I could tell with in the first few paragraphs of this book I was really going to like it. The story starts with Robert Spofforth, a very special robot, in fact a Make Nine robot, whistling as he walks down the street. Now to me whistling is a very distinctive human trait. I know some birds can be taught to whistle and I'm sure someone has spent numerous hours of their life teaching their dog to whistle, but generally I think humans are the only entity on the planet bad ass enough to actually whistle as we walk through the woods or across the plains announcing our presence to everything "here I am".
Alright so Tevis got my attention right away. I put the book on my stack of reading now books and promptly got caught up in a monster of a book 900+ that I checked out from the library and had a deadline to finish, a self imposed deadline as I still like to torture myself in ways that make no sense to any one else. It was a long time before I had a chance to get back to Mockingbird, but the whole time I'm flagellating myself with the large tomb from the library I'm thinking about Mockingbird.
When I do get back to it I'm nearly salivating, I sit down like a guy who has been lost in the desert and is about to drink his first glass of water that wasn't freshly squeezed out of a cactus. I fall in. My daughter asks me a question and I look at her with a blank look before promptly returning my eyes to the pages. Okay so I'm not going to win Dad of the year and I was so close this year.
The idea of having robots do our work for us sounds like a great idea. We should be able to edify ourselves, spend our time reading great works (Christians could finally read the bible.), writing poetry, learning to paint, and having philosophical discussions about whether the chair and table do really exist. Unfortunately I fear that most people would just spend more time in front of the television inhaling their drug of choice. I may be too cynical here, but in Mockingbird that is exactly what happened. People take handfuls of sopors and killed time until the television programs started. Over several generations after building more and more robots to the point that the human race can no longer fix or design or have an original thought the robots, due to a lack of interest by the human race, take over. There was no coup, no uprising with humans fighting to take back there place at the top of the heap. We simply handed over our lives to our creations.
In the movie Surrogates starring no other than, Bruce Willis, (the salvation of the human race time and time again), we have an avatar idealized version of ourselves that we move about the world to go to work, to have sex, basically a realized version of a video game that allows the human race to not only stay home, but stay in one room wired into their surrogate all day. We of course turn to mush. I would have really been worried about our chances if Bruce Willis hadn't been in the movie.
Well in Mockingbird, Paul, is our Bruce Willis. He is a university professor who really doesn't teach anything anymore because over several generations people have quit learning to read. Not even the robots know how to read. Paul starts researching old silent movies and has an epiphany that the subtitles at the bottom, the squiggles, actually represent what is being said in the film. Over the course of watching many, many films he teaches himself the rudimentary words of the English language. Lets just say the genie is now out of the bottle.
Paul has to fight against the pithy statements that have been drilled into his head: "Quick sex is best.", "Don't ask; relax."
He starts to replace these short bits of controlling propaganda with pieces of literature that just keep nagging at him. "My life is light, waiting for the death wind, Like a feather on the back of my hand." and "Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods."
These thoughts are a little more complex. They stretch Paul's mind and he starts to see the world for what it really is a shallow, unsatisfactory, anti-utopian.
There is a lot more to this book than what I've decided to touch on here, for only 247 pages the book really packs a wallop. I'm a big fan of Dystopia society books and this will certainly be one I add to my recommendation list.