Earth Analysis - Essay

David Brin


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

At first glance, Earth seems to fall squarely into the category of environmental dystopia, in which extrapolation of Earths current environmental problems predicts a hopelessly catastrophic state. Unlike many other environmental dystopias, in which science and technology are assigned sole blame for Earths destruction, Earth shows the problems as caused by the interaction of many millions of human beings, all doing simple things that in themselves might be harmless. David Brins scientists and technocrats, exemplified by physicist Alex Lustig and billionaire George Hutton, are neither evil nor apathetic about environmental disaster. Instead, they use science and technology as potent weapons to combat the black hole devouring Earths core, with the black hole serving as a metaphor for the ultimate pollution of the planet.

Brin is a Ph.D. physicist who incorporates accurate depictions of physics and of environmental and earth science throughout Earth. Examples of environmental extrapolations made by Brin that have come true include the rise in skin cancer rates resulting from ozone depletion, the increased frequency of hurricanes caused by global warming, and the flooding of coastal areas caused by glacial melting and rising sea levels. According to Brin, Earth was to a great degree inspired by John Brunners Stand on Zanzibar (1968), which predicted home computers, rock music videos, environmentalism, and other elements of popular culture. Brunner also invented the hypertext style used in Earth to intersperse brief glimpses of the near future throughout the story line. The density of detail in these computer net excerpts combines with reproduced computer output from Lustigs analysis of the black hole to give Earth an extraordinary reality and vividness.

The complex and interlaced structure of Earth echoes the complicated linkages of Earths planetary systems. Brin focuses his multiple plot lines on different characters and different environmental and social problems at first, then slowly makes connections among them. In the same way that links between Earths rocks, oceans, and atmospheres can be unseen and yet exert a powerful influence on the environment, Brins plot lines converge in unexpected ways to carry the story to its strong and satisfying conclusion. Although casual readers may become distracted by the novels large cast of characters and its sprawling story line, Earth is a book that richly rewards those who read to the end.