No Haven for Darkness

 

            Written by Philip Hawthorne, No Haven for Darkness was an enormous success in Haven when it was first released in the late seventies. It purports to be the true story of a young woman from Haven who mysteriously awakens on an alternate Earth and finds herself in the body of girl named Samantha Jarvis. In this parallel universe there was no Gomorrah virus and the Axis lost the war in 1945, with Hitler committing suicide in April of that year. As a consequence, the social, political, and technological landscape of the world is vastly different. At the time of the story (nearing the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century), there are some seven billion people on the planet in more than two hundred different countries. Gasoline-powered vehicles rule the roads, causing enormous amounts of pollution and contributing to growing concerns about environmental degradation and something called "global warming." There are airplanes capable of carrying eight hundred or more passengers nearly a third of the way around the world without stopping for fuel and the skies are filled daily with tens of thousands of aircraft transporting millions of people about the globe. Tourism is a vast industry, and people regularly travel to even the remotest parts of the planet in search of adventure.

            A space station orbits the Earth, and in the not too distant past men set foot on the Moon. Machines have been sent to Mars and have roamed its surface, sending back pictures of another world. Rockets are regularly launched into space carrying human beings or satellites.

            People own a plethora of technologies, including many that seem beyond imagining. Not least of these are “cellular" telephones. These phones are ubiquitous and so small they can fit in a pocket or a purse. They allow a person to contact almost anyone at anytime and anywhere and do things that seem more like magic than reality. Enormous "flat panel" televisions – thin enough to hang on a wall – are a common feature in homes and permit one to watch hundreds of different channels carrying hundreds of different shows. People often eat pre-packaged food, invariably using devices called "microwave" ovens to warm the meals up in a fraction of the time it would take to cook using a conventional stove. Practically every household in wealthier nations has at least one computer, and many of these are small and portable – no bigger than a notebook and as thin as a piece of glass – but are many, many times more powerful than Haeden University's vacuum tube Colossus.

            Perhaps most fascinating in Hawthorne's fantasy is something called the "Internet." This is essentially a vast network connecting millions upon millions of computers to one another and allowing people to not only communicate through a variety of means, but also enabling them to access a wealth of information beyond anything contained in a set of encyclopedias. Indeed, on the Internet people regularly do things like shop "online," "stream" music and movies and other media, and socialize in ways that are simply beyond imagining in Haven. It is a critical instrument of the civilization portrayed, and it is clear that without it the world would become largely dysfunctional.

            A "cult of the celebrity" appears to exist on Hawthorne’s alternate Earth, with large numbers of people worshipping anyone who can make a claim to some fame or notoriety (for whatever reason). Some people are simply famous for having become famous and appear to contribute nothing to society. They are essentially parasitic in nature, deriving their livelihood from the mere fact that they have gained a status they have not truly earned and for which there appears to be no plausible explanation – other than the sheer idiocy of the public. This is especially exemplified by the fact that individuals who are stupid and truly obnoxious are idolized. It is fair to say that in Hawthorne's alternate Earth the more loathsome one is, the more one is likely to achieve success and wealth. Greed and narcissism are seen as virtues by many, regardless of how destructive they may be to the welfare of others. The wealthy seem to see little wrong in cheating – as long as you can get away with it. Nor do they seem to believe that the rule of law should apply to them. They clearly subscribe to a notion that they are somehow apart from the rest of society, and that their status should accord them special treatment when it comes to matters of social and legal propriety. As a result, the society in which Hawthorne’s central character, Samantha Jarvis, finds herself is increasingly divided along the lines of the "haves" and the "have-nots," with the later far out-numbering the former and thus creating a growing tide of resentment in the bottom strata of the population.

            Hawthorne creates a colorful but ultimately unconvincing – dare it even be said, ludicrous? –  world, its excesses simply too broad and caricaturish to be believable. The notion of individuals driven to such heights of greed that they continue to pursue wealth at the expense of the society around them (heedless as it visibly crumbles) is difficult enough to swallow; but the idea that people would actually have the audacity to complain about the poverty around them that they clearly have contributed to is to laugh.

            Nor do the author's detailed pictures of a world wrapped so tightly in a web of electronica seem credible. Such levels of technology as those the author depicts are incredibly advanced, and it seems unlikely any civilization could surge so far ahead in so many areas of science and engineering within just a mere six or seven decades of the war's end. And as to the social aspect of all this interconnectedness, it is hard to believe people could become so wedded to technology that it would essentially govern all aspects of their lives and leave them helpless when it fails.

            All of Hawthorne's wild speculations as to what our world would be like had there never been a virus are woven through a narrative that has the character Samantha Jarvis rushing about in an attempt to not only figure out who she really is, but to also thwart the machinations of a group that sounds suspiciously like the Old Ones. Some have speculated on this facet of the tale and have suggested it is a less than subtle declaration by the author that our world exists as it does solely because of the Old Ones, and that should we rid ourselves of them, we might one day enjoy a world like his alternate Earth.

            Now nearly three decades after its first publication, No Haven for Darkness remains something of a cult classic in Haven literature. It was Hawthorne's only book, and after its publication he withdrew from the public eye and has given no interviews since. Rumors persist of a second book, but the author's publisher insists that no such novel exists and that there are no indications Hawthorne will ever write one. Hawthorne himself has always maintained there can be no sequel because the story was true and he has no knowledge of what happened after the end of the book.

            While the novel was a hit in Haven, it was banned in the Third Reich. Its initial publication caused something of a diplomatic row, but the controversy soon died down. Rumors persist that the book is widely circulated amidst some of the vamp populace, though for reasons not yet understood.

            Regardless of its merits, No Haven for Darkness remains a pointed reminder that our world would have been vastly different if not for the unleashing of Gomorrah. That something so small could cause so dramatic a change is sobering.

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