Adam Roberts

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Adam Roberts (born 30 June 1965) is an academic, critic and novelist.


Jack Glass (2012)[edit]

Winner of the 2012 BSFA Award and the 2013 John W. Campbell Memorial Award. All page numbers from the hardcover first edition published by Gollancz
  • “You’re just doing that to pass the time,” said Davide, dismissively.
    “Just to pass the time,” agreed Jac. “Though I suppose time will pass, in any case, regardless of what I do.”
    • Part 1, “In the Box” (p. 45).
  • Jack considered: there were worse things that could happen than him dying. Of course, there were much better things, too.
    • Part 1, “In the Box” (p. 75).
  • What’s inside the box?
    Doubt is there.
    What’s another name for doubt?
    Death is another name for doubt. Death is what inflects the immortal certainty of the universe’s process with uncertainty.
    • Part 1, “In the Box” (p. 90).
  • His last hours alive. But he didn’t know!
    None of us will know, of course. The weird grammar of death. You die, he or she dies, they die, but there is no genuine form for “I”. Not really. All know that, none know when.
    • Part 2, “The FTL Murders” Chapter 1, “The Mystery of the Hammered Handservant” (p. 101).
  • As far as dreams were concerned—well dreams are generated by the random processes of neural oscillation during the brain’s rest phases. What dreams do is cycle and recycle images and feelings, rationalisations and fears. There’s nothing special about that. It’s not the dreams that matter (chaff, mental turbulence, the rotating metal bars moving endlessly through the transparent tub of metaphorical slushy). It is what the problem-solving circuits in the mind make of the dreams. Dreams iterate and test mental schemas, discarding the maladaptive to return the adaptive to the slush to be reworked. Dreams are emotional preparations for solving problems—that is why we have evolved them, because problem-solving abilities are highly adaptive and thus strongly evolutionarily selected. Dreams intoxicate the individual out of reliance on common sense and preconception, and tempt her into the orbit of private logic. Dreams have utility.
    • Part 2, Chapter 3, “The Utility of Dreaming” (p. 119).
  • She had expected to encounter death as a kind of existential depth and had been disappointed. But maybe there was a deeper truth there. Maybe profundity actually is a mode of disappointment. The rhythm of the climax—joy and despair, sex and pain—is of course the currency of life. Death can only ever be a sort of anticlimactic belatedness.
    • Part 2, Chapter 3, “The Utility of Dreaming” (pp. 119-120).
  • People-problems did not interest her. Data seemed to her a larger, purer, more transcendent quantity than Homo sapiensness. Human-to-human interactions were, effectively, all just politics, and politics bored her.
    • Part 2, Chapter 4, “The Mystery of the Champagne Supernovae” (p. 122).
  • The motives that explained human murder bunched, historically, into three groups: material gain; personal grudge and sociopathy.
    • Part 2, Chapter 4, “The Mystery of the Champagne Supernovae” (p. 124).
  • She didn’t have to believe the technology existed. She only had to believe that people believed the technology existed. People, being stupid, believed all sorts of things.
    • Part 2, Chapter 4, “The Mystery of the Champagne Supernovae” (p. 128).
  • Diana got that seventh-sense intimation that she had touched on an unmentionable matter; although a strangely involuted one whereby the fact that it was unmentionable was itself unmentionable.
    • Part 2, Chapter 5, “Ms. Joad” (p. 141).
  • That a human being had died did not distress her. Had it been somebody she knew it would have upset her; she wasn’t a monster. Had it been somebody she cared about. But it was nobody she knew, and it would have been disingenuous to pretend that the death of somebody she didn’t know affected her on an emotional level.
    • Part 2, Chapter 6, “The Gate of Horn and the Gate of Ivory” (p. 150).
  • “Do you know what this is?
    “The floor, Miss?”
    “Dust! I read about it—tiny particles of matter.”
    • Part 2, Chapter 7, “The Investigation Begins” (p. 163).
  • One of the curiosities of anger, of course, is that the more you focus it outward, firing it at the injustices of the world, the more it actually parses your own self-pity and resentment.
