Tor / 348 pages / February 2002
Arrested development. One part of humanity is always accusing part of suffering from it. Women say all men remain twelve-year-old boys for their entire lives. No one is ever old enough to escape being told to “grow up!” On the other hand, on the stroke of midnight on that special day a minor becomes an adult, assumed to be instantly capable of handling alcohol and a host of potentially deadly situations that they were too young for only the day before. What about those among us who have been sheltered from the realities of existence today — for all the best reasons, of course? Is their innocence harmless or a danger to themselves and to others? And what if all of us here on Earth are frozen in our evolution and aren’t even aware of the obstacle?
In Transcension, Damien Broderick takes a look at these questions and what might lie beyond them in a world that seems at once impossibly distant and eerily immediate.
Living in the 22nd century, Amanda Kolby-McAllister at almost 30 years old may be an accomplished violinist and a brilliant mathematician, but she is still only a pender. Until the age of 30 she is only pending majority status, kept in an artificial state of adolescence and treated like the youngster she is. After all, if humans are going to live to be 200, what is 30 but the first steps of childhood.
Deep within the walls of the Valley of the God of One’s Choice however, Mathewmark Fisher is just approaching manhood in the natural course of time. Due to the isolationist and Luddite beliefs of the valley’s inhabitants Mathewmark is more of a babe-in-the-woods than the headstrong and immature Amanda. Chance and a horrific accident will bring their two worlds into violent collision.
Watching over all of this is the far too wise A.I. Aleph and his sounding-board and creator Kasim Abdel-Malik. Abdel-Malik may have died long ago, but he is going to be front and center for whatever Aleph has planned for the human race, however much it disturbs him. It may just be that Aleph has decided to take action about humanity’s arrested development.
Broderick’s very different coming-of-age story required a very different style of narrative and he found it. Viewpoints of different characters slip seamlessly in and out of focus, allowing the reader to come at the material from every conceivable direction and bent. One of the slickest trick’s in Transcension is the subtle growth of the adolescent characters, maturing in their thoughts and speech with every page turned. Even some of the “adult” characters manage to surprise with bursts of growth just when none seemed possible.
Along with the serious questions to ponder in Transcension, there is also action, danger, romance, and humour. So much of the dialogue in the Valley of the God of One’s Choice is tempting to share, but that would spoil it for you. And if Broderick’s work is about anything, it’s about temptation, so give in to it. Go ahead.