bookrev: Getting Back by William Dietrich

Large ideas, a fast paced read, an interesting vision of the future

William Dietrich’s novel Getting Back is one of those rare novels that is both interesting and well-paced; I sped through it over the span of three evenings. It meshes several large ideas together with a well thought out vision of the future and some characters that most readers will identify and sympathize with. Its minor drawback is a rather predictable and sappy ending.

In the future, the society is one of uniformity, controlled by a company that has merged with the government (or vice versa). Billions of people work for this company, and while some are content, others long for adventure and a way to be individualistic. One of these is Daniel Dyson, the main character of the story, an intelligent young programmer, history major, who is so bored at work he makes catapults to launch love notes to fellow workers and tried to hack into the expense reporting system.

He is “led” by underground internet contacts and a subversive young lady whom he is smitten with named Raven to Outback Adventures, a hidden, shady group that offers to drop people in Australia (which is now completely abandoned and quarantined because of a plague) with the goal of crossing the continent to get to an Exodus point on the far east coast.

To review the rest of the story would be to spoil it. Suffice to say that the trek and adventure lead Daniel, Raven and the others they encounter through a lot of self and cultural examination (has our society evolved the right way? could there have been another way? am I really a non-conformist or just an individualist?)

Some books who take on so many large ideas (world dominated by corporation, plague, conformity vs. individuality, etc.) get lost in the discussion of them, and, while I did find myself scanning through on a couple of pages of arguments about whether the current society was good or bad, for the most part Mr. Dietrich weaves these into an action packed adventure story. It is science fiction in the sense of the events that have happened and that it is placed in the future, but the trek across Australia makes it more of an adventure novel.

Highly reccommended. I go now in search of Mr. Dietrich’s other novels.

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