- Paperback: 278 pages
- Publisher: Five Rivers Chapmanry; Revised ed. edition (March 1 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0986642371
- ISBN-13: 978-0986642371
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.6 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 399 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,076,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
North by 2000] Paperback – Mar 1 2012
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If you've never read Hargreaves' short stories and enjoy those by Clarke, Asimiov, Niven, etc., then do yourself a favour and read this book! For readers who are familiar with Hargreaves already, read it anyway.
This book is more than just classic science fiction with familiar names and places. The stories feel Canadian, and Hargreaves is a hell of a writer to so beautifully package what that means.
author of A Quiet Place, and Things Falling Apart
About the Author
H.A. Hargreaves is one of Canada's remarkable, one might even say legendary, speculative fiction writers. He is a retired professor of English, formerly at the University of Alberta (Edmonton), and was twice nominated (1982 and 1983) for the Lifetime Contributions category in the Prix Auroras. His collection of short stories, North by 2000, in its time received wide critical acclaim from both peers and periodicals. He was inducted in the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2015.
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The addition of 'Fore - Eight - Sixteen' (1989), '2020 Vision' (1980), 'In His Moccasins' (1979), and 'Infinite Variation' (1979) demonstrates how in tune Hargreaves was with the pulse of contemporary issues of technology still prevalent today. The still applicable and wonderfully humours 'Dead to the World' published in the 1975 release of 'North by 2000' is shockingly relevant. This is less a note of speculation and more extrapolation on trends that have come to dominate our way of life in the modern day, such as automated customer service, electronic identification, and the horrors to befall when a digital file is incorrect and the human component is blamed, without question.
For fans of both science fiction and Canadian, 'North by 2000+' is both the ode to a time past, and sign of what is to come and a broad portrait of what speculative fiction has always offered, a little bit of hope, a little bit of nightmare, and a whole lot of imagination.
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Fans of Hargreaves or admirers of North by 2000 will want this book. It adds four stories to that earlier volume to make it a complete collection of Hargreaves' science fiction.
Students of Canadian science fiction will definitely want it. As editor Runté notes, North by 2000: A collection of Canadian science fiction, published in 1975, was the first collection of science fiction stories to be explicitly marketed as belonging to a Canadian. In his very useful and interesting afterword, Runté talks about the themes and their implications which set Canadian science fiction apart from that of the British or American variety. Like so many Canadian science fiction writers, Hargreaves was an immigrant - from the Bronx, specifically. He lived and taught literature at a Canadian college and eventually became a Canadian citizen. While Hargreaves submitted stories to the American magazine Analog, its editor, John W. Campbell, never accepted any. All the stories of the original volume were published in British publications, and some of the additional ones first saw light in non-genre Canadian magazines. Runté shows how the Canadian preoccupation with the polar world, national disaster (even if only of the political sort), and alienated outsiders plays out in specific Hargreaves' stories, stories whose protagonists are often "victims, or losers with occasional wins".
If you like to read old science fiction, however technologically dated, for insights into the time it was written (here 1963-2011), you'll probably like this collection. Most share a common world, a future Americanada (which, as Runté notes, could be construed as a national political disaster for a Canadian) administered by vast computer banks, a universal welfare state where people carry their resumes and bank information on AP punch cards aka All Purpose Cards, where penal systems have been greatly modified (including, in one instance, mandatory hockey lessons), people live in Efficiency Living Spaces with fold up furniture, pipelines cross the wilderness and cities are being built in the Arctic waste. Yes, these stories are from that era in science fiction when vast national and international projects were dreamed, central planning and administration was the vogue, and the psychological sciences were thought to be able to solve old and new problems.
However, whether the fourth audience, the general science fiction reader looking just for entertainment, will like this book is more problematic. By my judgment, only about half the stories fit that requirement.
Let's look at those first.
"Dead to the World" is a humorous story about a man who is declared dead because of an extremely unlikely computer error. The robots of this world - and the humans who uncuriously and unfailingly don't break out of their administrative routines - take his furniture, cart him off to the morgue when he goes to the hospital, won't arrest him for vagrancy, and deny him meals at the "autoteria". Darkly humorous, this Canadian finds a change in mental attitude is necessary for his survival.
