Monday, July 13, 2015

Agenda 21: A Good Day's Work

Agenda 21, pp. 22-23

My real memories begin in our assigned living area in Compound 14. I learned the color gray from the color of our Living Space. I learned the other colors by the uniforms that people wore for their different duties.

Here we get a listing of various professions, only about half of which will ever be described to us in any detail. This is my second time through Agenda 21 and I still haven't decided if these roles were stolen from The Handmaid's Tale or not. Color-coded uniforms like this have been a regular trope in science fiction since at least Star Trek, so maybe I'm overthinking this. Then again, as I'll show you later, large portions of this novel are pretty much The Handmaid's Tale with the serial numbers filed down. I'll leave it up to you to decide.

And as with the nourishment cubes, I really don't know where these uniforms are coming from particularly since there's no "Tailor" or equivalent role (Future me: On this page, anyway). That's kind of missing the forest for the trees, though.

It's here that we learn about transportation in the Communities, specifically the "bus-box" that's been mentioned a few times. They're obviously meant to sound overtly ridiculous, but I honestly have no clue what these things are meant to look like. Here's the entirety of the description:

Men in our Compound spent their day providing transportation by pulling wooden bus-boxes. These boxes could transport up to six people at a time, one in the forward seat, one in the back, and two on each side.

So what do the bus-boxes look like? I think the author had a picture in her head but she didn't really share it with us. I'm picturing a big rectangular crate with wheels and seats affixed to the sides. Is that right? (Ed. from the future: It isn't)

The next question is why they have these ridiculous things at all. The explanation is that people aren't supposed to waste energy walking around. I'm not sure that having a second, equally-large group haul them around on giant unwieldy crates improves that, but again I suspect that this is supposed to reflect on the idiocy of the Authority, that they just don't get that this isn't workable. It's a thin excuse, but fine.

But that's not the only question I have. Who's building and maintaining these bus-boxes? There are only nine roles listed, and none of them correspond to that sort of labor. Are the Transport people doing it? It doesn't seem like they'd have time. And here's something that just hit me - where are they getting the wood for all these things? We'll learn later that picking a flower is considered a criminal trespass, and yet cutting and dressing timber is okay? And who's doing that? I'm half-expecting the sequel to reveal that this is actually some compound of zealots living in a mass-automated future, because there's not enough human labor going around to explain how this society is functioning.

I realize that this is super critical, but I think I'm justified for two reasons. One, there's no story right now and there won't be one for many, many chapters. And two, this is meant to be a cautionary tale. This is supposed to seem like a plausible future. Does it seem plausible to you?

Next time: It gets less plausible.

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