The purpose of a thought-experiment, as the term was used by Schrödinger and other physicists, is not to predict the future–indeed Schrödinger’s most famous thought-experiment goes to show that the “future,” on the quantum level, cannot be predicted–but to describe reality, the present world. Science fiction is not prescriptive; it is descriptive.
— Ursula K. LeGuin, from her 1976 introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness.
We live in hard times these days. Unemployment is stubbornly high, nations threaten to default on their debts, we seem to lack the will to fight global warming, and corporate masters and their puppet politicians seem to pay no attention to the plight of the ordinary workingman. The divide between the rich and poor seems to be getting wider and wider, and it’s getting more difficult for an honest man to be able to simply make a good living.
Extrapolate that complaint out about forty years and you have the complex, grim and fascinating world of Cyclops. Matz’s story in this book fits Ursula K. LeGuin’s description of science fiction perfectly. As depicted in this book, the world of 2054 will be familiar to most readers. That world is as war-torn as our world is today, and it is controlled just as much by corporate interests. The world Matz creates is descriptive of our world, a fascinating extrapolation of our struggles into the fairly near future.
Despite his perfect grades at Boston University, protagonist Douglas Pistoia and his wife have trouble making a living. He’s a genius, but there are precious few jobs out in the world waiting for him. Finally, a mega-corporation recruits Doug to join their UN-sponsored peacekeeping force–a force whose every move is covered in a series of reality TV programs. Doug becomes a star among the people for his bravery, but he discovers more and more that he has made a deal with the devil to escape his poverty.
Matz and Luc Jacamon present a strikingly realistic world–a wonderful extrapolation of the trends and fashions of our modern society. In the truest sense, this book is a satire of modern society. It’s not a humorous satire, but a dark satire that takes some of the more frightening developments of our life and extends them to their logical limits.
Douglas works for a privatized military force, which is a logical extrapolation of Blackwater and their seemingly endless web of contracts with the American military. The corporation offers him wealth, security, and a comfortable life, but the deal also corrupts Doug. He gets used to killing. He ends up getting a mistress despite the fact that he loves his wife. His life is continually on the line. And, of course, he inevitably gets involved in battles, processes, and moments that prove to be threats to the entire society he lives in.
While the themes in this book are dark, the story is still entertaining on a more shallow level. The battle scenes are depicted with tremendous excitement by Jacamon, who was also Matz’s collaborator on the wonderful series The Killer. Just as in The Killer, Jacamon demonstrates a great passion for depicting a specific location.
Here Jacamon is asked to create a world that’s very similar to the one outside our windows, and he does so with real aplomb. It doesn’t matter whether he’s depicting the Arizona desert, gorgeous Naples, a futuristic New York, or a war-torn area of Argentina, this world feels strikingly, impressively real. Paradoxically, the world presented is both one that we readers ache to visit and one that we would never want to visit. This world is exciting and futuristic while also being dark, scary, and impersonal.
Isn’t that a lot like the world we live in?
We all love our iPods and reality TV, even while the world around us seems to be getting more frightening. It’s the paradox of modern life depicted extremely well by two outstanding creators. Cyclops is a descriptive novel about the world today, dressed in prescriptive clothing.