Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Surfing the Human Wave: Marjorie F. Baldwin's When Minds Collide

One of the dangers inherent in reviewing a short work set in a larger universe with which you are unfamiliar is that you have no context. This is the problem I face with Marjorie F. Baldwin's When Minds Collide (and why this particular post is several days late). I have no idea whether the criticisms that occurred to me while reading this novella are fair because I don't know if they've been addressed elsewhere in the series. I will, however, post them here and simultaneously encourage the author in question to discuss what I may have missed in the comments.

I will say right off the bat that I have no problem with the basic plot. It may be a stretch to propose that a person's memories and personality can be "copied" and then implanted in another brain, but I've been willing to suspend disbelief for even more fanciful notions if the result is a good and/or hilarious story. (Call me a dogmatic believer in both the Rule of Cool and the Rule of Funny.) No -- melding two characters with wildly divergent worldviews into one mind is actually a fascinating concept. In my view, however, When Minds Collide doesn't spend enough time exploring what would happen in such a circumstance. Before we really get a chance to enjoy the internal interplay between Drew and Josh, a helpful Phoenician comes along and seemingly resolves everything -- and I found that a little disappointing.

I also wish I'd seen more of the relationship between Will and Drew because at the moment, I'm not really feeling it. I'm having trouble understanding how they came to love each other given the gaping ideological divide that exists between them. That they disagree over what is and isn't ethical in scientific research seems like a genuine deal breaker to me -- a difference that goes far beyond the occasional debates that arise between, say, my libertarian brother and his center-left wife. My brother and my sister-in-law at least hold to congruent fundamental beliefs even if they disagree on questions of method. Will and Drew, on the other hand, don't even agree on the basics. Drew apparently believes that there are certain lives that are "not worth living" and should therefore be sacrificed for the sake of scientific advancement. Will apparently believes the opposite. How was this enormous chasm overcome?

Finally, I have to admit that I find the characterization of Josh off-putting. There's only one religious human being on the entire planet, and we never actually see him sincerely practicing his faith? What's more, said character is also a raging homophobic bigot whose hate precipitates a crash that kills both Josh and Drew? Really? If the survival of humanity depends in part on Josh's "brilliance," why would he also be stupid enough to start a fight with Drew while Drew is flying a freakin' car?  To me, that seems inconsistent. It's also -- well, painfully unsubtle. Look, I basically hold to the view that government should completely remove itself from the business of approving people's private relationships and leave it to the churches, but I also know people on the other side of the argument, and they're generally not this -- blatant.

Overall, for the reasons described above, I personally had trouble embracing this story. But again, I invite the author to comment if there's something I've misunderstood!

(And by the way, I'm not giving this one a rating because I'm not sure I'm qualified to assign one.) 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. I'd been pondering whether I should try the author - she's everywhere, it seems, although perhaps that's just a penchant for self promotion - and you have helped me make a decision in that area. Very much appreciated, as I have little enough time to spare that I prefer to spend on reading I will enjoy.