Air

Air, or Have Not Have, Goeff Ryman

Shen pointed at the TV. “We don’t want that in our village.”

“I am sure it is for you men to decide,” Mae said, sweetly. Like a cat with humans, she had a voice she only ever used with men.

Air is the on the final ballot for the Nebula awards, so I figured it was a good bet for some solid SF entertainment. Not that Air is “science” fiction – it’s more magical realism. There’s about as much science in it as there is in Midnight’s Children or One Hundred Years of Solitude. No aliens, no spaceships, just a middle-aged woman in a small mountain village who is trying to prepare herself and her community for the inevitable future.

Mae as a character “lives the change” in the way she’d like her village to. She deals with problems by evolving. Every time she faces an obstacle she changes herself until the obstacle is a path, an ally or – in one extreme case – a twisted pile of metal. She is indomitable but malleable – stepping around things and rescaling the fight rather than attacking whatever opposes her. The book reads like a long exercise in creative thinking: how to redefine the problem until it can solve itself. I kept waiting for her to give up, curl up in a ball and whimper, in the traditional “hero almost gives up but then someone reminds them why they fight” sequence, but even when she retreated into her attic isolation she was up all night working on her computer, saving the day with technology. Yay interweb!

If you read Air, comment and tell me WTF is up with the, uh, symbolic Info baby thing. I didn’t quite get that. Or maybe I did, and I just don’t get why it was in the story.

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