I read in Wired for War (excellent book, highly recommended) that science fiction serves a useful function in that it allows us to explore and define philosophies for and moral responses to future technological innovation.
I’ve read several non-fiction books that identify the need for, and take tentative steps toward a theology of technology, but I was interested to read a piece of science fiction from a Christian perspective, to see what the author would do with the potential for using fiction to help us think through complicated decisions about technology.
In some ways, Robin Parrish’s book Offworld was well done. The plot premise is interesting (what happens when you get home from long-term space travel and Earth is empty) and avoided the eye-rolling Left-Behind-Effect that could have easily tripped it up. The Christian elements are well placed and definitely not ham-handed–it’s the sort of book someone who isn’t Christian might actually read (I hate that I have to say that but you know how most Christian fiction is).
However, I found myself pretty disappointed in the ending. The root of the problem had a supernatural twist that actually served to undo the tension. Rather than presenting future technology as a reality that we can choose our response to, the deus ex machina ending wound up giving a “yeah this could never happen so we don’t need to worry about the ethical implications of these topics.”
This is unfortunate, because the things people can do and are doing with technology demand a response. How do we evaluate a technology? Are all advances good advances? Is something worthwhile and ethical simply because it is possible? Offworld didn’t really tackle those questions.
That said, the book was entertaining, and is currently free on Kindle. It was a diverting thing to read while nursing the baby in short snatches, and, if you enjoy science fiction, you’d probably find it diverting, if not particularly thought-provoking.
Do you read science fiction? If so, what are your favorites?
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