"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home."
- Anna Quindlen
Utopias are rarely played straight these days. Though I could name off the top of my head a dozen recent, hugely popular dystopian novels (especially in YA - man, teens sure love their crapsack worlds), I can't think of any modern big-name utopias. (Not true utopias, anyway. If it's hiding a dark underbelly, it doesn't count...)
In a way the discrepancy seems odd, since the "topias" are very much two sides of the same coin (speculative futures with some sort of ideological axe to grind; extrapolations of contemporary trends that are fundamentally of their time). But dystopias are dark and broken and savage. They terrify and fascinate us. Utopias are homogenous and void of conflict and insufferably didactic. They bore and patronize us.
That's my take, anyway. I can only think of two flavors of genuine utopias I've read in the past few years - second-wave feminist utopias like
The societies in the three books I mentioned all share many of the same traits: interracial and interspecies egalitarianism; no crime and no need for laws; environmental custodianship; responsible procreation rates; and so on. And the reason given for our world being so comparatively corrupt and broken? Because it is ruled by either dudes or the devil (pick your ideology).
So utopias tend to look the same, though they rest on very different (sometimes fundamentally contradictory) principles. And I have very little interest in delving into yet another cookie-cutter perfect society while characters preach to me about why our world could be beautifully harmonious, too, if we all just adopted X philosophy.
No thanks, I'll take the crapsack worlds.
Still, I am unaccountably charmed by
I've read Lewis's Space Trilogy before, but it's been at least 15 years. I'd forgotten how much fun they are. Ransom, the protagonist, is a somewhat timid, introverted academic who is kidnapped by a couple of capitalist douchebags and taken to Mars - where they plan to use him as a human sacrifice to the Martians in return for access to gold. Instead, Ransom escapes the greedy buffoons, dodges a seriously badass sea monster, and befriends the otter-like Martians, learning their language and their utopian customs, and eventually going to hang out with Oyarsa, the Martian Jesus (who, oddly, reads more like the Martian Aslan than anything out of the Bible - Lewis has a very specific character-type in mind for his Christ figures). Sermons are declaimed, weird religious allegories are constructed, the kidnappers get their comeuppance, and everything is tied up neatly in 150 pages.
Based on the story alone,
And the stories are fun. The sermons, less so.