The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

“Now you listen to me, you obstructive dimwit. When I give an order I expect it to be obeyed, and I won’t be talked back to by a self-appointed shithouse lawyer. You’re addressing the Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Data Processing Services, and—That’s more like it. Come on.

“It begins with what group? No, don’t bother to repeat it. I heard you. Oh my God. Oh my God.”

SPELLED “WEEKEND” BUT PRONOUNCED “WEAKENED” A highway line drawn from Tarnover to Washington: a line to connect tomorrow with yesterday, via today…

The most mobile population in all of history, the only one so totally addicted to going for the sake of going that it had deeveed excessive cost, energy crises, the disappearance of oil, every kind of obstacle in order to keep up the habit, was as ever on the move, even though half the continent was overlaid by end-of-fall weather, strong winds, low temperatures, rain turning to sleet. It was notoriously the sort of season that urged people to stop looking for and start finding.

He thought about that a lot during the journey.

Why move?

To choose a place right for sinking roots.

Go faster in order to drop back to a lower orbit? Doesn’t work. Drop back to a lower orbit; you go faster!

Even Freeman had had to have that pointed out to him. He knew obscurely he wouldn’t have to explain it to Kate. And she couldn’t be the only person who understood the truth by instinct.

Washington: yesterday. The exercise of personal power; the privileges of office; the individualization of the consensus into a single spokesman’s mouth, echo of an age when communities did indeed concur because they weren’t assailed with a hundred irreconcilable versions of events. (These days the typical elected representative is returned with fewer than forty percent of the votes cast; not infrequently he’s detested by four-fifths of those he purports to speak for, because the population of the state or district has turned over. They’ll surple him at the next opportunity, chafe until it arrives. Meanwhile his old supporters have scattered to upset another applecart. Voting registers are maintained by computers nowadays; all it takes to enter you on the roll at your new address is one, count it one, veephone call.) Tarnover: tomorrow, sure. But hopefully the wrong tomorrow. Because it’s planned and controlled by people who were born the day before yesterday.

How do you cope with tomorrow when (a) it may not be like the real tomorrow but (b) it’s arrived when you weren’t ready for it?

One approach is offered by the old all-purpose beatitude: “blessed are they who expect the worst…” Hence reactions like Anti-Trauma Inc. Nothing worse can happen in later life than what was done to you as a child. (Wrong tomorrow.)

Another is inherent in the concept of the plug-in life-style: no matter where you go, there are people like the ones you left behind, furniture and clothes and food like the ones you left behind, the same drinks available across any bar: “Say, settle a bet for us, willya? Is this the Paris Hilton or the Istanbul Hilton?” (Wrong tomorrow. It offers the delusive hope that tomorrow will be pretty much like today, but it got here and it isn’t.)

Yet another lies in preparing for it: using public Delphi boards, for example, to monitor what people are ready to adapt to, yearn to adapt to, and won’t adapt to at any price. (Wrong tomorrow. They decided to let traditional market forces flywheel the weight of decision. The favorite who started at odds-on broke his leg at the first fence and the race is far from over.)

Yet another lies in the paid-avoidance areas: you trade in your right to the latest-and-greatest against an allowance of unearned credit, enough to keep body and soul together. (Wrong tomorrow. It’s going to overtake you anyway, and city-smashing quakes are part of it.)

While still another consists in getting good and clutched by some heavy brand of dope, so things that happen can’t really hurt. (Wrong tomorrow. Ash longer, vita brevis.)

And so forth.


Change cities, by order. Last place it was a Catholic framework; here it’s Ecumenical Pentecostal and the minister is kind of into the Tao.

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