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Vortex (Spin #3)

Vortex  (Spin #3) - Robert Charles Wilson I don't often read book series. Usually, I find that the first book is great and the next 2 books are mediocre at best. I think that, for me, this series kept my attention because I haven't branched much into the harder sub-genres of science fiction. So, this was my first literary taste of terraforming, nanobots, collective biological networking (for lack of a better phrase), and star gates (to borrow the term from the series by the same name). I don't know if I found this series fascinating because of the author's creative ability to interlace these concepts or if it's simply because it's my first time encountering them on the written page.

The characters in this final book in the series did feel a little 2 dimensional to me. The words on the page rarely plumped up and surrounded me in the world they were trying to create. I never felt truly transported by this book as I did the first 2. However, I did find the progression of 10,000-years-in-the-future humanity to be intriguing and did enjoy the ending of the series.

I heard or read an article in the New Yorker (or was it a story on NPR .. or both?) recently about how astonished scientists were to discover what was once a stone age paint shop in a cave. They were amazed at the complex chemistry involved in the creation of the paints, glues, etc., that they found there. Just how much have our brains evolved over time? Strip away our "civilizing" technologies and conveniences, and how many modern men could easily turn to the savagery we think that we're so far above? Similarly, if we took stone aged chemist into our century and taught him our culture, would he be that much different from us? He would definitely have a more finely honed skill set than most of us do. Again and again, I find myself intrigued by the juxtaposition between civilization and savagery and what those words really mean. We think we're so evolved, but how different are our brains really from men of a few thousand years ago? Isn't it mainly just our cultural norms and way of life that has been changed by the inventions and thoughts of a handful of people?

I mention that because this series touches deeply on the idea of human cerebral evolvement. Thousands of years beyond today, the human brain does not appear to have evolved biologically. There are controversial and illegal cellular reconstructive treatments available that repair both brain and body. And there's a way to technologically network into a collective group over-soul. However, there does not appear to be a true evolving of the human brain without doing so through medicine and technology.

In Vortex, humanity's future is one in which people have agreed to a surgery that allows everyone to be cerebrally connected by a true social network. Everyone in the country shares emotion and logic for a truly democratic and empathetic nation. Once upon a time, I would have thought this idea to be wonderful. But I now think it sounds like a disaster. Imagine a government that's run by everyone. I cringe to think that this would include the people who used to make such hateful comments to Tulsa World articles (before only paid subscribers could comment). I'd also not like my thoughts melding with people with psychopathic tendencies. The idea of having everyone's thoughts and feelings networked just sounds like a nightmare rather than like nirvana. If this were the future of humanity, I'd want no part of it.

The series ends with the concept of a biological network being taken to its ultimate limit. But it seems like such an empty ending. It seems as if extreme social networking merely leads to extreme loneliness in the end. And so it goes.