Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Agenda 21: Running Late

Agenda 21, pp. 60-66

Chapter Eight is amusing for a few reasons.

One, between the first sentence and the last, two years pass. That's how static this world is - nothing worthy of note happened in twenty-four months. By comparison, chapters 4-7 spanned a period of a few hours.

Two, this is one of the best examples of "tell, don't show" that I've ever seen. It is yet another expository chapter - the third in a row - this time featuring George, the protagonist's new husband. Now, previous bouts of exposition dealt with past events and intangible concepts, so the verbose nature was at least somewhat justifiable. George's exposition concerns physical objects and places that we could visit and see...Except that the novel was specifically designed to make that impossible by preventing the characters from traveling anywhere.

For example, we learn for the first time that powered transportation isn't quite dead:

"Train depot?" I had seen pictures of trains in one of the books we used to have. "Where are the train depots?"

"The depot is far enough away from the Compounds that nobody can see or hear the train. Not many people know about the depot. We're not allowed to talk about it."

Which is why we're talking about it now. Also, this should give some hint as to how spread out these settlements are - a train whistle will carry pretty far over open terrain.

From Wikimedia Commons

Now, I bet some of you are wondering what these depot look like - or the trains for that matter. Are they contemporary trains, or old-fashioned throwbacks, or some new and alien design? Don't bother asking, because we're not going to find out in this book. We do learn that the people who work there live in tents, meaning that Emmeline has to have the concept of a tent explained to her. Thrilling, no?

Anyway, at the end of the chapter they have sex and Emmeline gets pregnant. Oh, did that seem weirdly truncated and rushed? Well, then it's true to the source material.

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