Shadows Live Under Seashells by Allan J. Ashinoff


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If this goes on… If this does not change… If this changes…. According to John Campbell, science fiction is good fiction set convincingly in the future. (Alternate pasts such as steampunk and Rome Eternal do not change the essential requirements.) This future is located between Brave New World and 1984. It is the best that the progressives have to offer: nutritionally balanced for humans; and ecologically safe for wildlife. Our viewpoint character, Elliot Fintch, lives a privileged middle class life. Identified as a child as COT: Capable of Thought, he has been enhanced with a memory chip and is given interesting and challenging assignments. He is rising in his career, comfortable in his home, set in his routines.

But he needs to be careful. The Administration of 2084 does not tolerate resistance and certainly not rebellion. Any chance encounter could be with a secret agent of the Administration. Even another citizen could gain rewards by reporting a disloyal statement. Every home has an artificial intelligence program with a nice name that serves as your ever-helpful reminder of what to do right and what to avoid doing wrong. His office has another. They are everywhere.

This all came about when the Administration quietly and completely replaced the national governments which it helped to bankrupt with its Domes. Humanity has been bottled up since 2025. It is safer for people and better for the Earth.

Elliot Fintch reports to work to find a difficult problem on his desk: gruesome and seemingly causeless murders on Mars. But Fintch has other problems, as well. His wife left him that morning. He will be assigned a new one, likely younger, he knows, capable of having children, which he and his wife never did. He does not know that his wife was arrested for disloyalty while he was in the shower. Quickly, quietly, and efficiently, she was removed from the kitchen for a disloyal statement in yet another weary argument over the children they never had. They told him she walked out; in the wake of the argument, he resigned himself to the new reality. That is one of his strengths, why he has the job title “eductor” something far beyond an educator. He is flexible, adaptable, and intuitive. And he leads by serving.

For a man with privileged access to (almost) all of the information on Earth, and enhanced with a computer chip in his brain, Fintch has been sheltered. He knows only his own Dome (Phoenix). As he is shipped off to Mars, he meets people whose motives and motivations he finds difficult to understand. Mostly, they are as obedient as he is and for the same reasons, but their differing life experiences gave them perspectives he did not – cannot – anticipate. And so, as he goes from Phoenix, to Costa Rica, to Ecuador, and into outer space, and down to Mars, Elliot Fintch discovers his own limitations.

But Fintch is resourceful. He is focused and determined. He is smart. Step by step we see his world expand. Meanwhile, his wife’s world contracts. She is reprogrammed with a new identity. To achieve that, her previous self must be erased. It is the essential inhumanity of the self-proclaimed humanitarians that they only have your best interests at heart because they know best. That, of course, can only appeal to people even worse than Elliot Fintch. Fintch is innocently arrogant. He takes his position as his due and as his responsibility. Others are not so high minded.

Allan J. Ashinoff is a computer programmer. His writing reflects the certainty and clarity of that frame of mind. The book is easy to read as the narrative unfolds, carrying Elliot Fintch to experiences that only add to his puzzlement. But he spent a lifetime thinking in novel ways about undefined problems and he figures this one out, as well.

This novel stands on its own; but it also rests on a set of short stories, Fallacies of Vision, set closer to our own time. Both are available as Kindle downloads on Amazon. (Shadows costs $4.99; Fallacies is 99 cents.) Not a Kindle person myself, I found it easy to put the software on my Macintosh and enjoy the reads. Ashinoff is clearly and consciously a political conservative. (We met on the “Galt’s Gulch” website of the Atlas Shrugged movie producers.) The opening story in Fallacies of Vision, “Erosion” won him undeserved condemnation from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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