Last weekend, along with millions of other people I’m sure, I went to see the latest Sam Mendes Bond movie, SKYFALL. I found the film highly entertaining – with some very impressive action scenes, a slickest of slick opening sequence, a surprisingly believable plot (for an action movie I mean…), and a rather irresistible performance from the easy-on-the-eye Daniel Craig.
But I also found it interesting (with my Orbit hat on) that this time, 007 wasn’t having to save the world by disarming a nuclear warhead (think MOONRAKER or THUNDERBALL) or stopping the spread of a deadly virus (think ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE) or prevent an evil communist plot (think CASINO ROYALE and a whole host of other Bonds).
This time, Bond’s role was to combat the destruction looming from the leak of confidential information – by the world’s most sophisticated cyber-terrorist. Highly believable in this age of Wikileaks and hackers being potentially extradited for infiltrating US military systems.
It seems that the disasters befalling the various James Bonds have been evolving through the years – seemingly to keep up with the ways in which our world, our technology and our political and social struggles have been constantly changing. Because it appears that as we progress as a species, the potential pitfalls waiting to bring down Western world and civilisation itself seem to be constantly evolving too – and growing dangerously more numerous by the day.
So the question is, like medicine trying to combat an eternally mutating virus, how do we keep protecting humanity from constantly changing threats? How do we reduce the risk that as we develop better and better technology and scientific understanding, we might be the cause of our own downfall? Or should the question be: if we can’t prevent the occurrence of an apocalyptic event, how do we learn to recover from the aftermath?
These themes seem to be a constant in the works of David Brin, who is qualified to talk on this subject not just because he’s a trained scientist and respected political blogger, but also for having won about every major science fiction award out there.
Today sees the release of three books from David Brin: his latest novel of the near future, EXISTENCE (UK | ANZ) , and reissues of two of his most famous and enduring classics: EARTH (UK | ANZ) and THE POSTMAN (UK | ANZ).Each of these three books tackles the question of mankind’s potential demise in different ways.
EARTH is an ecological thriller that earned David his reputation as an accurate futurologist – since it was acknowledged to have foreshadowed future threats such as global warming and cyber-terrorism. With a gripping, edge-of-your-seat plot and an underlying question of “how do we prevent an oncoming environmental disaster?”, this novel still remains very relevant to our world today and and I urge anyone interested in near-future SF to give it a go.
THE POSTMAN looks at our potential oncoming doom in a different way – being a post-apocalyptic tale about a devastated world that already lies in tatters. However, it still shows that an enlightened civilisation will not be easily eradicated if its spirit lives on within a few determined individuals.
EXISTENCE, however, is based in a future world which has suffered several potentially devastating events, yet humanity has endured and remained more-or-less on the course of progress. That is, until another uncontrollable influence comes into play – in the form of extra-terrestrial life. And this raises a whole new set of challenges for humanity.
Each of these books, in their own way looks at the question – what is it in our future that we’re so afraid of? And will we be able to do anything about it?
For more on all the books above, see the fantastic video below from David Brin. Within it he brings up the rather juicy question of THE POSTMAN – and what the author of the award-winning novel thought of the (not always so highly regarded) Kevin Costner movie based upon it…Enjoy!