Read Utopia by Roger MacBride Allen Free Online
Book Title: Utopia|
The author of the book: Roger MacBride Allen
Date of issue: November 1st 1996
ISBN 13: 9780441002450
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 461 KB
Edition: Ace Trade
Read full description of the books Utopia:Intended Audience: Adult
Sexual content: Mild
Ace/Genderqueer characters: Yes (robots)
Writing style: 2/5
Likable characters: 3/5
Despite terra-forming efforts by Spacers, Settlers, and robots of all kinds, the future of the planet Inferno is still precarious. A brilliant but egotistical young scientist named Davlo Lentrall brings a proposal to Governor Kresh: why not drop a comet onto the planet as a quick fix to all their climate problems? Although the plan is extremely dangerous to human and robot alike, the planet could very well die without it.
As the final installment in the Caliban trilogy, Utopia brings together the political crisis and mystery elements of its predecessors, although unlike the previous two, the big mystery doesn’t even happen until the very end. For most of the book, the plot is carried forward by reactions to Lentrall’s insane (but brilliant) proposal to use a carefully-timed blown-up comet to carve out a new channel between oceans so that the currents can regulate the planet’s temperature more stably. Kresh must decide whether to put this plan into action or not, and how to handle the political backlash from those who oppose the plan. Caught in the middle of all this are the New Law robots and Caliban. Valhalla, the hidden robot city where they have been exiled for their own safety, is right in the path of the comet, and nobody much cares about sacrificing robots who belong to no one but themselves. In fact, the Ironheads think it is a brilliant idea.
The plot itself was never really boring, but as usual, Allen takes up unnecessary page space with long-winded examinations of his character’s thoughts and motives. In the setting of this book, where we know most of the characters already and don’t need to be reminded of how (insert adjective or descriptive phrase here) they are, it becomes especially grating. Getting into every single character’s head is much less important in this book than in the first or even the second, because by this time the reader should have a good idea of how the various factions on the planet thing. Even if Utopia is supposed to stand on its own, Allen could have found a more concise way to re-introduce the traits of each character and situation. Even in the same paragraph or the same sentence, he is often redundant, and I feel like this flaw in his writing comes through strongest in Utopia. I will give one brief example: throughout the book Allen uses the exact phrase “like beads on a string” in multiple places to describe the way the comet fragments will trail behind one another on the trajectory toward the Inferno. And then he tops this off by using the same phrase twice in the same sentence on page 339: “And there, behind it, like beads on a string, haloed in a faint nimbus of dust, the other fragments, trailing off like beads on a string toward the north.”
However, much like Asimov himself, Allen shows his strength once again in writing memorable and believable robot characters. Prospero returns as the leader of the New Laws, and Caliban remains his friend despite increasingly fearing for Prospero’s sanity. We are introduced to Kaelor, Lentrall’s personal robot who has a uniquely pessimistic attitude due to his master’s arrogant disregard for the potential harm his plan might cause to human life. Kaelor is one of my favorite robots, and his character arc, though short, is integral to the plot and emotionally impactful. Donald is also a part of the story, of course, and we are introduced to a few New Law robots as well as the bodiless 3-law Robot named Dee, specially built for—and in charge of—all terraforming “simulations”. Davlo Lentrall joins Kresh and Fredda as the strongest human characters. I really enjoyed the fact that Lentrall changes drastically in the course of events, and noticeably learns something from his mistakes. But the rest of the human characters did very little for me, and I actually had a hard time keeping track of who was who at some points. Despite this, I was still able to follow the basic gist of the plot.
The Three Laws are still a central talking point to these books, and the question of how human and robot characters alike can find a way around the First Law in order to prevent long-term damage is explored at length. Things get pretty complicated when you have to make decisions regarding human lives, and there are Three-Law robots listening in or getting in the way at nearly every turn. When is harm to others justifiable? When is potential harm to many a justification for violence against a few? Do the Three Laws (and by extension any rigid moral systems) actually do more harm than good? These questions aren’t just discussed blandly in narrative but actually acted out in dynamic struggles between the characters and groups involved. I’m not sure I agree with all the implied answers either.
In context of the rest of the trilogy, I love Utopia because it has the greatest number of enjoyable (and complex) robot characters, and there are some really wonderful (and terrible) moments where I felt deeply emotionally engaged. I’d have to say that Caliban is still the strongest of the three in terms of story construction and writing style, but I find it hard to imagine that anyone who enjoyed Caliban would not be able to enjoy the rest of the series as well. Give it a shot and join me in mulling over the great moral dilemmas introduced by this last book! It should give any engaged reader or lover of robots plenty to think about.
Read information about the authorRoger MacBride Allen is a US science fiction author of the Corellian Trilogy, consisting of Ambush at Corellia, Assault at Selonia, and Showdown at Centerpoint. He was born on September 26, 1957 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He grew up in Washington D.C. and graduated from Boston University in 1979. The author of a dozen science-fiction novels, he lived in Washington D.C., for many years. In July 1994, he married Eleanre Fox, a member of the U.S. Foreign Service. Her current assignment takes them to Brasilia, Brazil, where they lived from 2007 to 2009.
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