Read Phoenix last night in a single sitting, and it was every bit as excellent as I would have expected: a self-aware usage of classic myth & genre story archetypes as narrative tools for the compelling & satisfying delivery of grand themes and mind-expanding SF ideas. The only question is why I put it off so long.
Earlier in the day I'd been talking with a friend about my disenchantment with science fiction and trying to trace its roots. One part is fallout from my own conflicts over deciding to turn away from a career in neuroscience. Another is, like my feelings about rock music, the inevitable consequence of expecting too much; now that we're five years into the millenium, and I'm five years past 30 & into old age, I can't help feeling that the personal & global transcendance I was promised is five years overdue. And then I project these, making them a problem for SF as a whole.
Wright has solved those problems. The classic things that SF delivers, as seen with stark clarity in 'golden age' SF, are 1) a world that's transformed by technological progress and 2) a vision of how that can effect progress for societies and individuals. These were easy to do in the '40s, when the noise from the engines of progress wasn't so deafening and big ideas for a new society were abundant, if often scary. I'm often too quick to assume that they can't be honesty delivered today. The Phoenix Exultant has, again, made a believer of me.