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Shadows Live Under Seashells by Allan J. Ashinoff

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Life on the Mars colonies of 2084 has been punctuated by occasional murders, bloody, gruesome and hideous. The Administration of Earth sends an “eductor” to solve the problem. As a child, Elliot Fintch was identified as “COT: Capable of Thought.” That gave him a privileged, middle class life, a nice apartment in the Phoenix Dome, an assigned wife, and meaningful work. He solves problems with intuition, insight, and flexible thinking not found in many other people. He enjoys his work.

He does not enjoy home life so much. He tries to love his wife of 25 years, but without children, home life has been lacking. Still, the artificial intelligences in his home, office, and car keep him from making mistakes by reminding him of the rules. Those same programs overheard the Fintches’ last argument, old and worn, nominally about nothing important yet coming back to their never having had children. The next morning, while Elliot is in the shower, his wife is removed, arrested for disloyalty. They tell him that she left of her own accord and filed for divorce. Sad as it leaves him, it was a long time coming. Flexible in his thinking, he adjusts as best he can while he wrestles with this new problem.

Allan J. Ashinoff’s dystopia is somewhere between Brave New World and 1984. In the middle third of the 21st century, the Administration came out of hiding to take over from the bankrupted nation states. Humanity was placed in huge Domes for the good of the planet. Now, diets are regulated; exercise is mandated. Public transportation might be by private vehicle for privileged people, but public it is nonetheless. Hopping into your own car to go cruising through the wilderness is unthinkable. You go where you are programmed to be, even if it is in the nominal privacy of a single cab, attended, as always, by a program that serves you on behalf of the Administration.

For those who fall aside by a chance comment or rash action, the Administration has invested special resources in reprogramming the old person into a new one. As Elliot Fintch rises off planet, his wife falls into ever lower status.

Ashinoff’s writing style is clear, concise, and lively. He invests a lot description and narration in the technology of the times. This is expected in the genre, and it does not detract. It is all very real and plausible given what we know we could accomplish today. Of course, as technology changes, people remain constant. And people – not technology - committed the murders on Mars.

This novel stands on its own; but it also rests on a set of short stories, Fallacies of Vision, set closer to our own time. Both are available as Kindle downloads on Amazon. (Shadows costs $4.99; Fallacies is 99 cents.) Not a Kindle person myself, I found it easy to put the software on my Macintosh and enjoy the reads. Ashinoff is clearly and consciously a political conservative. (We met on the “Galt’s Gulch” website of the Atlas Shrugged movie producers.) The opening story in Fallacies of Vision, “Erosion” won him undeserved condemnation from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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