readingtrance

book reviews by Althea

Mockingbird – Walter Tevis ***

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I didn’t think I’d ever heard of Tevis, but as it turns out, he wrote ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth,’ (and, less relevantly, ‘The Color of Money.’)
I’m also surprised that I never came across this book before, because in many ways, it’s right up my alley – and I feel like I would have been even more enthused about it shortly after it was published, than now.
In theme, and some particulars, the book is very reminiscent of ‘Brave New World.’ Set in a future New York City, a reduced, obedient populace self-medicates and approaches life with apathy. Robots serve people’s needs – but everything is decaying, breaking down, and there are no children.
In this bleak world, we meet three people – Spofforth, a handsome black robot whose programming prevents him from carrying out his suicidal urges; and two humans whose relationship is complicated by Spofforth: Mary Lou, a rebel who’s ceased taking the soma-like drugs provided to all people, and Bentley, a teacher – such as a teacher can be in a society which has largely forgotten what reading is. Bentley’s discovery of reading, coinciding with his meeting Mary Lou, leads him to start questioning what’s going on around him, and what’s happening to humanity.
Overall, I liked the book – some nice commentary on the nature of humanity, and, of course, anything pro-reading is something I can get behind! (Even if the concept of learning to read from decaying, subtitled 1920’s celluloid films in the 25th century is a little bit ridiculous… sorry, the originals are not going to be playable by then, even with ideal storage conditions.) However, it does feel a little dated – several aspects of the book made me feel more like it could have been written in 1960 rather than 1980; especially the social fears referenced by Spofforth’s physical description (African American) and how he interacts in the plot.

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