5)
From May 3, 2011

Rear cover synopsis:
"The entire population of that colonized planet was crowded into one all-enclosed self-functioning city construction. For the majority the situation was like living forever in the steerage of an immigrant freighter. For a few there were some privileges, and for the Highs, power and luxury had been secured by a change of language and the destruction of the old books. Which was where the man Ryne came in. For he was the last who could read the original language - and if they could ever locate the machine that could build new cities, he'd be the only one to read the instructions. The story of the search for the City Machines, the linguistics and logistics problems presented, and the fight for Ryne's very life is a science fiction novel of edge-of-the-seat excitement."

My first Trimble novel isn't such a bad one. The book's synopsis really nails it as I have very little to add to it. There are three levels of people: at the bottom are those who perform the machine city's dirty work for the comfort of the Highs while those in the middle perform administrative duties. Some Lowers with promising skills can be uplifted to Upper like Ryne. After a successful duty in Upper, one's offspring can be upgraded to the height of the Highs, where everything is comfort and luxury. The Coordinator is an Upper who has hope for his offspring to live the life with the Highs.

There is a lot of double crossing and perhaps triple crossing, if you're keen enough to spot it. The motivations of the characters (for those inside the City and even those living outside the City) are clear. When Ryne reflects on his dedications to his partner in the Upper, towards his duty for Coordinator, towards his belief in revolution with the outside and towards uncovering injustice, he ambles like a serpent between all these duties. He's a bit of a master-of-consciousness.

I found the entire plot to capture my imagination (which any good book should be, period) where a space colony ship crashes and the crew is split between living in the Machine City they have brought with them or to live under stars. This split is where language diverges, customs stray and knowledge digresses. With a rare lineage of old language readership, Ryne's family has been the keeper of the ancient script and Ryne, himself, is the last to be able to read the language in which the manual for the Machine City is written. When the Lowers have this knowledge with the help of Ryne, they hope to construct their own city but without the social injustice experienced in the current Machine City.

I would have liked to have experienced the living conditions, the social atmosphere of each of the levels. I found all of that lacking and therefore I found it hard to sympathize with the plight of the Lowers and the righteousness of the Highs. Barring this one fault, it's a good, thoughtful read. I also have Trimble's The Wandering Variables is my 120+ book collection, which I hope also provides a sense of wonder as The City Machine has done.

1 comment:

  1. This one is next on my list....