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The Rainbow Cadenza: A Novel in Vistata Form…
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The Rainbow Cadenza: A Novel in Vistata Form

by J. Neil Schulman

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I rather agree with the criticism of one reviewer that this reads as if Schulman having a point to make wrote the novel around it. I think that's the reason for the novel's flaws, but also I think getting that from the beginning helped. I never saw this as a plausible projection of the future--or as meant to be. In his acceptance of the Promethean Award, Schulman remarked that the book started as an argument reducto absurdum taking "the sixties slogan, 'Make Love, Not War' at face value." In a world that takes the military draft for granted, it perhaps takes this kind of reversal to convey what a violation of the person it is to force a man to go to war. So in Schulman's future society, women are drafted into a "Peace Corp" where they're forced into prostitution. And believe me, some of the graphic sexual details in this novel are nauseating. They're meant to be, I think, the equivalent of the gruesome carnage of combat.

And because war is connected with a warrior culture seen to be deeply associated with patriarchy, Schulman gives us a matriarchy, with Wicca the state religion and where judges are women who take "ovimony" rather than "testimony." Never mind, as one Amazon reviewer pointed out, that contemporary Wicca is feminist and tends to be pacifistic. That reversal is rather the point. It's not as if Christianity ("Those Who Live by the Sword...") is fundamentally martial. The unequal gender ratio that was the catalyst for this transformation? Not quite as absurd as it might seem. Communist Romania and Nazi Germany outlawed abortion and promoted big families, just as Communist China today has forced abortions. And the future gender imbalance caused by sex selective abortions has been the subject of at least one serious, mainstream book examining concerns about it creating a hyperaggressive society.

Mind you, all three of the above examples are police states, as is the dystopia The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood with which Rainbow Cadenza shares several themes. I admit part of what I find hard to fathom in this imagined society is how what seems a fairly free, democratic society could ever evolve or accept women being treated the way they are in this novel, particularly one where women seem politically dominant. Schulman might respond the same could be asked about the military draft for men in democracies. Except that has never been accepted very quietly and easily--at least in America. There were draft riots when the draft was instituted in the American Civil War and considerable civil unrest over it during the Vietnam war. So I can't understand quite how people came to accept, and continue to accept, this institutionalized conscripted prostitution.

But yes, this is self-consciously libertarian science fiction, so that means this is going to scrape at sensibilities left and right. Traditional conservatives will not be happy with the anti-war message. Those on the left, given the reviews, are no less happy. They probably don't like how Schulman turns the sixties counterculture to his purposes. And because, yes, Schulman does have a point wider than the immorality of the draft, a message against the coercion of any kind of the individual in the name of the greatest good for the greatest number. And while I wouldn't say you have to be a libertarian to like the book--it does help. A lot. Who but a libertarian would be so interested in trying to reconcile the world view of C.S. Lewis and Ayn Rand?

I did find this novel written well enough, and thought-provoking enough, to give it the three stars. Because it did hold me from beginning to end. I also liked how Schulman used laseography as an art of the future. And goodness, it's nothing if not memorable. How many books do I remember the outlines of the plot, particular discussions between characters and scenes years after I first read it? I'd be a bit hesitant recommending the novel to a general reader nevertheless. This is not, unlike The Handmaid's Tale, destined to be a classic, with incredible prose and a credible dystopia. Frankly, I think this would have done better as a broad, satiric parody with a touch of zaniness to it. It's too serious, but not quite plausible enough of a world to take seriously. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Apr 13, 2013 |
I really wanted to like this book, and after [b:Alongside Night|1955398|J. Neil Schulman's Alongside Night|J. Neil Schulman|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1190837684s/1955398.jpg|1958351] I had fairly high expectations. I knew that I agreed with most of his political views as I understood them, so all should have been well.Unfortunately, it reads as if Schulman had a political point to make and wrote the story around it. The world and the plot are just pasted onto the soapbox. The rationale given for why the population has gotten so skewed so that there are too few women doesn't ring true. ( )
  BellaMiaow | May 29, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0380751232, Paperback)

The world was finally politically correct. The people who care have remade the Earth in their image, and its an Earthly Paradise. Humanity is joined together under a single, popularly-elected world government. Gay marriage is a normal institution, the Libertarian Party rules, and the First Lady is Head of State.

But who are the new underclass called Touchables, and why are they hunted for sport? Why are clones treated as inferior? Why do men outnumber women seven to one? And why are teenage women being drafted into government service for three years?

This 1984 Prometheus Award-winning novel is the story of Joan Darris, a brilliant young artist in the medium of laser concerts. Is it her destiny to play music for men's eyes, or to make herself a plaything for their desires? How does the lingering horror of the murder she witnessed at five threaten to rob her not only of her artistic triumph, but also threaten the life of a man she loves?

Like the novels of Huxley, Burgess, and Rand, The Rainbow Cadenza uses black humor to show you a future you fear but ends with a rainbow of hope.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:59 -0400)

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