Wednesday, 27 August 2014


Poul Anderson, Brain Wave (London, 1977).

Competent men derive satisfaction from completing necessary tasks. Felix Mandelbaum, former union organizer, has become a general troubleshooter, coordinator and policy-maker for New York City Council:

when farmers are reluctant to accept (admittedly worthless) city scrip, he gets them to accept four council seats with veto powers on rural policy;

when a port organizer and a political theorist claim to be under-represented, he suggests that they form an alliance to strengthen their respective cases, knowing that they will stab each other in the back;

when the governor wants to reunite the state, he has to argue that, by the time that can be done, the old forms of government will be irrelevant in any case;

between interviews, he must consider the new rationing system, the plans for reintegrating outer Jersey and the latest report on the water situation;

when food factory workers want more leisure time for intellectual activity, he arranges to beamcast lectures, symphonies etc to them at work;

when scientific equipment and materials are being bought, then hidden, he authorizes more Observers to investigate.

The irony is that he knows that all these problems are transitional and temporary. Changes in the people themselves will soon end pettiness and power-seeking. Society is changing rapidly. The city that owes the farmers may no longer exist in a few years. Robots will replace food factory workers. He himself will move his headquarters into the country when the weather-turning force-screens are in full production.

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