Speaking of genre confusion: Silence Descends, subtitled The End of the Information Age 2000-2500, (Arsenal Pulp Press, 96 pages, $11.95 paper), by George Case, can hardly be classified as a novel. As even the publisher admits, "This is not as much a novel as it is an imaginary book of non-fiction, a history of the future, written in the year 2500-a look back at where we have to go."
The issue of genre aside, Silence Descends is a thought-provoking, cautionary work which, in the tradition of speculative fiction, poses important questions about important issues. It chronicles, in the detached tone and format of a history book, the demise of the Information Age and its ineffectiveness in uniting the world in any but the most superficial of ways. Case targets not only the ubiquitousness of the media but also its "content": the deluge of trivia, falsehood, and opinion masquerading as "information", a saleable commodity.
In the Information Age, where "I want my MTV" has become "as notorious a gesture of ignorant callousness as `Let them eat cake' was long ago," the world is beset by major problems at every level. Over-population continues unchecked except by plagues, ecological catastrophes, and wars (including a second civil war in the U.S. and nuclear attacks in Asia). Case, in a highly condensed form, describes the collapse of our information-dependent social systems, illustrating in the process that technology is not necessarily the answer to everything. All it takes is one critical event to start a chain reaction of international magnitude: in Case's scenario it is an atomic bomb dropped in 2004 on the former Stalingrad. When, partially as a result of this explosion, there is an enormous power failure-"a billion instruments flickered and went out"-the end of the Information Age begins. Case is unnervingly convincing in pointing out just what a fragile house of cards we live in.