Dreaming Metal
by Melissa Scott
Review by James Walton

Science Fiction as a genre is an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, it offers hope. Mankind will be able to overcome its petty problems, reach the stars and place viable colonies on other planets.

On the other hand, Science Fiction is very pessimistic. Most authors assume humanity won't be able to forget its internal squabbles and will take most of them along to the stars.

In Dreaming Metal, Ms. Scott gives us a planet, Persephone, which is far removed from Earth but still tied to it in terms of politics and sensibilities. There are still the Have-nots who resent the Haves, who are suspicious of the politicians, etc. Persephone is a hotbed of political strife and class struggles.

The politics are so strained that certain types of entertainment, such as illusionists or bands, can attract bomb threats. Killing anyone who disagrees with your doctrine is quite common.

Dreaming Metal is also about what makes us human, what makes us unique. Celinde Fortune is an entertainer who uses very powerful computers to help her in her Illusionist act. When she combines two computers in a new way the result is a very complicated program which may or may not be an artificial intelligence. Of course the very suggestion that a computer could be self aware is enough to cause a riot, so Fortune must hide the program, Celeste, who doesn't want to be hidden.

The various parts of Dreaming Metal are conveyed to us via the viewpoints of different characters. This way we can see how they understand the society they live in and react to the changes. The characters do not always see eye to eye as to what is important but they all agree that it is a very bad time politically for an artificial intelligence to be revealed.

Scott does not go into detail, but I infer from her use of language that one of the ethic groups on Persephone, the Coolies, are descendants of Oriental colonists and slaves.

Although there is nothing Earth shattering or "must read" about Dreaming Metal, it is competently written and is entertaining. There is no "happily forever after" ending because in real life humans put the difficulties behind them and try to be content until they run into a new set of problems. This book certainly smacks of real life. Some of the characters end the book in better circumstances than when it began, but who knows if they will be wise enough to hold onto the good.

Dreaming Metal is a continuance of characters and situations found in Ms. Scott's book Dreamships. Except for a few references to events in the previous book, Dreaming Metal stands alone.

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