"Protected Environment" is a straight-out, suspenseful man against nature tale. Its hero, identified only as the Roughneck, is sent out to fix damage in an oil pipeline's insulation. The story can also be read as a play on Jack London's classic "Building a Fire".
"Cainn" is one of those penal system of the future stories where all the intrigues and rebellions and plans of the prisoner, here one 15 year old Jason Berkley, have already been anticipated by the wardens and calculated into their plans for his rehabilitation.
"More Things in Heaven and Earth" gets its prediction of remote learning right in spirit - if not in facilitating technology but is way too optimistic in its idea of how popular Shakespeare will become. The actual plot involves a lecturer and a cadre of tv producers and actors who demonstrate various interpretations of Shakespeare's bare words. The tv program is threatened by sabotage conscious and unconscious, in the latter case from an telepathic student. The main interest for me was literature professor Hargreaves' comments on particular Shakespeare works.
"2020 Vision" is a dark story from 1980 which imagines a very unpleasant set of years for Canada from 2015 to 2050, the year of its setting. Its repairman hero, also working, as a former political science student, on a history of the time, may be a man stuck in the past.
"In His Moccasins" is a follow up to "Cainn" and imagines another manifestation of Americanada's juvenile justice system.
And now for the just ok stories.
"Tangled Web" has for a protagonist one of the minor characters from "Dead to the World", a minister assigned to be the spiritual advisor of a "Closed Environment", a domed city in the Arctic. It's more about socially engineering bureaucracies than hardware. Its hero must work not only with a multi-faith community but the UN and Americanada.
"Tee Vee Man", the earliest story (1963) here, has a repairman working in space on a tv relay satellite to avoid a political revolution in some unnamed African country.
"'Fore'-Eight-Sixteen" is a future sports story - the invention of a form of golf with jetpacks and rocket powered balls and hi-tech drivers.
"Infinite Variation" has a missionary to an alien world wondering if he may be unpleasantly called upon to play the part of a particular character in a new rendition of the story of Christ.
"Venerian Vector-Transit Tales" is a goofy short-short written as the description of a pulpy science fiction book club selection - for aliens.
[Review copy provided by publisher.]
The collection starts off strong with Dead To the World. For me the story has a Twilight Zone feel to it. Due to a computer glitch, the protagonist, Joe Schultz, is now...dead to the world. In the writer's future, where you need an ID card for every aspect of your life, from building security, to purchasing basic necessities, being dead can be quite a problem for someone who's still alive. Well written and quite satisfying, despite references to punch cards, which went the way of dinosaurs in the early days of the computer revolution.
Many of the stories in this collection take place in a world where at least a portion of the US and Canada are now known as Americanada. In addition to the punch card reference, another item in Hargreaves' society of the future was the Autoteria. Sort of an automatic cafeteria. Here in the states, particularly where my Mom took me as a kid, they were known as Automats. We used to go to Horn and Hardarts in Center City Philadelphia, and as an 8 year old, I loved it. The fresh entrees, deserts, side items and such were all behind little windows. You'd enter whatever the cost of the item was in a coin slot and it would unlock the window for that item. In the stories of North by 2000+ you would use your AP (All Purpose) card.
There's also the story of Cainn, about a juvenile delinquent and the man who serves time with him as a one on one, personal corrections officer, who's job it is to rehabilitate the prisoner. Interesting concept.
Another story I really liked was, More Things In Heaven and Earth, which you might recognize from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Alan Hamilton, is a Senior Lecturer at University Television Central, who teaches a very popular course on the Bard's work while a team of dedicated actors called The Unit act out scenes, all televised to classrooms around the country. Of course, there are complications, including a crew from the magazine Look at Life, coming to do a story on the process. Get it? LOOK at LIFE. If you were around in the 70's, I'm sure you got the references.
All in all, I never did get a feeling for the "Canadian Science Fiction" angle. For the most part the stories ran from average to great Science Fiction and that's good enough for me. I'm glad the stories were left as written and not updated for a new audience. I enjoyed the time capsule feeling of seeing what a mid-seventies writer saw for the time we live in now.
North by 2000+ from 5 Rivers Publishing was published in March of 2012 is available in paperback and a variety of ebook formats.
North by 2000+