Monday, March 28, 2005

When the Sleeper Wakes

I'm moving away from worrying myself into a needless state of High Anxiety over the Schiavo case. But, to ease the transition, I notice that no-one has mentioned the potential that exists here for a real-life rerun of one of H G Wells' science-fiction novels.

The novel in question is titled When the Sleeper Wakes and it's an interesting book. It concerns the case of a young man with a weak chest, who one day is taken ill. This weak-chested individual, who is called Graham (what a crap name for a hero!), then falls into a state similar to Terri Schiavo, only he has a cerebral cortex (although, who knows, if Schiavo lived long enough, some kind of brain transplant may be attempted). Graham sleeps and sleeps, like a fairytale princess, and his pension and bank account accumulate interest. Eventually, Graham's fortune is sufficient to warrant the appointment of a board of trustees, whose shrewd investments of Graham's money help them, over time, to become the dominant economic force in the world.

This goes on for hundreds of years, with decisions being taken by the trustees in Graham's name.

Then, one day, the spectacular happens, the amazing, and Graham wakes up to discover that he is nominally, at least, the Ruler of the World.

The trustees are not happy, and they attempt to placate Graham rather than hand over power. He escapes and there is a momentous power struggle. I won't tell you how it ends...

What is fascinating about the Wells plot is that, perhaps in faithfulness to his time (and the demand to make it a good story), that he can envisage the comatose Graham being left alone, pretty much in peace, for many years, hundreds by the end. Today's version of When the Sleeper Wakes could compress all the dramatic events into just Two Weeks, not a couple of centuries. And the Sleeper wouldn't be required to Wake.

So, another possible reason to respect the wishes of Michael Schiavo and to let Terri die in peace is this - To Stop Her Taking Control of the World.

(As a footnote, one of the innovations in Well's story is the Babble Machine, devices sited throughout public spaces, that broadcast endless tittle-tattle and gossip, nothing of substance... thank goodness nothing like that has come to pass!)


For anyone who is interested in Sterne or BS Johnson, there's an excellent PDF transcript of Jonathan Coe's Laurence Sterne Annual Memorial lecture available.

There will also be an upcoming interview (written by one of my friends) with Christine Brooke-Rose, where she throws light on what a humourless git BS Johnson could be.


And, no, I haven't forgotten about the Spears!


Blogger L said...

I've always loved the Time Machine and the Island of Dr. Moreau, but never actually got around to reading this one! Thanks... will have to check it out now!

9:01 PM  
Blogger kingfelix said...

Hurrah! Someone is still reading my blog! My visits have plummeted recently, undoubtedly on account of a few out-of-character political posts, but anyhow, that link in the post for When the Sleeper Wakes takes you to a full online version so you can gauge the full measure of your interest there

10:59 PM  

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