Posted 29th March 2013
From the outset of A Song Called Youth when John Shirley alludes to Yeats’ masterpiece The Second Coming in the form of a battery-powered spy drone, a small mechanical bird, he telegraphs to the reader the theme of entropy. It’s an unsettling theme as we emerge from the most violent century in human history, only to appear to be heading down the same paths as before. Yet what makes this century all the more difficult for humanity is the urgency with which we must deal with the consequences of the technology we’ve inundated ourselves with, and what makes our age marked with even more anxiety is our sluggishness to respond to potentially life-threatening, self-created problems.
What happens to the individual in a world in the grips of an economic system that dominates governments and our environment? How does a person act when he or she is caught in the downward spiral of a world whose only prevailing paradigm is power, and how do people organize around humane principles in order to fight inhumanity? What is our identity in the morass of messages in which we are drowning? Our foes are formidable. This, more than anything else, is what Shirley’s fiction explores.