    • Part 2, Chapter 13, “Of Multitudes” (p. 238).
  • She thought of the multitude.
    Trillions of human beings, wrappend like a fog about their home star. The mind collapsed at the scale and the numbers. But if ethics meant anything at all, it meant not letting the largeness of the human population overwhelm our moral knowledge that life is lived individually, and that even when agglomerated into billions and trillions individual human beings deserve better han being used as tools. That the overwhelming majority of this vast mass of humanity was poor, living precariously and subsistence lives in leaky shanty bubbles, eating ghunk and drinking recycled water—this made this more, not less, true. These were the people least able to help themselves. Thery should be helped, not exploited.
    • Part 2, Chapter 13, “Of Multitudes” (p. 239).
  • “It’s not right. A human being is a human being. A human being is not a toy.”
    “We cannot help but use the people below us as a resource, my love,” said her two MOHmies, as one. “That is what it means to be in power. Your choice is to relinquish power forever, or to accept that and use people for good.”...
    “If we are powerful,” sang her MOHmies, “we can make things better, but we are made unclean by the fact that we have power. If we are powerless we remain clean, but we cannot make things better.”
    • Part 2, Chapter 13, “Of Multitudes” (p. 240).
  • “I shouldn’t be naive” Diana said. “Of course, realising its destructive power only makes them want it more. Of course. Even more than great wealth, power craves technologies of destruction. Good to be wealthy, but better to remain in power—and the more awe-inspiring the weaponry at your disposal, the better able you are to do that.”
    • Part 2, Chapter 14, “The Third Letter of the Alphabet” (pp. 259-260).
  • So it ends
    As it begins.
    Off we climb
    And no one wins.
    • From Thom Gunn, “Seesaw” quoted in Part 3, “The Impossible Gun” Epigram (p. 261).
  • “Come out,” Sukarno cried into the vegetation. “I have a gun!”
    “Mr. Sukarno,” said Iago, without looking at him. “You are, if you don’t mind me saying, too fond of shouting ‘I have a gun.’”
    • Part 3, “The Impossible Gun” Chapter 5, “The Search” (p. 315).
  • It had to be one or the other. Did it have to be one or the other? Even the question as to whether it had to be one or the other had to be one or the other!
    • Part 3, Chapter 7, “To Garland 400” (p. 328).
  • It could be any one of a dozen things. Experience has taught me that we much more often see connection where there is only random copresence. Pattern-seeking consciousness, you know. Great plains ape, you know.
    • Part 3, Chapter 8, “The Wrath of Diana” (p. 331).
  • Death is the currency of power.
    • Part 3, Chapter 8, “The Wrath of Diana” (p. 337).
  • Individually speaking, death is always a rupture, a violence. But taking a total view, death is the bell curve upon which the cosmos is balanced. Without it, nothing would work, everything would collapse, clogged and stagnant. Death is flow. It is the necessary lubrication of universal motion. It is, in itself, neither praiseworthy nor blameworthy.
    • Part 3, Chapter 8, “The Wrath of Diana” (p. 337).
  • Nobody can overthrow the fascist dictator by being nicer than him. The reason for this is: by definition everybody is always already nicer than the fascist dictator.
    • Part 3, Chapter 8, “The Wrath of Diana” (p. 337).
  • “Eva is perfectly content with her academic research,” said Diana. “She just isn’t interested in power. As I say those sentences,” she added, clasping her knees to her chest, “I can tell they’re both wrong. Aren’t they? Of course she’s interested in power.”
    “She’s a human being,” agreed Iago.
    • Part 3, Chapter 8, “The Wrath of Diana” (p. 339).
  • By all means let us consult your needs! So long as they overlap precisely with my needs, I’m sure we can accommodate them.
    • Part 3, Chapter 9, “Solving the Mystery” (p. 347).
  • But once we are free...once we have evolved beyond the old medieval power structures and the medieval internecine violence they create, then we’ll be able to use the technology responsibly. Everything depends on that.
    • Part 3, Chapter 10, “Aboard the Bubluomeka 4” (p. 357).

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