In yesterday’s A to Z Challenge post I wrote about science-fiction in space, and today’s one stays on good old Earth (how fitting on the Earth Day!), though Ian R. MacLeod’s book, “Song of Time” carries the reader into the not so far future, to the end of 21st century.
The blurb for “Song of Time” told me of an Roushana Maitland, a world-famous musician and now an old woman who lives in Cornwall, who one day finds an unconscious young man on a sea shore. As the man doesn’t remember anything of his past, the musician gives him a name, and shares her own history with him.
Sounds quite down-to-Earth, doesn’t it? But “Song of Time” is anything but dull. Through Roushana’s memories we get to experience all the troubles and tragedies of the 21st century: biological weapons, wars, natural cataclysm, even sociological and political changes, as people rebel against the status quo.
All of these events are filtered through Roushana’s personal experience, her private tragedies, and choices, and this makes “Song of Time” a very personal and engaging read. It’s not a story of what happened to humanity in the 21st century, it’s a story of one musician’s complicated life, that only happen to be in the times of great events. The personal factor is what makes the reader care, as it’s entirely different to watch one boy die from a virus developed as a warfare than it is to read a dry account of how many people had died from it.
Yesterday, I mentioned “Red Mars” by Kim Stanley Robinson, and “Song of Time” have something in common with it: the plausibility of the events. While watching through Roushana’s eyes how the world changes, it’s easy to believe this could happen, this could be the path the humanity follows, as most of the events are extrapolated from the current events and social trends. This made me read Roushana’s memories with even more interest, though the world’s events and the bigger picture never overtook the more personal and emotional tale.
In Poland, “Song of Time” was published along with MacLeod’s story collection “Journeys”, and even though I found some of those tales interesting or moving, the faded a bit once I got to “Song of Time”, and even though later I’ve also read (and enjoyed) his steampunk (or rather “etherpunk”) novels set in Victorian England (“The Light Ages” and “The House of Storms”), those books didn’t impress me as much as the very personal tale set against the backdrop of the 21st century’s turmoils.
To me, ”Song of Time” is a proof that science-fiction, even so heavily embedded into science and logic, can still be a beautiful, personal, and emotional tale.