Thursday, December 18, 2008

Steven Gould's 'Shade'

Wow, a first review is kinda intimidating. But, this particular story really hit a nerve so I've gotta say something. So here goes: Shade by Steven Gould

This short story is freely available on, Mr. Gould's publisher.

Some of you may be familiar with Doug Liman's stinker of a movie, Jumper, which came out earlier this year (the DVD is already $9.99 up here in Canada). Well, that horrible piece of SF cinema was based on one of my favorite novels of all time, Jumper by Steven Gould. Mr. Liman's trashing of this story will be the subject of a future post; this post is about a story set in Mr. Gould's original Jumper universe (believe me, this universe thing has gotten complicated since Steven Gould has also published a prequel to the movie that has nothing to do with the original novel).

Spoiler alert!

Shade is the third story set in the original Jumper universe following the eponymous novel and it's sequel, Reflex. In this short story we find Davy and Millie branching out and trying their hand at humanitarian aid work. The story actually is told from the view point of a young African boy living in a refugee camp.

Okay, so this plot is a broad departure from the format of the novels. But Mr. Gould did lay the ground work for the Rice's 'bleeding heart' philosophy and there is an opportunity for some 'Jump' based warfare in the later half of the story. To be precise, some rebels come to shoot at the refugees and, after taking a gun from one of the men, Davy decides not to shoot at the bad guys. Instead he uses a nifty jumping trick that he learned in Reflex to flood out the rebels with a lake's worth of water from Canada.

Come off it! Your high horse that is, Mr. Gould. How long do we have to put up with this 'don't shoot back at the bad guys' crap and it's equally facile corollary, 'or you'll be as bad as them'. Where does that come from anyway? Dear readers, go out and rent Dark Knight and see how stupid this philosophy is. Think of how many lives could have been saved if Bruce had simply killed the Joker first opportunity he got. Not satisfied with a fictional example? Okay imagine Hitler being assassinated before the final solution of the Jews was thought up.

What's more, Davy's water powered attack on the rebels, if it ever occurred in the real world, would be a crime against nature. Okay, yes, I'm Canadian, but that's not why I object to the theft of Canadian water. Rather, it's because I think Humans have messed with the ecosystem too much already. What right do we have to breed like rabbits till we choke the earth and fill it with our poisons until nothing can live on the planet. Okay, that's harsh. But the reality of the situation is that while Canada probably could spare the water (or so many Americans would like to believe), its sudden introduction to an African desert would be catastrophic for the local (and undoubtedly unique) flora and fauna. The arrogance to believe we have the right to support ourselves at the cost of all else is what has led us to our current state of ecological disaster.

I'm sorry, but this story simply doesn't work for me.



  1. Perhaps there's another ethical principle here. It would go some thing like, "The more powerful the good guys are to the bad guys, the less lethal force is justified."

    Since you're Canadian, perhaps you could take up the case of Margaret Atwood. Oryx and Crake sure seemed life SF to me, but she prefers to call it "speculative fiction". Is there a difference?

  2. Excellent point! Although I think that even with his super powers Davy could not hope to take on an entire rebel army and my point is that his watery solution is not a satisfactory one, being both short term and ecologically irresponsible.

    I will have to look for that Atwood story.

    As far as I know, Speculative Fiction is a term used when one wants to add a more literary credence to a Science Fiction story. It is an attempt to distance oneself from both the pulp stories of the past and the present plethora of action packed but scientifically dubious stories best represented by television shows and movies that are called Sci-Fi (pronounced as Skiffy if one wants to be really pompous). SF is considered the most appropriate name for serious works and it conveniently happens to be the initials for Science Fiction as well as Speculative Fiction.

    Thanks for the comment!