Voices of the Generation

On Goodreads I came across a reference to “Blueprints of the Afterlife” by Ryan Boudinot, certainly a book that would have caught my eye were I (still working in bookstores and) paying attention to books in general. The description tells us:

It is the Afterlife. The end of the world is a distant, distorted memory called “the Age of F***ed Up Shit.” A sentient glacier has wiped out most of North America. Medical care is supplied by open-source nanotechnology, and human nervous systems can be hacked.

How would I not enjoy this book, especially since reviewers I respect reference other writers I also enjoy and admire, the book was a PK Dick Award nominee, it has elements of sci-fi, post-modernism, and features “a virtuoso dishwasher”? I have conflicting instincts to both want to read this book at once and to never read it at all. Most of all the feeling I have is that there are a whole lot of us, writers/artists raised in the same generation, influenced by the same writers and artists who came before us, informed by the same cultural elements that surround us, part and parcel and product of the same world views and artistic movements swirling around us all the time, concurrent voices of the same generation, all of us so fucking original and exciting and unique and stamped out like variations on a theme. No two snowflakes are alike, they told us when I was young. Now they’ve updated that to conform to the reality that in fact there are limits to the creativity and variability even of snowflakes. Lots of them are alike. In fact, most of them are scarcely different from one another at all. Writers, I’m afraid, are a lot like those damn snowflakes. Where once upon a time a James Joyce or a Franz Kafka was startling and fresh and out there, nowadays it seems they’d be a dime a dozen. There are just so many people! It’s a law of averages, it’s a regression to the mean, it’s a statistical certainty that rather than there be any one “voice of a generation” there are going to be a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand, a million voices of this generation and even more for the generations that follow as the population veers towards the ten or eleven billion mark by the end of this century, and the human world at large becomes less impoverished, more educated, more literate, more creative with more tools at their disposal. It’s not a bad thing, not at all, it’s wonderful and I’m happy for all the people coming along who will have these opportunities, but at the same time there’s this snowflake syndrome and we’re in the midst of a blizzard. I might read the book and I might not. I might just read another instead. What am I missing? A slight variation on a theme? Anything at all?

(p.s. I read the full description of the book to my son, who insisted that we get a copy, so we did. It used to be that there wasn’t a whole lot of stuff like this out there, but now there is. Maybe this is just what happens when you get old! Everybody your age gets old with you.)

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