26 February 2008

WICKER just won't go away

A few days back I wrote about WICKER by Kevin Guilfoile. I was talking to the friend who lent it to me and also the one that I handed it on to, about what has remained with me about it.

So, if you haven't read it, you may not want to go further here, just in case I spoil it for you.
What I'm going to do here is talk about some of the ideas about it that I have been mulling over.
I'm not going to repeat what I've already written either, so if you do want to read on, you might want to check my earlier "review" first.

First of all I think it is really two books in one. In fact it is divided into 2 distinct parts.

The first part is about cloning from DNA, the ethical issues that arise from that, and what you actually get when you clone a human.
  • is the clone the twin of the earlier person, a duplicate perhaps?
  • Is everything exactly the same? birthmarks, physical things like twitches
  • is the mind/soul cloned too, or is there something outside the body that is the soul of the body? Is it possible therefore for a soul to have 2 bodies?
  • what is the role of environment in shaping the child?
  • is the baby born with "adult" intelligence, and just spends the years waiting for the body to catch up? Would their IQs be the same?
  • Is there any sort of empathetic bond between the original and the clone?
The second part of the book is almost entirely about a virtual world called Shadowland, a game that people play. It is very similar to Second Life in being a 3D world inhabited by avatars.
However it differs from Second Life in the way it is constructed. Second Life is built by its inhabitants and often does emulate the real world, but is also often seen as place where the avatars can attempt things not possible in real life. The creators of Shadowland in WICKER have created a recognisable replica of the real world, and many of its inhabitants are TTLs (True to Lifers)

Here are some of the ideas explored
  • a virtual world can be a release valve for people in the real world who have anti-social tendencies, or who want to understand "what it is like" to kill someone, or steal, or just drive a car extremely fast etc.
  • Virtual worlds may have a beneficial social effect on the real world by keeping the crime rate down, or reducing the murder rate, by allowing players/avatars to commit these things in the virtual world, rather than the real one.
  • A murderer may practice his technique in the virtual world, before he/she murders in the real one
  • restraints that hold us back in the real world have been relaxed in the virtual one
  • People may use the virtual world for establishing relationships in the real one.
  • Life is cheap in the virtual world. Values as we know them don't exist.
There have been some interesting reports of this issue which perhaps Kevin Guilfoile had in mind.
Make you think doesn't it?


Maxine Clarke said...

Yes, I am definitely going to have to read this!

Kevin Guilfoile said...

Hi Kerrie,

I just wanted to thank you for the thoughtful reading you gave to WICKER (Cast of Shadows). And thanks too for those Second Life links. I'm not really a gamer myself, but it is fascinating to watch expressions of violence find their way inevitably into a virtual world and more fascinating to watch the community try to come to grips with it.

On the other hand there is nothing duller or less necessary than a writer insinuating himself into a discussion of his work and so I'll let your insightful comments speak for themselves. If you have a question about WICKER I'd be happy to try to answer it, but I probably learn more about the story from listening to readers than they learn listening to me.

Thanks again (for that and for linking up the Tournament of Books).

Hope you're great.



Mack said...

Hi Kerrie,
Your two-part discussion of Wicker is excellent and I plan to pick it up at the library on the way home. I was going to download it from Audible until i noticed that it is only available abridged there and, with the exception of Victor Hugo, I don't do abridged.

Thanks also for the tie-in to Second Life. I am in Second Life (primarily as a librarian) and the growing influence of virtual worlds in real life interests me. I recommend Charles Stross' Halting State for a near-future story of crime and virtual worlds.

I would also like to echo Maxine's comment on her blog that the way you covered Wicker is a good example of why blogs are a wonderful medium for book reviews.

Kerrie said...

Thanks Maxine, Kevin, and Mack for your nice comments and also to Maxine for her encouragement to me through her blog. A colleague at work is a mentor in Second Life and she says the story of a SL gaol (The Cornfield link in my blog) is a furphy. As far as she knows, if you "cross the line" of acceptable behaviour you are out.
However there is no doubt that for some people virtual worlds like SL border on reality. She has invited me to her Leap Year party on a little bit of "real estate" in SL tomorrow night!
And yes, I agree that posting your book reviews on your blog is the way to go - and I am now monitoring so many blogs, that I see lots of goodies mentioned that I would never have come across before unless I was actually in a book shop.


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