[techbooks] REVIEW: "Standing Wave", Howard V. Hendrix
- BKSTNDWV.RVW 990915
"Standing Wave", Howard V. Hendrix, 1998, 0-441-00553-5
%A Howard V. Hendrix
%C 200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
%O 800-788-6262 www.berkley.com/berkley www.penguinputnam.com
%P 386 p.
%T "Standing Wave"
To say what this novel is about would be to deny its buddha-nature.
Or something. The plot, such as it is, seems to be primarily a
structure for stringing together endless pseudo-profound lectures.
It is very hard to get into the book as such. Indeed, a sizable chunk
at the beginning reads like a collection of short stories, seemingly
intent on presenting a random set of future technologies in order to
buttress the claim of the work to be called science fiction. As in
the endless novel that is being written by "Peanuts'" Snoopy, these
threads are eventually related, if not woven together, but much of the
book does read like a series of intercut novellas, tied to each other
by random coincidences.
How about the technology? Well, it's very hard to comment, since
trying to nail down an idea in this book is like trying to pin jello
to the wall. However, one technology that plays a large part in this
roughly fifty-years-hence future is the infosphere, a sort of
supercharged Internet. A great many of the plot devices used
throughout rely on functions that simply are inconsistent not only
with existing telecommunications, but with basic ideas about
information processing and transfer.
I suppose I have only myself to blame: when the jacket copy talks
about "philosophical ore" and "thoughtful science fiction" it should
be a warning. While there is a limited amount of technology in this
book, there really isn't any science. Oh, certainly there are
mentions of quantum physics, "bubble" cosmology, topological
transformations, and a number of other high level topics, but these
topics are not explained or examined in any real sense. Even the
title is a mistake: the author confuses the concept of multiple or
reflected wave functions interacting in such a way as to create a
certain function at a stationary point, with the idea of moving (and
self-reinforcing) solitons. As is usual in works of this calibre, the
author hasn't even mastered simple math. An analysis of the number of
options of holding up fingers on a hand figures that there are only
five, rather than the correct thirty two.
This is newage science: vague ideas gleaned from popularizations and
tending to rose coloured mysticism. There is a kind of continual
namedropping of technical terms from a variety of fields. This is "X-
Files" science, or possibly worse: a few pieces of jargon
misrepresenting the basic foundations and holding to the more
egregious philosophical and pseudo-scientific attitudes of our age,
such as the belief that evolution has some objective, or that a
sufficiently large aggregation of unsorted facts or events will
somehow create something magical (and wonderful). In opposition, one
is inescapably reminded of Stephen Crane:
A man said to the Universe: "Sir, I exist!"
"However," replied the Universe,
"the fact has not created in me a sense of obligation."
or Mark Twain:
Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world
owes you nothing. It was here first.
Word play seems to be very important to the book. There are a number
of deeply buried puns such as a book entitled "Myth's Edge and Nation"
that refers to miscegenation. This should give you an idea of the
level of profundity we are dealing with here.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKSTNDWV.RVW 990915
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