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Posted October 19, 2002
Joseph Myers has created a new version of ¿Looking Backward¿ written in the precise style and using the exact structure of Bellamy¿s ¿Looking Backward,¿ but focused more on spiritual and moral possibilities, rather than political and economic possibilities. Any true fan of ¿Looking Backward¿ should first read Bellamy¿s 1897 sequel, ¿Equality,¿ which continues the story where ¿Looking Backward¿ left off. ¿Equality¿ is more convincing and more intellectually mature than ¿Looking Backward.¿ But having given the ¿real¿ Bellamy his due, go ahead and read the Joseph Myers version ¿ it is an enlightening and intellectually challenging romp through science, philosophy, religion, new age ideology, and the meaning of life. Myers earnestly believes that he is Bellamy reincarnated. However, whether he is or isn¿t ends up being beside the point; the book stands on its own as an effective indictment of our society¿s moral and spiritual achievements every bit as convincing as the original Bellamy¿s critique of our politics and economics. I am not certain that a reincarnated Edward Bellamy would take another shot at ¿Looking Backward.¿ But, eerily, the Myers¿ version captures a great deal more of Bellamy than one would expect -- the stilted language, the unnecessary sexism, the relentlessly logical prose, and more. For example, who else besides Edward Bellamy could combine such a keen social vision with such a hapless inability to predict scientific advances? The original Bellamy failed to predict the electronic storage and wireless transmission of music that were realized just after his death. Myers¿ Bellamy obviously intends not to make the same mistake this time around, now predicting air cars, gravity motors, and a future geology that is ¿ well, nothing you would expect. The book¿s strength is its direct and forthright attempt to discuss hard spiritual and moral issues that cross religious, political, and national boundaries. The book¿s weakness is its inability to break out of Bellamy¿s proper 19th century voice, which is assigned to every character, even a 150-year old Tibetan Lama. The book¿s persistently Christian tone is moderated by the constant development of principles and theories drawn from all religions. Fans of Daniel Quinn¿s ¿Ishmael¿ will find a similarly impressive biblical reinterpretation. If you believe in the value of reading books that challenge your beliefs, this one will challenge many of your beliefs. If you want to explore some ideas about architecture, agriculture, public service, psychedlic drugs, and social organization radically different from what most people believe today, you won¿t be disappointed. And if you want to read one of the very few utopian novels written near the end of the 20th century, you won¿t find one more earnest.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.