Monday, December 24, 2012

Melancholy Elephants by Spider Robinson

Melancholy Elephants is a collection of Spider's short stories, mostly reprinted from his earlier collection, Antinomy. The title story is a cautionary tale about the dangers of legislating eternal copyrights for creators. The premise is that there are a finite number of stories that can be told, or melodies composed, and that when those are all used up, the human race could suffer from fatal depression. There's several tongue-in-cheek time travel stories, Half an Oaf, Chronic Offender and Father Paradox.

Robinson also includes a in-joke type of story for all you Beatles fans out there, Rubber Soul, about John Lennon being resurrected someday. High Infidelity, a story about one human aspect of brain transplant technology, contains some rather racy scenes. Spider also returns to a theme he finds fascinating in Satan's Children. An Abby Hoffman-like figure creates a drug that is the ultimate truth serum. What happens to the world when it is widely dispersed becomes another singularity event. From that tale,

"Even those of us who pay only lip service to the truth know what it is, deep down in our hearts. And we all believe in it, and know it when we see it. Even the best rationalization can fool only the surface mind that manufactures it; there is something beneath, call it the heart or the conscience, that knows better. It tenses up like a stiff neck muscle when you lie, in proportion to the size of the lie, and if it stiffens enough it can kill you for revenge...Most people seem to me, in my cynical moments, to keep things stabilized at about the discomfort of a dislocated shoulder or a tooth about to abscess. They trade honesty off in small chunks for pleasurem and wonder that their lives hold so little joy."

Robinson occasionally approaches truth in his writing, and this books is a joy to read, for the most part.

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