The Iceberg Timefold: When freedom is the punishment

(translated by Samuel Fiunte)

We hear “golden age science fiction” mentioned often as the basis for a contemporary work, and right after come the overused galactic scenarios with heroes in shiny exosqueletons and plasma rifle at hand; and spaceships and rays and… supossedly a pure black and white innocence. Supposedly.

Of course any science fiction fan will frown in front of such poor definition. Because the timelessness lies behind the dressing. Part of the ethic dilemma, the instrospection and the constant swinging between good and evil lies in the fact that it doesn’t just questions and puts the fictional characters against the ropes but us as well. And if this is achieved successfully it is not strange that the scenery becomes the McGuffin (the other way around as what happens in other genres, and this is the hardest thing to grasp for those blinded, positively or negatively, by the fireworks and speculation). The ambiguety in certain areas of the setting in thus perfectly justified, adding and not taking away from our experience. Because the important thing is, of course, that we feel that it all can happen, in every time, to every person.

The Iceberg Timefold – Miguel Gamez

The Iceberg Timefold by Miguel Gamez knows this lesson well. It’s a novel written with the accuracy of a marksman: although short in lenght, it is impossible to find any fracture or narrative crack where to sink our teeth and doubts or scepticism. Everything is precisely measured, maybe thanks in part to skills adquired in the advertisement world. A world in which Miguel has been many years. The messages are crystal clear from the get go, and far from trying to be a tirade of selfrighteous statements (a mistake that is very often commited in science fiction) they link together and enrichen each other.

The crown jewel of the whole structure is the always current and unconfortable idea of freedom limitations. How much should we allow the control organisms to decide (by using The Objectivity) to punish a person by restricting its autonomy? Where are the limits to that? And above all, and accepting there are tones of grey in the search for good and order, who marks those boundaries? Because in the case of Fergus Kerapan, one of the lead characters and the one who bring us into the fictional world, his conviction for fraud (which is enforced via a graphene armor that restricts his autonomy) is softened once his former company decides that it needs him at work once again. The Megacorps presence is another of the genre tropes that holds The Iceberg Timefold together: it is hard to grimpse where the long tendrils of the corporations end, how much of Everything is supervised and controlled by them. It is disturbing, as it was 40 years ago, to find so many similitudes between this and our own reality.

Once we’re thrown into The Iceberg Timefold world, thanks to the clues of a near future that is much more technologically advanced, the attention sways over to that other liberty that is so often bundled together with the physical freedom: The psychological one. Without unveiling much about it I’ll say that the mind of another of the lead characters, Lazarus Davids, is suddenly optimized beyond the human reach.

Freed at once from physical and mental boundaries, and without emotional ties or a perception of his surrounding world shaped by countless external views, Lazarus nearly becomes a human computer. From that twist onwards (yes, it’s just 100 pages but they allow for well sketched twists), his life becomes an obsession to design the perfect plan to reach his zenith and leave behind his human nature entirely. But there is still a pending emotion that guides his movements: The payback mixed with a glint of desire to humiliate those he considers inferior to him. Without that tiny tasty bit his plan wouldn’t be complete.

So there is the Daemon, the ghost in the machine. The small remain of that maybe, just maybe will end up turning up against him that void he craves.

If we would like to label The Iceberg Timefold, we could use “Hard science fiction” instead of “classic science fiction” without much hesitation: there is plenty of technical jargon from different sources in a raw and direct way. That is used as another tool to create and glue the setting. Miguel Gámez teaches us something we already knew but that it’s always cool to remember and feel when we’re reading: the fact that technology and emotions dance together, in our world or on a made up one. It is a constant, unbreakable and risky dance.

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