Nature’s Shift: A Tale of the Biotech Revolution, by Brian Stableford
Published by Wildside Press, 2011
By carrying our cultural past forward into an imagined future, we can learn about our own present, as this book shows. It takes place after the Crash, which led to the extinction of many species. Complete ecological disaster was only avoided because of the efforts of exceptional scientists like Roderick Usher. Now that Roderick the Great is dead, his daugher Rosalind heads the Hive of Industry.
Rowland and Magdalen Usher could not help the fact that their family name was the same as some characters in a story by Edgar Allan Poe. And Peter Bell the Third cannot help the fact that his own name reflects a poem by Shelley, as well as the truth of his genetic heritage. However, such correspondences are hard to ignore completely, even when consciously avoided.
Rowland has retreated from Rosalind – whose attitude to her role as his mother is apparently so heartless – to continue his own research in Venezuala. He has created a fabulous organic house for himself, in the wilderness of the regenerated Orinoco delta. It is a very different structure to the Crystal Palaces of Eden and the Great Pyramid, where Rosalind works on her psychotropic flowers. The descriptions of both locations are enchanting, and the hidden depths of Rowland’s futuristic house of Usher are as fascinating as they are disturbing.
The main characers in this story – Peter, the narrator, and Rowland, Magdalen and Rosalind Usher – are all scientists, and they all apprecaite beauty. But the Ushers have attempted to escape from the Romantic imagination. Peter Bell the Third, however, enjoys reading nineteenth century Romantic poetry. He comes to see the danger that the Ushers have failed to appreciate.
At first, I didn’t quite take to this book, but it slowly grew on me. I read it twice, and only at the end of my second reading did I notice there is a pun (or two) in the title.