BOOK REVIEWS

The Future of Hunger in the Age of Programmable Matter by Sam J. Miller

“When I failed to weigh in on whatever theory or fact or opinion was passing around the room, he touched my arm and said, “What do you think, Otto?” Was that because he was a kind and generous person? Or did he know the game I was playing—the game of hunger, of lust, of trying to be good—and could play it just as well as me?” “Marriage is a very solemn engagement, enough to make a young creature’s heart ache, with the best prospects, when she think seriously of it! – to be given up to a strange people; to be engrafted into a strange family; to give up her very name as a mark of her becoming his absolute and dependent property; to be obliged to prefer this strange man to father, mother – to everybody.”

I thought that this was a very compelling short story. With only a restricted amount of words Miller is able to render a vivid – and disconcertingly familiar – world in which polymer (programmable matter) has become all the rage.
Our narrator, Otto, and his boyfriend are hosting a dinner during which guests discuss the dangers and advantages of polymer. Otto is however distracted by the arrival of Aarav, and by the pull he has over him. Otto’s narrative is deeply nostalgic and is also able to convey an intense feeling of unease. There are the concerns raised over polymers – and its effects on our society –but also Otto’s worrying over his relationship with his boyfriend. The guilt and loathing Otto has for himself furthers this feeling of unease. The story then jumps forward in time and we find Otto’s world drastically changed by polymers.
Miller’s style fluently depicts Otto’s state of mind, and his writing is very effective in reflecting the themes of his story.

My rating: 3.75 stars

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