Parenting colours your view of literature

Currently I’m reading Dan Simmons sci fi classic Hyperion. It’s a book I’ve tried many a time to read over the last 20 odd years but I’ve never managed to progress past the prologue. This time I decided to opt for the Audible version and listen to it on my commute, something I find myself doing increasingly now days. Fortunately the version on Audible is well recorded and more importantly unabridged.

Hyperion is a far future sci fi story, loosely based around the structure of the Canterbury Tales. I’ve not finished it yet but did find myself strangely affected by one of the stories. One of the pilgrims is a chap called Sol Weintraub. Sol is pronounced close enough to Saul that you get the idea the former is a future corruption of latter. Sol’s story involves his daughter, a 26 year old archaeologist, contracting a weird disease called Merlin Syndrome. Rachel, his daughter, begins to “age” backwards, to the point of being 12 weeks old at the time he is telling his story. It’s a unique disease that baffles science.

A younger me, the me who failed to get this far into the book as a twenty something, would have found this concept fascinating, compared it to contemporary sci fi and looked to see what sort of influence it had on subsequent sci fi. The current me, father of three, got a bit emotional at the concept of one of my children suffering such a long term and presumably fatal disease (I’ve not finished the book so don’t know Rachel’s’ fate). I can’t imagine what it would be like to spend 26 years watching my daughter get younger every day, waking up with no knowledge of being ill as the previous days memory disappears.

Increasingly I find themes like this disturb me in literature. I imagine that I wouldn’t enjoy Cormac McCarthy’s The Road either, and even relatively tame stuff like Will Smith’s family dying in I am Legend was a bit upsetting.

I think I’m getting soppy in my old age.