Flowercrash Paperback – 15 Oct 2002
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Top customer reviews
Many elements are reminiscent of Palmer's earlier books, 'Memory Seed' and 'Glass', but 'Flowercrash' is definitely its own book. Strong characters, powerfully emotional scenes and some thought-provoking political matter make 'Flowercrash' an excellent read.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The title Flowercrash refers to the impending crash of these flower networks, an event that "will result in the extinction of thousands of species, resulting in a monoculture", or the lose of diversity. Reading these descriptions brings to mind warnings of ozone depletion or some similar real world problem of environmental decay. But the "metaphors of knowledge" in the networks can be influenced, and how they are influenced will determine whether or not they ultimately survive.
The prelude to the story introduces us to three cyborgs - Zoahnone, Shonsair and Baigurgone, who in the moments before the Ice Age make plans for how they will shape the post-Ice Age society. And what each of these cyborgs represents is the principle theme of the book. Zoahnone wants to create a utopia of the body. "If we fail, the flower networks will wither and humanity will be returned to a culture of computation and naked intellect". Shonsair and Baigurgone, on the other hand, "espoused a domineering, intellectual viewpoint".
The main characters of the story, who embody this theme of emotions and pleasures of the body versus pure intellect, are Manserphine and Nuïy. Manserphine is the interpreter, a senior cleric, in the Shrine of Our Sister Crone. She is related to mermaids, descended from her great-grandmother. She suffers from severe insomnia, but has the dream skill that makes her a pivotal figure to influence the networks. Early in the story we discover that Manserphine got wrapped up in a bit of what seems like a cross between treason and industrial espionage, and as punishment she is banished from the Shrine for one season. She stays at the Determinate Inn, run by the mysterious Vishilkair and Kirifaïfra, also central characters in the story. As a senior cleric in the shrine, Manserphine has taken a vow of celibacy, a vow that she soon questions and then forsakes as her relationship with Kirifaïfra develops into a deeply physical and partially romantic one.
Nuïy is a young man who hates women (the un-men) and detests any physical contact with anyone whatsoever. He is nearly immune to sensations of cold or pain. Nuïy's uncanny memory allows him to have identified and memorized all 3,656 of the drum rhythms which allow the clerics of the Shrine of the Green Man to control the flow of data in the flower networks. Along with his precision playing, this makes him of great value because no one has previously had the intensity of concentration to play with the perfect precision required to influence networks. But Nuïy's memory is only for facts, for what he can tangibly grasp, rather than being able to use imagination or reasoning. Through drumming patterns Nuïy is able to alter the networks. And it's hard not to imagine him recording an album, reading about how he puts on his headphones to begin the day's drumming, and the attention to timing intervals required for the injection of databases.
Throughout the book Palmer deals with this struggle between pure intellect and the pleasures of the body. Manserphine and Nuïy represent polar opposites. Manserphine eventually realizes that her vow of celibacy strips her of her humanity, whereas Nuïy is genuinely repulsed by the idea of sex or any physical contact at all. This concept finds it's extremity in the cyborg Baigurgone, who when she later becomes a part of the network says, "Eventually, we must all forsake our bodies and become pure thought, drifting through the infinities of the networks as was meant to be". Zoahnone, on the other hand, argues for the knowledge of the body and the mind as being one.
Having read all four of Palmer's novels, it's noticeable that in all his books the main characters, and typically ruling beings, are women. Men are looked down upon in Flowercrash, with the Shrine of the Green Man being the only place where men are dominant. Women control Zaïdmouth and the clerics of the Shrine of the Green Man want to change the way Zaïdmouth is governed.
An element that makes Flowercrash such an enjoyable read is the imagery Palmer conjures up. For example, insects and pollinating bees seemingly going about their business in the gardens but actually involved in data transfer and network manipulation is surreal and would make for a stunning film if made by a Tim Burton or someone like that with the imagination and budget to bring these ideas and descriptions to the screen. The convoluted terms and imagery of conventional flowers and related species and network functions, and the interactions among them all, stretch the imagination, though the physical joining of humans (mind or mind and body) with computer networks is something that many writers have explored. At the most basic level the internet has certainly joined us together on a global basis in an unprecedented way. Even though we are physically sitting in front of our computers... it could be argued that this is only the beginning.
Ultimately we discover that Nuïy and Manserphine are both agents of change in the garden networks. But in the struggle between these forces... who will win? Palmer is less than sanguine about the fate of the real earth's environment. So what will be the consequences of the Flowercrash of the novel? Destruction or a new beginning? I would urge science fiction fans to read the novel and find out. It's an exciting and thought provoking story that is well worth seeking out.