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Bookworm In Your Ear: That Dystopian Near-Future

Of late, a number of Science Fiction writers have opted to go near-future and hinge a lot of what they write about on dystopian futures or encroaching technology. Here are two that don’t forget how the human element is just as important!

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd 

A debut novelist, Shepherd wonderfully depicts a world where one day, in a Delhi market, a man becomes a ‘cause celebre’ by suddenly losing his shadow. At first a reason for him to be followed by news teams and cameras, he takes his newfound popularity in stride. Panic and a sense of foreboding ensue as memories begin to seep out of him as well (he can’t recognize his own brother); and suddenly, as others around the world report similar ‘loss of shadow’, it’s seen as a curse or disease. Against this premise, we open months later where a husband and wife in Virginia, are holding out via isolation when the wife still loses her shadow. What ensues, the hope of New Orleans, what we'll do in the name of love, and how Hope can Spring eternal are all part of this gripping, contemplative work. 

Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano-Lax

This one became a reading ‘special project’ as I discovered one of the main characters in this novel set in 2029 is a Filipina. A caregiver working in Tokyo, Angelica is taking care of 99 year old Sayako on the eve of her 100th year celebration. A gift from Sayako’s 60-something son is a prototype AI bot that Angelica looks at as a threat to her continued employment. What happens next is an often meditative excursion into ageing, into the plight of the immigrant, and insights into Japanese culture and society, where a problem exists in terms of how to populate future Japan given that so few are having children. It’s an engrossing novel that sets its own measured pace, and distinguished itself by addressing the human condition, even if in some future timeframe. Sci-Fi that’s intelligent and probing.