________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 10 . . . . January 21, 2005

cover

Getting Near the End.

Andrew Weiner.
Calgary, AB: Robert J. Sawyer Books/Red Deer Press, 2004.
268 pp., cloth, $26.95.
ISBN 0-88995-307-4.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Dave Watson.

*** /4

excerpt:

In the hotel, the singer and her companion passed the time. They accessed the latest music and scanned the latest ideas. They ate and drank and played with the singer’s child. They looked out on the city through the high wide windows of their suite and watched the disturbances.

The disturbances were bad. The singer and her companion had seen worst disturbances in different cities in different times, but they agreed that the disturbances were very bad this year in this particular city. Security forces battled deviant groups. Distant mortars kicked up clouds of dust. Ambushed automobiles exploded in mined streets. Sometimes the sky burned red at night. The noise of all this failed to penetrate through the thick, soundproof windows of the hotel, but they could see that the disturbances were very bad.

The hotel could have been in Nepal and it could have been in Beirut and it could have been in St. Petersburg. It could have been anywhere the big hotels still stood, but it was in New York. The singer and her companion were in town for the New Year, another New Year in another big hotel. Except that this year, the New Year’s Eve of 2024, the party would be something special.

This year, the party would be held in honor of the singer, whose name was Martha Nova. She was about to release her first new collection of songs, in audio, video, holo and other formats, in five years. The party to celebrate its release would be shown both in real-time and in endless reiterations on entertainment channels around the world.

 

Set in the dystopian and not so far future of 2023 CE (when was the last time you read a utopian novel?) Getting Near the End is a rare full length novel from accomplished British-Canadian short-story writer Andrew Weiner. Weiner, an aging Boomer and business writer, catches the ennui of the fin de civilization with sparsely written prose as history slowly winds itself down. Prescient witness to these end times is Martha Nova, the world’s most famous musician, a 33-year-old singer from Kapuskasing (Shania Twain country). Her entourage is small, consisting of her eerily mature child and her retired rock star boyfriend, Duke (a recycled ex-lover.) At the novel’s concluding Restaurant at the End of the Universe, I mean party, she is destined to meet her ex-manager and ex-lover, Levett, and her astronaut ex-lover, Denning, the father of her child. (Hint: Remember the astronaut in the Exorcist?) Martha Nova isn’t a futuristic Montana Wildhack with a legion of lovers; it’s just that her ex's never seem to go away like they are supposed to. Seemingly cursed with the ability to see the future, Martha, like Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, is somewhat unstuck in time. While Martha may sense that she is destined to meet her own Paul Lazzaro at the New Year’s Eve party, she goes anyway. (Bad idea, Martha!)

     If your teens spend a lot of time thinking about the big concepts like fate and destiny (as they are supposed to) then this is the book for them. Weiner gives us cryptic answers to the Meaning of Life, an apocalyptic Rapture and a man-child who can really Grok. Yes, Weiner shows us his 60’s sci-fi roots, but sci-fi, like the world, is fresh to every new crop of questioning 16-year-olds. Weiner doesn’t pad the novel with anything that doesn’t advance the plot, and, while the minimalist writing may be not to everyone’s taste, he has done his pop culture homework well. By all means give this book to your teen readers, but be sure to give them Heinlein and Vonnegut in the original as well. (One thing I noticed, though. There is seemingly no rap in 2023. Maybe this is a Utopian novel after all?)

Recommended.

Dave Watson, of Winnipeg, MB, is a not so gently aging boomer and ex-sci-fi reader who has lost his way in the fields of education and the environment.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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