Tuesday, September 25, 2007

X-text for the X-attitude

kw: book reviews, science fiction, dystopias

The Y generation, today's 25-and under crowd, and some of the younger gen-Xers, are engaged in a cultural turnover I've begun to call X-Everything. It began with freestyle skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, and motorcycle racing (formerly motocross). Guys like Tony Hawke and Mark Barnett built a whole new genre of "extreme" sports, now just called X. The current reigning scariest rollercoaster is Magic Mountains "X", which begins with a 200-foot faceplant freefall. My teenage son loves it.

In a generation of accelerating hype, arena football is gaining on NFL, IFL fighting on boxing and wrestling and kickboxing, and the X-games on the Olympics (which has begun to cave in by adding Freestyle Skiing to the Winter Games, and may soon add Supercross to the Summer Games).

Can fiction be far behind? Indeed not. I have seen a few efforts among the genres I read, so far unsatisfactory...until now. Outrageous Fortune by Tim Scott, a very late Boomer or very early Xer, begins with the theft of a house (you know, leaving a hole in the landscape), continues with a series of abductions of the protagonist by a "limpet encyclopedia saleswoman", then four apocalyptically-monikered "Riders" (definite motocross roots, but an "ultracross" version), who sort of trade him back and forth. The penultimate climax occurs in a reproduction of a ruined cathedral, ruining it quite a bit more.

I confess I found it slow reading. The writing is excellent, and brimming with cool ideas, but the flash-bulbs-at-Paris-Hilton intensity of the scenes made for frequent overload. I couldn't hurry through any of it.

I do have to mention a few of the ideas. Everyone seems to be "chipped", identifiable and trackable at any distance. Quite a problem if you wish to escape from kidnappers and avoid recapture. The focal city is laid out in neighborhoods according to music genre (Classical, Chillout, Rap, Fusion, Easy Listening...). The central government has withered away from citizen apathy, being replaced by a dreadful duo: the record companies and the traffic police, both of which operate as unchallengeable oligarchies. The protagonist works as a Dream Architect, making virus-like material that will produce a dream along the lines you've chosen.

There is a denouemement that I simply dare not spoil. Be assured, the story doesn't end with "...and then I woke up." You'll almost wish it were that simple.

No comments: