Monday, August 10, 2015

Agenda 21: Keystone Kommandants

Agenda 21, pp. 69-73

Chapter Ten opens with something small that kind of impresses me. Oh, not about the writing - about the evil future government:

My nourishment cubes were now bigger than George's because of the baby.

Makes sense, but consider what this says about the command structure of the Authority. It hasn't really been revealed yet, but there are officers delivering these supplies from building to building, several times a day. These officers know how many people live in each Living Space, how many children and how many pregnant women.

That's actually fairly impressive, when you think about it. We're never told of any errors in delivery, so these men are achieving 100% accuracy in delivery or damn close to it. They're doing this without computers, automated systems, remote communications, or any of the other modern niceties used to aid in this sort of tracking.

On top of that, the pool of manpower seems very small for the task, with minimal oversight. The Authority seems to rely a lot on voluntary reporting (something appropriated from 1984, no doubt) so it's amazing that there's no evidence of corruption or waste among the ranks. That's remarkable. No real-world government has ever come within visual range of the mathematically perfect efficiency that the evil future government has without employing any technology developed in the last 200 years.

...Oh, right, the plot. In a screenplay, this would be the end of Act I and the introduction of the first "point of no return." This is where the action should start. In this case...well, it's not "action" so much as more exposition, but they are planning something:

Whispers came from Mother's Living Space, and I knew they were home from the meeting. George must be with them...

..."I don't know," Mother said. She scratched at a spot above her elbow. "No one knows for sure what's out there."

"There might be armies. We know there are animals, like wolves, and community farm co-ops. Our best shot is the train depot, if the train is running," George said.

Our heroes are plotting to run away from the evil future government, and they are cautious enough to keep their voices down. Though they are still loud enough to be audible from the neighboring building.

Which would suggest that they are also audible from the common area.

Where the Gatekeepers are.

This is one of those things that makes me laugh a little bit. We're meant to think of the Authority as a terrifying, all-powerful presence. As I suggested above, they are extremely efficient at certain things when the plot calls for it. On the other hand, you have officials openly discussing how much the government sucks and people plotting to break the law while in their own homes - the same places that government agents are presumably monitoring.

We're meant to view the Authority much like the Ingsoc government of Oceania in 1984, but I just don't buy it. In that narrative, the evil future government had agents so thorough that they replaced the dust on the cover of a journal after they finished reading it. In this narrative, the agents can't hear a conversation from a few yards away. And while the seeming incompetence of Ingsoc turned out to be a ploy, that's not the case here. Spoiler alert - the competence of the Authority and its agents varies wildly depending on the demands of the plot.

Basically, Mussolini can make the trains run on time, but he can't do anything about the people sitting on the platform and loudly plotting insurrection (I really have trains on the brain lately, don't I?).

Next time: The story attempts to redeem itself.

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