You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sailing To Byzantium

Sailing To Byzantium, by Robert Silverberg, is as story in a distant future where the population of Earth has dwindled to a few million and there are only five cities. The cities are destroyed and rebuilt for the amusement of the citizens. Automated humanoids called temporaries populate the cities and provide the service and entertainment.

Charles Phillip is a man from the Twentieth Century brought to live with the citizens. He and his lover Gioia travel through the different cities and enjoy lavish parties. Charles is distraught when Gioia disappears and he finds himself with a citizen woman name Belilala. He comes to understand that Gioia has left him because unlike other citizens, she is mortal and will eventually die. He learns from a man that he is not a citizen but a visitor, and he will die also. Though he realizes that Gioia has shunned him because he reminds her of her mortality, he seeks her out in all the five cities. When he finds he they finally reconcile, and he convinces her to also be made into a visitor, so that she can be remade and have a sort of eternal life.

Reading Yeats' poem "Sailing to Byzantium", which the story is modeled on, helped me to gain a better appreciation of the story. I enjoy stories that have ties to other literature; they help to expand the universe of the narrative. The story was simple but had a solid science fiction premise. It is basically the story of one man's love for a woman, and the woman's turning way and final embrace of him. I enjoyed the description of the setting. The different cities were interesting.

This story deals with a common theme in science fiction: what should humans do when they have reached such a technological supremacy that they no longer have to work at all. These humans have created an environment of pure entertainment. They have become somewhat decadent, enjoying shows and spectacles, but not creating any real art or technology. The story places a twist in Charles, the man who is both a proxy for the reader from the Twentieth Century and an anomaly due to his mortality. So it becomes a personal story of two people facing their mortality and overcoming it through technology. B


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