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The Jagged Orbit Paperback – 2000
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So here we are. Unlike the other novels, this one doesn't seem utterly obsessed with a single dire topic, instead propelling us to a future where pretty much everything is going wrong on various levels. In the not too distant future we've experienced some variation of race riots (somewhat quaint now, with divisions seemingly more centered around religious differences) so that black and white people have sectioned themselves off into various cities, with very little crossover between the two and what does exist winding up being newsworthy.Read more ›
Now, obviously that didn't happen, and the jargon used to describe racial issues seems awfully dated at this late a date, but the rest of this story is the fascinating part, and why it's still one of my favorites of his, and why so much of it now seems eerily prescient. The lead character mentioned above, Matthew Flamen, is a "spool pigeon." What they don't tell you above is that a "spool pidgeon" is a gossip columnist and political analyst who specializes in creating fake digital film footage of real news figures doing and saying what he thinks they said or did; even if the film couldn't possibly have been really shot, in his world he can't get sued if the event (or something substantially similar) actually happened. And if the network's computerized analysis of the news and other gossip sources says that the probability of his guess being right is at 90% or higher and he does get sued, they'll pay for it out of their lawsuit insurance.
The charlatan state mental health director mentioned above? The big revalation about him is that he considers all of society to be insane in some way or other, and aspires to have the entire state of New York (and eventually the world) under psychiatric treatment and control.Read more ›
Of the four it is by far the weakest and suffers much by time. However, you can see in the characters of Matthew Flamen and Elias Mogshack the seeds of later ones, especially Chad C. Mulligan of Stand on Zanzibar. (I also sense a similarity with Norman Spinrad's Jack Barron, but I cannot recall who come first.) The stylistic changes from his earlier work, and that would make Stand on Zanzibar such a landmark work in SF, are present here mainly in the chapter titles and the structure of the beginning and end. While I hesitate to recommend this to anyone, it proved interesting to me.