Mazes and the Futility of a Controlled Life

A review of James Bambury’s Thirteen Generations (on The Canadian Science Fiction Review)
By Derek Newman-Stille

James Bambury’s Thirteen Generations takes place in a realm of experiment, a lab in which specimens are put into a maze to test their ability to navigate complex locations and solve problems. Each specimen only lasts about an hour and passes on some of its knowledge to the next generation.

The researcher gradually begins hearing disjointed voices from the organisms as they pass from generation to generation, their language becoming more clarified as they gain greater abilities to problem solve complex mazes. Gradually the specimens come to recognise the presence of the researcher, and later generations begin to ask for things. Over time, the organism starts to question its existence and asks the researcher if life is just paths, eating, and signals. It recognises the limits of existence, the simplicity of it and its meaninglessness. When the researcher tells it that its death is coming soon, it, like us, wants to avoid any form of death.  When it discovers that death is not possible to avoid, it becomes despondent, seeing that there is no way that it can avoid or solve death.

As the specimens continue to progress, they begin to question the necessity of their behaviour and what they are doing. Death’s inevitability and the repetitive nature of existence drains them of their motivation.

Speaking to a creator and knowing that life is only a maze, a puzzle for the benefit of another robs existence of its excitement, its changeability and, by making death something inevitable, there is a loss of the speculative – the question that keeps us going. Change is motivational, questions help us to constantly strive, change, and modify the world around us.

You can explore this story at . You can find out more about James Bambury at .

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