Unfortunately, because And Still The Earth
wasn't as popular as 1984
, it didn't experience the same spike in sales once news of the creation of a test tube hamburger
hit. This book was literally the first thing I thought of when I heard the news. Considering the waves of heat waves we just experienced, this news, and that I was listening to New World Water
when I paused to rewind the segment on the new experiment, I don't think there is such a thing as a better setup for a reader to get into such an eerie book.
One of Brandão's popular novels, he brings us to a period in São Paulo that is marked by eras instead of actual years. When reading dystopian fiction without set dates, I feel as if it can always be relevant without being "late" in comparison to the story's actual time frame. Plagued by water shortages and rationing, constant heat waves and unnatural heat pockets (where if you get pushed into, you're incinerated) that develop wherever they please, overflowing debris and garbage, and synthetic food, this São Paulo is definitely not the place to be. Stuck in the overpopulated state of hyper-surveillance is a disgruntled and apathetic former history teacher named Souza, who gave up the resistance a long time ago to slum it like everyone else, trudging back and forth between his stuffy apartment and his mindless job, waiting for certain death. One day however, he finds a hole in his hand that makes him more like the people stuck in the danger zones outside of the city than his partially sedated neighbours, and all hell breaks loose.
Pushed out of the "comfort zone" he tolerates more than enjoys, Souza ends up seeing the entire state for what it has become: a wasteland. The Amazon rain forest is destroyed, he keeps losing his friends and family members, and to top it off, everyone is either afraid or highly suspicious of him. Memories of his grandfather burn a distinct contrast between the difference in generations about as obvious as the effect of the missing trees. Governments have completely taken over in every aspect possible (including policing and enforcing a two lane system on the sidewalks), and the rich have guarded themselves in expensive homes shielded by massive walls. Some of them are even believed to have pools despite the statewide water shortages and rationing. To be in the middle class, or even somewhere sheltered in the city is considered to be lucky in comparison to the poor. Beyond the city gates exists (because to call that "living" would be cruel) the casualties of the government's programs in mass numbers. Between rotting intestines thanks to synthetic food and inverted organs, contact with these people is forbidden; not even doctors can help them.
And Still The Earth
is definitely an extreme example of what blatant apathy towards what the government is doing can become, but it is still an example. I don't think that global warming was as big of an issue when this was written, considering it's 1985 publishing year, a time when major workshops on the subject were really beginning. I also definitely wouldn't list Brandão solely as a science fiction or dystopian writer, but he was on to something. The planet is acting up meteorologically and the forests in Brasil are being cut down
. Now we have synthetic meat, a project that is supposedly geared towards alleviating the meat shortage.
What's next? Hopefully the answers aren't in this book.
Labels: and still the earth, ignácio de loyola brandão