Tuesday, October 17, 2006

perspective matters

After reading Ken MacLeod's latest book, Learning the World, I found it that it's not exactly what I'd consider a page-turner. However I can relate that his novel took a fresh approach to the old "humans make alien contact" storyline, by presenting it mostly from the POV of the non-homo sapiens.

What makes this book interesting is that MacLeod switches the usual positions of the "us and them", in that the aliens of the novel are us humans, while the aliens being visited are referred to as the humans.

By reversing the positions, MacLeod's story cleverly presents the homo-sapien intergalactic travelers as aliens to the readers, which is made all the more-so believable because their behavior and culture is seen as strange, so distant, and alien to us.

The society of the non-homo sapiens on the other hand, aside from their physical differences, can be easily related to by the reader, because their society is rife with war, slavery, government tyranny, etc. In that sense, the reader is being presented with a subtle slap in the face, perhaps awakening him to see that the values and ideas that most people today consider the virtue of civilization are in fact quite barbaric and uncivilized.

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