Glenn Searfoss’s Babouc’s Vision is set in a dystopian near-future city where not even the extraordinary technological and medical advancements are enough to mask the lack of humanity that characterizes the general population. And while the inhabitants of the city are well aware that their present is bleak, they have no idea what horrors the future might have in store for them.
Harl Babouc, laconic proprietor of Babouc’s Appliance Repair, is trudging through another day fixing the near unfixable and striking decidedly non-lucrative deals with desperate customers and seedy scavengers when he’s overcome with a kind of uncanny weariness and forced to close the shop early to rest. He’s briefly been able to enjoy a restful nap, but there’s nothing relaxing about the sight that greets him when he wakes: an intruder who he initially believes to be an ICA agent there to audit the business but who is actually an angel (or a genie, a higher level of consciousness, or even an extraterrestrial, whatever is preferred) named Ithuriel.
Ithuriel explains that Babouc has been chosen as an envoy of the gods, whose mission it is to go about the city, investigate allegations of its degeneration, and report on the nature of its citizens. Based on Babouc’s report, the gods will decide the fate of the city. While it’s clear from the outset that Babouc’s task is nothing to envy, the reason for him being picked to perform it is surprisingly sad. From Babouc’s perspective, he can’t serve as a disinterested outsider in judging the city because he lives there, but in the gods’ view, he inherited the repair shop following his father’s death fifteen years ago and has never since ventured out of it except to buy necessary supplies—he does not live in the city, he merely exists there.
During the course of his investigation, Babouc moves about the city like a wraith, undetachable and invisible, which is not that different from his day-to-day existence. However, he does at last truly see his fellow citizens, from a host of lowlife criminals to a dodgy doctor to an elderly guy lost in memories of the past and a young couple hoping that genetic screening proves them to be suitable candidates to have a baby. In weaving the stories of these and other disparate folks together, Searfoss highlights the monotony and despair of their lives, but also the small signs of hope, rebellion, and resilience that they all display. Life in the city might be bad, but it’s not all bad.
Through impressive world-building and snippets of a detailed backstory, Searfoss allows Babouc to discover how the city came to be in its present decaying state, which causes both him and the reader to reflect on what other choices could have been made. Given this examination of how easily society can crumble, at the heart of Babouc’s Vision is an age-old moral dilemma: “Which is better, a good action that harms or a bad action that benefits?” Not even the gods have the ability to address this issue straightforwardly, as their omnipotence has left them with the inability to grasp the subtleties of life, which is not dissimilar to how humanity’s advancements have distanced people from the both planet and its other inhabitants.
Babouc’s Vision is an entertaining and thought-provoking science fiction story that presents an all-too-feasible future and asks readers to question what could be done differently.
|Page Count||175 pages|
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|Category||Science Fiction & Fantasy|