Barrington J. Bayley, an English sci-fi writer and a member of the Science Fiction New Wave, is considered a lost great — if not for his novels as novels, but for his well of bizarre/extraordinary/and disturbing ideas. I recently reviewed one of his earlier works, Star Winds (1978) and was completely put off. However, a trip to the local book store yielded very few works of my standard authors so I picked up yet another Bayley work based solely on its cover!
For once the back cover blurb pans out!
“A novel about:
How clones made murder a new sexual experience…
How rebuilding one man’s skeleton made him the most sensitive and powerful man in the future…
How a deck of cards was devised that was really programmed to reveal the future…
How a lost planet became the mecca of every treasure-hunter in space…
How Joachim Boaz plotted to derail the entire universe!
It’s exciting, “nova” science fiction…”
Brief Plot summary: Our hero, Joachim Boaz, has his skeleton replaced by a group of philosophers called the collonadists. In a nutshell, the collonadists believe that history moves along a wheel and everything will eventually repeat itself. Similar to Vulcans, collonadists also believe in reducing one’s own emotions. A horrific accident occurs which, without the special collonadist skeleton, would have killed him. In order for him to survive, he is linked to a ship, which serves as his life support and routes data from its censors to his mind — however, with a catch, he can’t move very far from it.
Eventually, Boaz discovers that a planet, called Meirjain the Wanderer has moved near inhabited space. A horde of prospectors (including brothers with hats permanently attached to their heads) and an eventual friend whose corrupted collonadists deck of cards appear to tell the future, descend on the planet to seek its treasures. Boaz, looking for some mysterious time gems, discovers something extraordinarily peculiar…. And here, the summary shall stop — READ FOR YOURSELF!
WOW. In Bayley’s works, bizarre worlds, characters, Masonic influence (the pillars of Boaz and Joachim), weird philosophies, strange technologies, and occasionally, wry black humor, are more important than characters. Joachim Boaz as a character is flat and listless — however, the world around him which he views through his attached ship/skeletal extension is vibrant and disturbed (for example, sexual deviance involving killing one’s partner who resurrects in a nearby clone — repeat).
In a nutshell — Bayley’s works are lush and imaginative and on the whole, low on dialogue and very well written. I wish Bayley wrote a series involving this world — I want to know more about the Hat Brothers and the various other characters we quickly meet before Boaz moves on. As with Star Winds, female characters are practically absent (one does “populate” half of the book but so unimportant that I immediately forgot her name).
Find a copy!