Monday, June 25, 2007

By Barrington Bayley

Imagine an Earth ruled by a Fascist regime whose primary goal is racial purity. Now it finds itself being invaded from the other side of the time-stream. That’s the premise of Barrington Bayley’s novel Collision Course.

Rond Heshke is an archaeologist summoned by the Bureau of Politics to investigate mysterious ancient ruins that seem to be getting less ancient. This is a crisis because the Titans, the totalitarian party that rules the world, is based on exclusive supremacy for the whitest of whites and genocide for all “devs”. Devs are defined as sub-species of mankind that “deviate” from the Nordic ideal of “True Man”. The ruins are associated with something worse than devs, aliens from the future.

Heshke is a somewhat reluctant defender of racial purity. He has connections with folks who traffic with devs. The survivors have been penned on reservations, but their existence is more than precarious.

Meanwhile the Titans have made contact with Retort City, one of Bayley’s deliciously imagined city-states. This one is a space station, or perhaps a time station, formed in the shape of two pods joined at the center. The people of Retort have solved the problems of class warfare by separating their folk into work and management classes in the two pods. To ensure that feelings of rivalry don’t develop alternate generations of families are split and sent to the opposite pod. The folk are sympathetic to the Titans’ problems. Unfortunately they are devs from the sub-class the Titans call Chinks.

Collision Course is satire of the blackest sort. The “ideal” societies built by Titans and Retort City dwellers are coming apart form their inherent contradictions. The politics of liberals come in for a thumping as well. The radical underground is composed more of talkers than actors, and though professing love for devs, they don’t actually want to have any around. In a grimly hilarious scene a True Man and his mixed-race lover bemoan the fate of the devs, except for a group called the Lorenes. Apparently they were such bastards they pretty much deserved genocide.

Collision Course is a gem of New Wave SF, one that engages with the social possibilities of futuristic technology without turning into turgid propaganda. It also has that most old-fashioned requirement of SF, a sense of wonder.

-Dave Hardy

No comments: