Utopian Studies Review
of "Utmost Bones"

Marleen S. Barr, ed., Envisioning the Future: Science Fiction and the Next Millenium, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Editor Marleen Barr offers Envisioning the Future: Science Fiction and the Next Millenium as an examination of the "present's relationship to the far future" in keeping with the "post-September 11, 2001, world [. . .] in which former assumptions about the fixed definitions demarcating the differences between fiction and reality no longer hold."

. . .

Easily the most memorable contribution is [Pamela] Sargent's story "Utmost Bones," in which a woman named Kaeti, the last of a bio-engineered and internally networked race, roams the post-apocalyptic landscape looking for fellow humans. Able to open a "link" to the "Net" by mere volition, Kaeti's consciousness has become a confusion of ghosts: images and voices and memories that have gradually come to substitute for reality. With what remains of her will, Kaeti struggles against the voices, musters a faltering willingness to confront her solitude and belatedness, and yet the Net is so deeply interwoven into her being that she can never completely subdue its hold. This is humanity come to an end neither with a bang nor a whimper, but with vague addled regret. I take the informing influence to be the conversations between Dave and HAL in Kubrick's 2001, but in "Utmost Bones" the conflict between human and machine is more poignant, as the computer voice has become an internal voice that can be shut down only by a painful act of self-divorce. One comes away from "Utmost Bones" less inflamed against the spread of the Internet than impressed and moved by the never-ending trials of consciousness itself. The story is not impeccable — there is an unnecessary digression involving an encounter with un-linked primitives — but it insinuates its sadness, and it comes to a close with a flurry of lovely imagery.

. . .

— David Ross: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Utopian Studies (15, 1, 2004) pp. 89-91


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