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Archive for November, 2010

Global warming transformed England into a semitropical country. Advances in genetic engineering cured many diseases, however the human lifespan has been halved as a consequence of extinguishing cancer. Viruses are used to educate children by transferring knowledge. At the age of 10, children’s minds are read by “The Consensus” and their personality and moral values are corrected by viruses.

Milena is a young actress who has never been read and is immune to most viruses. She meets Rolfa, a half-polar bear woman who is also a musician, and falls in love with her. Homosexuality is rare, it is regarded as “bad grammar” and “corrected” with viruses.

Milena has to deal with her own unsocial problems while she attempts to stage a mega-production of an opera composed by Rolfa, based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, and keeps wondering why “The Consensus” seems to support her instead of eliminating her.

The Child Garden is a complex novel that deals with many subjects in a rich and poetic manner. Mainly, it deals with the transformation of human beings and human culture to an uniform society and the impact it has in the individual. And the story is entirely given in the point of view of an individual who is not well connected to the tissue of society – Milena.

The Child Garden deals with some of the problems and losses that arise from solving human problems by means that were once considered a problem. Decreasing the lifespan by curing cancer with the viruses was the crudest example given, but the same could be applied for what is lost when individuality is sacrificed to create a completely unified society.

One issue approached was the solitude that can be created in the unification of a group. When a society is an integrated group of individuals, might feel solitude as a lonely animal – which is nothing more than an integrated group of cells (that is believed to have evolved from a group of unicellular organisms).

It is also worth mentioning the rich way the story is told. There is much to tell in this aspect, but what especially caught my attention was:

  • The use of metaphors, which is luxurious and delicious: 1) especially as they come in colourful images and 2) even if morbid meanings are cruelly expressed through beautiful images (or the opposite).
  • The use of music references in the text, as music playing in certain situations or as characters singing their own words with classical music /opera music. This is particularly special as the music referred not only enriches the meaning of the text, but it may give it a second meaning, an ironic meaning or even alter its meaning completely. The music references are inserted in the text with Wagnerian precision, where not a single note is useless, maybe to give an image of how Rolfa’s music was written in the Divine Comedy to be read together with the text.

The Child Garden is no light reading. It is very dense and complex both in its form and content. After reading it I went back to some of its parts and I surely intend to read it again.

The Child Garden was first published in 1989 and won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1990.

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