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Publisher Description

* Despite its own format--the mundane credo and uncluttered, accessible prose--Geoff Ryman's Air (Or, Have Not Have) rides waves of central metaphors, images or motifs of change and transformation concerning both self and community. Flood, time, knitting, and birth are perhaps the most prominent, repeated again and again with increasing frequency until they are woven together in the final pages, with the "the second coming of the Air" (387).(1) In the precipitated epiphany of a child in swaddling clothes, the unnamed messiah's secular holiness is ironically deflated by context--not the lowly manger where the magi found the Christ-child, but the central square of the rebuilt village, where everyone gathers to await the blessed event. The tense excitement deflates when one youngster, affixing televisions to the new bridge, yells "Dad! We'll need more duct tape!" (383). That odd irony--duct tape for the second coming--disrupts the tone and presages a litany of the lost, augurs "mourning" (37) as much as "redemption" (198). But however ironically undermined this second coming, the child brings a gift: "The babe had been Formatted" (389). The precise nature of this otherworldly gift is knowledge, and the wounds it heals are not the self-inflicted stigmata of some mysterious god's goofy theology, but simple human ignorance, the sort of ignorance that has always produced uneven distributions of power within human societies: "poverty afflicts everything" (149). With the singular technology of Air, every person on the planet--especially the "information have-nots" (9, 19)--will now have unfettered, free access to most of the forms of information that would comprise a high quality education. While information does not constitute knowledge (63), Mae represents the common yearning for a knowledge (11, 99) that would render everyone "experts" (19). The technological conceit upon which the medium will work is called a "Yearning Field" (10), though to justify the science flyman makes oblique references to quantum theory (307) and string theory (10).(2) What precisely Air will do is gift everyone with instant connection to an advanced internet, one circa 2019-20 CE. Once the failures of an initial test format are resolved, it can do so quietly, imperceptibly, and efficiently. When it comes the second time, "Air bloomed as gently as knowledge itself; thing after thing was learned, as ignorance was healed like a suppurated wound" (389).(3)

Professional & Technical
June 22
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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