Monday, July 11, 2016

Book Review: Juniper Time

Kate Wilhelm's 1979 novel Juniper Time continues the fascination in Science Fiction with Linguistics that kept cropping up in the 70s (see The Ophiuchi Hotline, The Embedding, Looking Backward from the year 2000, and, most famously Close Encounters of the Third Kind).

The story felt a lot like Christopher Nolan's Interstellar (2014), as it takes place on an earth at the end of environmental disaster and focuses very strongly on issues of parent/child relationships. The novel covers about thirty years of time and focuses largely on Jean, a Linguistic scientist and Cluny, an astronaut, both children of world famous astronauts themselves.

Much of the novel focuses on issues of priorities; in a world were resources are quickly being depleted Cluny ends up in a consistent race to get resources for a space station orbiting the planet, while Jean attempts to advance linguistic theory without attracting the attention of big business or the military, both of which have the right to effectively conscript her into work for life.

As the world gets into worse and worse shape, New Towns (the inhabitants of which are called newtons in the book), are formed and it is in these that society quickly begins to crumble; Jean's residence in one quickly turns nightmarish and underlines how terrible things can get under the guise of playing fair.

As with her previous work Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1977), the book is a wonderful look at the big questions Science Fiction can attempt to answer as a genre, and the questions the book left me with will probably stay with me for quite some time.

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