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Ian Foster has commented on (2) products.

Mainspring by Jay Lake

Ian Foster, July 23, 2009

The question of a divine creator’s existence is only one among many such spiritual and philosophical quandaries. Yet it’s all too easy to get hung up on that question without considering others that are just as important. Indeed, it’s all too easy to confuse the “existence question” with questions about the nature of the creator, the nature of human beings, and the nature of our relationship with our creator and with the world around us. Our biases, preconceptions, and prejudices lead us to assume that, if a creator exists, he/she/it must be a certain way. He/she/it would look, think, and behave in the way we expect a creator would. And so when we do not see in this world the influence of the kind of creator we expect, we reason that there is no creator at all. For it may be much more simple to believe in no creator than to believe in a creator who is different from the one we want.

In Mainspring, JayLake takes a unique approach to help the characters (and, by extension, the readers) sort through our philosophical and spiritual uncertainties: he resolves the “existence question” conclusively so as to remove that question from consideration, at least within the context of the book. In the Mainspring universe, a great wall topped by gear teeth encircles the world and moves the Earth along its vast orbital track around the sun. The other planets and satellites in our solar system move along like mechanisms. The Hand of God in creating the universe is, therefore, apparent and undeniable to any who are willing to simply raise their eyes to the sky. The “existence question” is no question at all.

Jay Lake tells us, “Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that God exists and He created the Heavens and the Earth.” If the reader is willing to make that assumption, at least temporarily, then the reader is free to ask the other, often sticker and more difficult spiritual and philosophical questions without getting hung up on the question of whether God exists in the first place. The reader can cast off prejudices about what God ought to be like and instead concentrate on what God is like. Forget about how humans would interact with their creator and think about how humans should interact with their creator. Those are the questions with which the characters in Mainspring must wrestle.

Mainspring does something I've not seen in many books. It gives you a context with which to explore your own thoughts and ideas about spirituality, while keeping you in a fun, entertaining, and non-threatening atmosphere. It helps you to ask some serious questions of yourself but without taking yourself too seriously. I definitely recommend giving this one a shot.
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A Grey Moon over China by Thomas Day
A Grey Moon over China

Ian Foster, July 23, 2009

A Grey Moon Over China has the potential to become the most important and/or influential sci-fi book of its generation. And I’m not just saying that, as I'm not a big fan of speaking in hyperbole. I really believe this book has that kind of potential. It’s difficult for me to put into words my thoughts and feelings on Thomas A Day’s profound first attempt at a novel. I’m sure I can’t do justice to his book. I won't try to recap the plot since the publisher has done that for us on the dust jacket. All I can do is simply try to convey a sense of the message I took away from this book.

Eduardo Torres, the protagonist in A Grey Moon Over China, has a recurring dream of darkness, incoherence, and uncertainty. As you might imagine, that dream is a cryptic metaphor for his journey through life. Ed takes his friends, colleagues, and lover with him on that journey, and they both lose and gain their humanity along the way.

This is not a happy book. If you want happy, go to Disneyland. I have no problem with Disneyland, mind you. I take my family there every year. But I’m not always looking for Disneyland. Sometimes I’m looking for a dose of truth, no matter how bad it might taste. An elixir to stop my utopian dreams from running amuck, so that I might remember how far we yet have to go and how much work is yet to be done. A foul reminder not to take anyone’s goodness, particularly my own goodness, for granted. The author drives home with gut-wrenching exuberance the point that what’s necessary and what’s right are not always the same thing, and that sooner or later we all have to make a choice. We cannot have it both ways and we cannot pass blame, judgment, or condemnation on others.

Thankfully, however, the people living in Thomas A. Day’s vision of the near future are not irreparable or irredeemable. He may force upon us the desperate truth that, if humanity is to create a better life for our children here and amongst the stars, it will take better people than we are ... but he also leaves us with the assurance that it will not take better people than we are capable of being ... for that, ultimately, is the message of hope behind and beyond the unhappy plight of the characters in A Grey Moon Over China.
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