The Wakeful Wanderer’s Guide : To Disillusionment by Jim Infantino.’83 This is the second volume of the story of the northeast after a giant wave has collapsed civilization as we know it, submerging urban centers and driving people farther west. New trouble was brewing in the first book; now it has spilled over into invasion, destruction and hostility. On the one hand there are the technologically advanced Interconnected, who communicate by “thexting,” texting straight from the brain, and on the other, there are the Traditionalists, who cling to the capitalistic economy, which we pre-wave people recognize as our own reality. The Interconnected disparage the Traditionalists as Luddites; the Traditionalists’ insulting word for the Interconnected is xombies.
What stands out for me in this book is the war of ideas. The overarching debate asks which is better – to amass wealth and possessions or to pull whatever is useful out of the flow for the moment until it is no longer needed. Against the backdrop of ferment and danger, the characters must define themselves. Characters torn between conflicting ideologies are compelling enough, but what I found even more fascinating is how their struggles contribute to an examination of what system affords humans the richest, fairest life experience..
The book does not shy away from complexity. Within the two sides there are multiple factions and ideas. Some search for a way to reunite the two warring cultures. Some Interconnected, those in Montreal, hate the system of Merit of those others farther south who are implanted. Marto, the hero of the first book, is in Montreal. He encounters a French speaker named Jean Brun (I actually did see some parallels with John Brown, but I could be wrong). He shakes Marto’s belief system by suggesting that the Interconnected are oppressive nouveaux coloniaux.
The book ends in what is left of Central Park at the damaged statue of Alice. It makes me think that this is the kind of book college students love staying up late arguing about in the dorm. Why Alice? Why borogroves? What are they doing here. Maybe it is to remind us that the topsy turvy world of Lewis Carroll is no more crazy than the world of the book and our own out of control times.