The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Book Review-The Presence Paul Black

By Joshua Knopp/entertainment editor

Joining Paul Black’s vision of the future three books in without any explanation is a little disorienting.

That’s what happens when the concepts of cloning, alien contact and virtual reality are all put into one future as they are in Black’s new novel, The Presence.

His version of the future is explained in greater detail in his first three books, The Tels Trilogy (which features superpowers instead of aliens).

If this is the first of Black’s books a reader picks up, he’ll be lost in a world that assumes familiarity.

This might not necessarily be a bad thing, however. The extreme lack of description of Lightforces and Virtgear allows the reader to use his imagination to its fullest effect. This is the entire point of books as a medium over other, more explicit forms of storytelling — the reader is allowed to see what he wants.

Sadly, however, The Presence is simply not a good book to pick up off the shelves. The book involves clones, aliens, dramatic advances in technology and an Internet-knockoff of The Matrix, and it’s all too much.

Stories about the ethical implications of cloning and genetic engineering have their own set of issues to tackle as do movies about alien contact and virtual reality simulators. On their own, these concepts can be used beautifully to reflect upon current society — the point of any good science fiction story. 

In The Presence, they simply aren’t used to any effect. Clones and virtual reality are simply sideshows of how advanced society is, and the alien contact aspect of the book is less than satisfying.

Looking at Black’s awkwardly casual writing style, the reasoning for these concepts’ being made secondary becomes clear.

With The Presence, Black is more interested in creating a continuity for his characters to live in than creating a story. The result is a tale driven by cool stuff (aliens, virtual reality) rather than characters.

There is a fundamental misunderstanding here about science fiction.

Yes, in science fiction stories, there is always cool stuff, but in good ones, that’s not what draws the readers in. The people using and being affected by the cool stuff are.

That’s not the case with The Presence.

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