In Regards to Chapter 1 of
Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctica
27 March 1999
I felt the opening of Antarctica, setting up the content as a metaphor for X's love life was extremely well written and moving. It was also quite clever in that it introduced us to two major elements of this novel simultaneously and at a tremendous word reduction than if he had chosen to write about each separately.
We are also shown how Antarctica is like an entirely different planet with unique living conditions and requirements and even its own aliens (the penguins).
This book captured my interest and imagination because it discussed an exotic (but almost visitable) location and filled the setting with intriguing characters and political intrigue.
Although Robinson is not on par with Frank Herbert, I feel that this book is in many ways like Dune: A unique landscape (a desert of ice rather than sand) with hazardous but not insurmountable living conditions (and appropriate costumes to protect characters from the environment). Concerns dealing with politics, ecology, and sociology. A sense that this story is a future history, complete with a past, present, and a future.
I can't say Val renewed my interest since I didn't lose interest, but I don't think it's necessarily false to say that Val effectively heightened my interest since I share X's bewilderment about how the relationship went wrong and wonder whether it shall be repaired during the course of this novel.
I didn't think anything about the flag while I was reading it... While I agree that flags are silly because of their temporal value, on the other hand, I understand the inborn need to dominate and create territorial markers. It's there when we sit in the same seat in class or the lavatory, when we follow the same route from point A to point B, when we sign a guest book at some place we really don't care to hear from and probably won't write anyway, or when we put our initials on a table or tree. We are temporal beings and thing in terms of temporal reality, not infinity.
As for the relics, I think they work largely on the same line. We want to believe our own actions and possessions can create a form of immortality for us. This can only happen by worshiping or at least sanctifying those items that survive the ages. Then one gets into logical debates about how those memories, that immortality, is best served. Is it better to be fed to the masses who have little clue what it means, or to be fed to a selected elite who shall find the relics most meaningful. Or should the past be allowed to lie? Whose decision is it to make? Do we have a right to access and publicize the past and where does that right end?