The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

It is customary but not obligatory for any game in which one player’s score exceeds that of the other by 100 points to be regarded as lost and won.

METONYMIA According to the instrument display the metabolic level of the subject remained satisfactory; however, his voice was weakening and his reaction times were slowing. It was becoming necessary to update him from regressed mode at ever-shorter intervals. Very probably this was due to the low-stimulus environment, excessively low for someone whose ability to tolerate rapid and extreme change had been graphically documented over the past several weeks.

Accordingly Freeman indented for some equipment to ameliorate the situation: a large projection-type three-vee screen, an electrotoner and a personifactor which would give the illusion of one, two or three other people watching.

Waiting for the new machinery to be delivered, though, he perforce had to continue in the former manner, conversing with the subject in present time.

“You’re a good fencing player, I believe.”

“Care for a game to break the monotony?” A ghost of old defiance tinted the words.

“I’m a poor player myself; it would be a mismatch. But why did fencing appeal to you rather than, say, go, or even chess?”

“Chess has been automated,” was the prompt reply. “How long is it since a world champion has done without computer assistance?”

“I see. Yes, I understand nobody has yet written a competent fencing program. Did you try it? You had adequate capacity.”

“Oh, using a program to play chess is work. Games are for fun. I guess I could have spoiled fencing, if I’d spent a year or two on the job. I didn’t want to.”

“You wanted to retain it as a nondeterminate analogy of your own predicament, because of its overtones of captivity, enclosure, secure ground and the like—is that it?”

“Think of it in any way you choose. I say the hell with it. One of the worst things wrong with people like you is inability to enjoy themselves. You don’t like the idea that there are processes that can’t be analyzed. You’re the lineal descendant, on the sociological side of the tree, of the researchers who pithed cats and dogs because even their personalities were too complex for comfort. Which is fine for studying synapse formation but no damned good for studying cats.”

“You’re a holist.”

“I might have guessed that sooner or later you’d turn that word into an insult.”

“On the contrary. Having studied, as you rightly say, the separate components of the nervous system, we finally feel we’re equipped to attack their interaction. We declined to accept personality as a datum. Your attitude resembles that of a man content to gaze at a river without being interested in the springs and the watershed and the seasonal variations in rainfall and the silt it’s carrying along.”

“I notice you make no mention of ‘fish in the river. Nor of taking a drink from it.”

“Will watching from the bank inform you why there are no ‘fish this year?”

“Will counting the liters-per-minute tell you why it’s beautiful?”

Freeman sighed. “Always we reach the same sort of deadlock, don’t we? I regard your attitude as complementary to mine. You on the other hand deny that mine has any validity. Impasse.”

“Wrong. Or at best only half right. Your problem’s this: you want to file my attitude as a subcategory of yours, and it doesn’t work because the whole can’t be included in the part.”

GAME FOR ANYTHING Venturing out on the streets of Lap-of-the-Gods, he felt a little like someone raised in an inhibited family braving a naturist beach, but the sensation did not last long. This was a surprisingly attractive little town. The architecture was miscellaneous because it had been thrown together in a hurry, yet the urgency had resulted in a basic unity enhanced now by reddish evening sunlight.

The sidewalks were crowded, the roadways not. The only vehicles they saw were bicycles and electric buses. There were many trees, bushes and flowering shrubs.

Most of the people seemed to care little about dress; they wore uninspiring garments in blue, buff and tan, and some were shabby. But they smiled a lot and said hello to someone—even to himself and Kate, strangers—every half-dozen paces.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114

Categories: John Brunner