The Guardener’s Tale by Bruce Boston
Sam’s Dot Publishing
ISBN 1933556781; Paperback, 273 pages

The Guardener’s Tale comes from the personal files of Sol Thatcher, Guardener, G-21, retired.  It is written semi-informally as a scholarly investigation of and reconstruction of the aberration of Richard Thorne.  We’re somewhere between Brave New World and the role-playing system Paranoia–no specific date is given, but tech has moved a bit beyond ours, and the society is recognizable.  Wars have made large swaths of the Earth largely uninhabitable, and society has “learned from its past mistakes”, has rebuilt itself, and is expanding outwards ever so slowly, with no enemy but the past–the structured and cultivated city reforming the slums.  Advancement is possible from any rank, though a well-formed “flower” of a mind is required for citizenship.  This flower can either be natural or conditioned in; and tending and pruning the flowers is the bailiwick of the Guardeners.

Bruce Boston has a light touch, and while neither the world nor the story are light-hearted, it is, on the surface, a simple tale and a swift read, with just enough humor to ease you through.  The story follows several primary players–Richard Thorne, his chosenmate Diana Logan, Daniel DeLyon, and DeLyon’s half-sister Josie.  Richard is the aberrant that the story revolves around–it is his choices and actions that our narrator seeks to understand.  All of the other characters are stripped down to their causes and intents, but Sol is at a loss to explain the eventuality of Richard Thorne.

As a scholar coming to the story after the fact, the narrator has full foreknowledge of events–he is seeking, through the recreation of Richard’s story and all the details therein, to understand Richard’s fall; and through that, how to keep others from such pained ends.  We are constantly having events foretold, but where this would usually offput me no end, in this tale I find it fun, and even tantalizing.

We learn how Richard meets Daniel, and through him, Josie; see a few chance encounters grow naturally to greater things; we learn of Diana’s hopes and fears, and through them learn about the society; see Richard and Diana struggle with their relationship; and Richard and Josie struggle with theirs; and eventually have to accept the consequences, and at least consider the premise that there is no perfection while free will exists.

“The Guardener’s Tale” is told plainly, with simple characters that let the society shine through them.  As with any dystopian story, it’s a “cautionary” tale of modern society, a story about the society envisioned by the author as much as about any of the individual characters.  It’s a fun romp for those who love dystopias, as I do, and filled with interesting technologies and things to contemplate–bacchanalian “personal freedom nights” hearken to Brave New World, and “Halls of Expression” Star Trek’s holodeck, while “virtual vacations” have more the taste of Total Recall; and glideways bring a smile to my face with memories of “The Roads Must Roll”.  And amidst it all is just the tale of humans struggling to exist and co-exist.

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Kaolin Fire is a conglomeration of ideas, side projects, and experiments. He loves to program in c, php, jsp; talk in the third person; write fiction; and teach. He has had a LiveJournal for many years, and he also occasionally pokes at MySpace, though mostly that is relegated to promotion for his magazine, Greatest Uncommon Denominator. At the moment (and the indefinite future) he’s a partner in a web development firm and develops the odd e-book cover for Renaissance eBooks. He’s had short fiction published in Strange Horizons and NFG, among others.

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