cover image 1994 and After

1994 and After

Peter Huber / Author, Huber / Author Free Press $27.95 (374p)

In George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, the telescreen-which spies on its captive audience members and fills their minds with propaganda-is the instrument that makes possible the totalitarian state's absolute control. Huber (Galileo's Revenge) believes Orwell was fundamentally wrong in assuming that electronic media would facilitate mind control. On the contrary, he argues, today's telecommunications world-spanning cable television, personal computer networks, cellular phones and so forth-offers a multiplicity of choices in information and fosters the exchange of ideas. In alternating chapters, Huber splices a belabored critique of Orwell's prophecies with an experimental fiction, closely based on 1984, but with Eric Blair (i.e., Orwell under his real name) as the protagonist. The fictional chapters interpolate real-life figures such as spy Guy Burgess, Orwell's colleague at the BBC, and Vaughan Wilkes, Orwell's sadistic schoolmaster. Concluding with a handy capsule history of telecommunications, Huber provocatively predicts the convergence of computing, television and the telephone in a myriad of mixed-media networks. (Nov.)