SFWRITER.COM > Novels > Golden Fleece > Typical Passage
by Robert J. Sawyer
Copyright © 1990 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.
When giving readings at bookstores, I often don't read the opening of a novel;
rather, I look for a typical passage that embodies the flavor and
theme of the book. I find that in a book superstore, where the acoustics
are usually quite lousy, a brief reading is ideal. This is
the passage I often read from Golden Fleece.
Setup: Golden Fleece is set aboard a starship and is told
entirely from the point of view of JASON, the computer that runs the ship.
Humans spend close to a third of their lives asleep. It
seems a pity that such time should be wasted. I had tried to
make the most of it for Diana Chandler when she first started to
get obsessive about what her research seemed to indicate.
Initially it had seemed to work she practically gave up on her
calculations at one point, dismissing her findings as
insignificant, or attributing them to problems with her
equipment. But eventually she came back to them and I was left
with no choice.
It seemed again worth trying. I truly did only want to use
violence as a last resort, and maybe, just maybe, this would be
enough to save the situation. Besides, I wouldn't be attempting
to alter Aaron's thoughts. Rather, I'd just be reinforcing what
he was already feeling.
Kirsten and Aaron had nodded off within five minutes of each
other. The fact that Kirsten was there made the timing more
difficult I had to monitor two EEGs, and work only during the
periods in which both were deep in REM sleep. Still, enough
opportunities presented themselves during the course of the
night. Aaron slept on the right side of the bed, sprawled on his
stomach like a lizard lying on a rock. Kirsten, taking what
remained of the left side, lay in a semifetal position, her knees
tucked toward her chest. At 02:07:33, I began to talk through
the headboard speakers, my voice low. Not quite a whisper I
lacked the ability to communicate essentially with breath alone
and no vibration of my speaker cords but in a minimal volume,
hardly discernible above the gentle sighing of the air
conditioner. I changed my vocal characteristics to resemble
Aaron's nasal asperity, and spoke slowly, quietly, right at the
threshold of perception: "Diana committed suicide. She took her
own life in despair. Di was crushed by the breakup of the
marriage. It's your fault your fault your fault. Diana
committed suicide. She took " Over and over again, quietly,
attenuated, a chant.
Aaron tossed in his sleep as I spoke. Kirsten drew her
knees more tightly to her chest. "Diana committed suicide . . ."
Kirsten's pulse rate increased; Aaron's breathing grew more
ragged. Eyes rolled rapidly beneath clenched lids. "She took
her own life in despair . . ."
He flailed an arm; her brow beaded with sweat. "Di was
crushed by the breakup of the marriage . . ."
From deep in Aaron's throat, a single syllable, the word
"No," dry and raw and faint, broke out from his dream world.
"It's your fault your fault your fault . . ."
Suddenly Kirsten's EEG did a flip-flop: she was moving out
of REM sleep, into a state of only shallow unconsciousness. I
stopped speaking at once.
But I would be back.
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