The Discovered Country • 2013 • Posthuman novelette by Ian R. MacLeod

★★★★☆

Synopsis: Farside is a virtual world designed for the superrich to live happily ever after their death when they upload their souls into this environment. It comes along with a crowd of subservient attendants, luxury cars, castles, and Steinways – in short, everything that’s needed by its clientele.

The inhabitants’ economy is thriving, even more than the left behind “Liveside”, and it takes away a huge part of the money into the afterworld, while taking away resources like energy and computing power.

The main protagonist Northover finds himself in this environment, and while is well-off, his status is by far not in the range of all the other inhabitants. He arrived in Farside to rebuild a famous band and give a performance with Thea Lorentz, a superstar and former lover of Northover.

Why is he in Farside, what’s his mission beyond meeting Thea?

Review: Star Trek Fans will remember the sixth film “The Undiscovered country“, but MacLeod’s novelette is a direct reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act 3, Scene 1):

An undiscovered country whose bourne
No travelers return – puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Hamlet is contemplating death and wonders why we just don’t die to flee this miserable world. The metaphor of the undiscovered country for death is inverted here in the story, because the superrich – and only they – live on in this special form of afterworld.

Death is threatening, and no wonder that the superrich would rather flee to a world they know and have control over. MacLeod gives us a very interesting take of the well established SF trope of virtual worlds combined with immortal superrich.

They even can interact with the world. Theo Lorentz is a philanthropist who asks the other superrichs to invest in good deeds for Liveside in exchange of meeting with her.

Without this Shakespeare reference and the musings around it, I’d have enjoyed the story far less, and I added half a star for it, swinging over to four stars.

MacLeod is a steady source of top stories for me, though I have yet to read a novel from him. His SF novella Breathmoss was nearly five stars, and I also recommend his Visitor from Taured.

Not only is the setting great in this story, but the protagonists are the very life of it, and MacLeod draws them with a strong and mature hand.

The only negative criticism I have is the story’s resolution where I’d have wished for a smoother transition and which felt pressed in a little hastily.

Recommended for readers of transhuman stories who like a notch of social commentary.

Meta: isfdb. Available online at Clarkesworld. I’ve read it it in the anthology The Very Best of the Best.

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5 Responses to The Discovered Country • 2013 • Posthuman novelette by Ian R. MacLeod

  1. pdtillman says:

    Thanks for the link. I’ve read this, but not since the 2014 Dozois reprint. Bookmarked for reread.

    Hope you had a pleasant Christmas. Here’s how we spent part of our Xmas afternoon:
    Used hard, put away wet
    5,000 lbs of retired bull! Take a look at that nose/trunk. These guys look like submarines in the water. 18-20 ft. long, and fast!
    All that for a 30 min drive. And no one else was on the beach! (They were being sensible & watching from the blufftop.) It did cost me a lot of TAR on my beach shoes, which I have yet to scrape off. Amazingly smelly, sticky stuff. There’s an unexploited oilfield offshore that leaks — leaving the beach a mess after winter storms.

    Best for good health & good reading in 2021! I don’t know how it went in Europe, but “This was a year in which our only moments of genuine, unadulterated happiness were when we were able to buy toilet paper.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2020/12/27/dave-barrys-year-review-2020/

    Like

    • Andreas says:

      Three years ago, I’ve been near San Simeon where a large gang of those sea elefants live. They are astonishing, but not exactly cute 🙂
      I wish you all the best and good health for 2021. This year has been great for my blog but very bad for my health with a heavy depression and burnout. I’m looking forward to a happier time.
      May the toilet paper be with you 😀

      Like

    • Andreas says:

      Btw, WordPress is of the opinion that your comments need to be moderated. Dunno why, but so far, I’ve been fast.

      Like

  2. Wakizashi says:

    I enjoyed MacLeod’s collection “Breathmoss and Other Exhalations” from 2004. (https://biginjapangrayman.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/breathmoss-and-other-exhalations-2004-by-ian-r-macleod/) I found his writing very literate with some excellent world-building and descriptions. I will check this one out. Thanks for the link!

    Liked by 1 person

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