(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

On Wings of Song is an example of character-driven soft science fiction. Science is de-emphasized in favor of a satirical examination of social, political, and psychological forces, producing a story that has much in common with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four (1949). The world of the novel is the result of scientific and technological transformations, but the key characters are not in charge of these forces. Instead, they struggle to cope with the effects of forces far more powerful than science and apparently impervious to technology: human foolishness in the forms of greed, cruelty, vanity, selfishness, and lust for power.

The scenario in which the story unfolds shows a world that has been degraded or trivialized by science. Advances in genetic research create a world in which termites are a staple of the human diet and the discovery of flying liberates fairies at the cost of their existence as people. Space travel, the great inspiration of early hard science fiction, is not even mentioned, leaving readers to wonder if the craze for pleasurable flying in the form of a fairy has perhaps replaced exploration of the larger universe.

On Wings of Song shares many characteristics with cyberpunk fiction. The setting is the near future, the conditions of life project a worst-case projection from the present, the tone is cynically apocalyptic, and the focus is on the social, political, economic, and psychological side effects induced by rapid scientific and technological changes. Realistic character development is more important than believable technical explanations as the author examines the personal and social consequences of science.