Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Players At The Game Of People

Players At The Game Of People is a hard biting Science Fiction satire from author John Brunner. It was a novel that I read as a young man that made an impression on me - the idea was so fantastic and out there to be unique (to me). I was probably too young to read it, given the graphic nature of some of the scenes, but the idea stuck with me: what if there were beings who would give you whatever you wanted in exchange for renting out your body and mind for the experiences?

I wondered what I would think of that novel now as a grown man. The idea had been kind of gnawing at the back of my mind for a few months, so I found it used on the Internet and re-read it. My initial thoughts were: wow, I should never had read this as a kid. After the initial shock for my then teen-aged self wore off, my second thought was: too bad the graphic sex scenes got in the way of telling the story. A friend of mine described it as "intellectual pornography".

Finally, after all that I could consider the story. It ain't neat and it ain't pretty. The adult in me quickly realized the Faustian overtone of the whole book. You get whatever you want, but you basically have to sell your soul to get it, and in the end it fails to satisfy. The book is billed as a satire on the European leisure class, but it works just as well for the workaday stiffs. The idea that there are "no consequences" or "livable consequences" is shown to be resoundingly hollow. The main character realizes that his "freedom" is a prettily gilded cage, and his smug superiority is nothing more than lies and self-rationalization of the deal that he made. Calling it meditation, astral projection, aliens, science, good luck charms, communing with nature or whatever is a self-deception.
"So in the old days people would think they'd sold their soul to the powers of darkness, while nowadays they choose some alternative explanation ... The fact that the description changes doesn't alter the event."
In my estimation, that is the money quote. For us as Christians we have to realize that temptations to "success" abound in our society. Whether it is the temptation to be popular, relevant, trendy, powerful, rich, sexually gratified, educated, entertained, the best in our field, or whatever -- the only thing that matters is that we have the mind of Christ and act on it, and submit ourselves to his grace.

We must be in the world, but not of it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recently watched Joss Whedon's TV series "Dollhouse" that seems to be based on this idea.
I'm not sure that the show is actually based on the book "Players" in particular, since there's a novel by Neil Gaiman called "Doll's House." I'll have to look into it to find out.
Anyway, I liked the show because it was good Sci-Fi: it completely explored the technological, social and moral implications of the premise.
There was sex in the show, because you really can't get away from it with a premise like that, but I wouldn't say it was graphic (from what I remember). So, with that one caveat, I'd recommend the show to you; you might enjoy it.
As for the "Players", it's probably better than the TV series (as books are wont to be), so I might read it when I feel like I can deal with its explicitness.



Related Posts with Thumbnails