Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Review of Resistance
Resistance by David F. Weisman
I have read too many sci-fi novels since grade school, and I can't say that I remember any of them focusing on what Weisman has focused on in Resistance (formerly called Absoprtion). I cut my sci-fi teeth on Heinlein, Bova and Bradbury and found my "thrill" with Asimov, etc. But what Weisman has attempted with this novel is unique to say the least.
Resistance is a sci-fi "concept" novel that is set not too far into the future. Humans of Earth have figured out how to build massive space vehicles and have ventured light-years away into the galaxy. On one planet, named Oceania, settlers have learned to not only communicate with a being they refer to as the Overmind (which is also referred to as the super-mind, etc.) but to participate in a collective of shared neurons, so to speak. This collective consciousness allows even certain Oceania inhabitants to develop scientific advancements that far exceed those developed by non-Oceania humans. The novel's main character, Brett Johnson, early in his military medical career, is sent to a Federation colony called Roundhouse where he is to investigate and tend to the survivors of a massacre there that has been attributed to members of this collective consciousness or "hive mind." Ten years later, Brett is sent as part of a peace excursion to help convince Oceania to give up much of their hive-mind activities or suffer the catastrophic consequences.
The relationship that develops between Brett and Ariel, one of the ladies of Oceania, gives the novel a gritty and fairly-entertaining romantic feel; the only real "action" between at least two characters in Absorption occurs in their love scenes. Yes, that is how it is: this novel is definitely NOT a man vs. alien, man vs. cyborg, or even man vs. himself piece of fiction. Resistance is an analysis constructed through a copious amount of dialogue with a smattering of conceptual narration. The strongest (if that's the best word) narratiive sequences in the novel are located in its final third. As another reviewer mentioned, even though Resistance presents something akin to Star Trek's "the Borg", the novel only delivers an interesting perspective on the concept of a "collective consciousness" without any of the gory action/battle sequences.
Even though the storyline is presented via a third-person omniscent narrative style, it feels like the only "mind" the reader has has access to is Brett's. Brett Johnson, his thoughts, his actions, his faults/weaknesses, and even his lusts are on every page of the novel. If the reader does not become an expert in who Brett Johnson is by the end of Resistance, they have not been paying attention. To put if simply, Resistance is about Brett Johnson's coming to terms with not only his painful past but also with what could be his prosperous future.
I could go into how Brett chooses to learn more than he wants to learn about the "hive-mind," but this would be adding more spoilers than I should. By the way, a few other reviewers have already written about this :)