Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rule 34 & The Future of Gun Control

Small world, Roberta X just finished Stross' Rule 34

I did too a couple days ago, and that gave me the push to write my own thoughts on the book.

Roberta: "It's a sort of cyberdectective novel, but very different. And it's set in Scotland, so it might as well be on Ganymede..."

No kidding, the cyber-future version of the Scotland:
* Euro-philic (euros only please),
* Green-lovin'(not a dimplomat? then you can't have a car),
* Security state (the State watches everything you browse do and build can't have you making guns boyo),
* "Responsible" corporatism (Precrime has been brought to the corporate world with auditors pouring over companies that are "irresponsible" with their "corporate personhood". So don't even *think* about "immoral" layoffs or outsourcing. So corporations have to pledge their allegiance to the State? Huh, familiar.),
* Nationalized supermarkets (because they took out nearly every other shop in the nation and were deemed "too big to fail"),
* Totally disamred (having a gun is likened to having child porn)

Yeah, it's pretty alien.

Oh and while they have drug legalization, heroin smuggling is still very proffitable and making your own meth is quite illegal. Maybe the former is a revenuer situation and the latter is a safety situation. Or maybe the State doesn't want you having your own supply of "candy" and wants the State-Owned Tesco your only sorce.

Speaking of that Scotland is independent... sort of, but still depends on England for defense and is subsumed into the Greater European Union. Reading it I got an eerie feeling of those late 80's scifi authors who talked about the USSR.

Reading it, I thought it was an okay book, a bit too "by the numbers" for Stross: too similar to its predecessor "Halting State". Then the ending came and it all clicked. And his choices of narrative strcuture and perspective became abundantly clear. I still think the ending was rushed in execution and rather unpolishsed though, but all in all it was a fun book.

On the other hand, it shows how a hyper gun control state could exist in a world where 3D printers are ubiquitous. For one metal fabrication is a rare thing in that world, two your raw materials are tracked by the goverment (yes plastic pellets are a controled substance), three there's a near constant surveillance state so if you try to use whatever you've fabbed you'll be spotted.

Meanwhile in the US it seems that gun control didn't happen but a 90% top marginal tax rate did. With the expected wealth flight. Amusingly, Stross says that the mass US debt was all due to US imperialism and military spending, and glosses over the debts and resultant taxation European nations would have incurred.

Oh yes, and Scotland still has functional single-payer healthcare. Which is all a piece of the same perspective that felt that all the economic woes were caused purely by greedy irresponsible corporations.

And this really made me chuckle sadly: In one scene two detectives run into a perp on the stairs and they're reduced to trying "good old fisticuffs" against him. Needless to say the perp just womps 'em with a suitcase. That's a pretty good example of how mass disarmament makes bullies into kings.

What makes it more chilling is another character who was afraid of the perp came to one of the cops for protection and stayed with her for a bit. So... if the perp had attacked them... what exactly would the cop have done?

There's also the higher education bubble popping. Where a previously mentioned cop, mid level police inspector, still can't pay off her student loans.

And of course, in the back story there's a paranoid American family that lives out in Nevada on a compound with a bunker. And the father of the family is "a man of faith" with this as his "bible" The End of America: How the Federal Government, the IRS and the Insurance Industry plan to use the UN to Destroy America, and how you can resist.

And that made me really laugh. Given Stross had painted a weakened, impoverished US with hideously high taxes, massive regulation, a fishbowl panopticon. And a Scotland with much the same, save for even more surveillance, no personal car ownership, no guns, company loyalty inspections, and, oh yes, government controlled food distribution.

Yeah... kinda makes a book with a title like that seem pretty sensible.

Still was a fun book, but you may have to put it down every once in a while and shake your head at the dystopia painted within. Not that it's not too far from the current UK.

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