With the addition of speed-of-light travel, Greene’s character Adem Saddiq can sign a contract with the parents of his wife-to-be before she’s even born, take to space on his family’s freighter and return several months later to find his 26-year-old bride, Hisako Sasaki, waiting for him. Because time dilation allows him to jump 26 years into the future, he can have his bride made-to-order, specifying what degrees and skills she’ll need to play a productive part in the family business. He can even require that she receive genetic modifications to make her a genius.
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Greene imagines that the same considerations that shaped arranged marriages in the past will shape them in the future. Hisako’s “parents are very poor. They’re refugees,” he tells me on today’s episode of New Books in Science Fiction. “Their only way to get out of this situation is to sign the contract. It’s going to allow Adem and his family to pay for Hisako’s schooling, which she wouldn’t otherwise have gotten. It’s going to pay for a family apartment, which they wouldn’t otherwise have had. And it’s going to make sure that she has a life that’s going to be far better than her parents’.”
Understandably, Hisako sees the situation differently. “If you’re the mom and the dad, then you see [the arranged marriage] as something that would be good for your kid. If you’re the kid, your whole life has been stolen from you and preordained and pre-contracted. Like Hisako, you’d be a little pissed about it.”
The Light Years is Greene’s first novel.