(Uncredited cover for the 1970 first edition)
Magellan (1970), Colin Anderson’s only science fiction publication, is an inventive but emotionally hollow novel, overly brief, and lacking in sufficient prose to adequately convey the lengthy allegorical sequences. It is a shame that Colin Anderson didn’t write other science fiction works because this one holds great potential. The future evolution of mankind — waiting to be subsumed into a computer of their own making — is a fascinating premise. The tepid and unadventurous prose conflicts with the grand and audacious subject matter.
Brief Plot Summary (limited spoilers)
The back cover hints at the ingenious subject, “Magellan is the last city-state on earth — a society where perfection is being rapidly approached. It is the Eve of Eternity — the day when the great computer complex Chronophage will assume dominion over the earth and grant every man wish. Euripides Che Fourthojuly 1070121, who has been avoiding the tranquilizing drugs all are required to take, will be in for a very bad time indeed…”
Post-holocaust Earth contains a single city, Magellan (replete with futuristic buildings, universities, causeways, lifts, and the other standard future city accouterments). Society is highly advanced — government is an extreme form of democracy (for the select few) — people are paid to cast votes. Each citizen is assigned a Servant who supplies their every need. Hunger, death, disease, etc have been defeated.
Outside Magellan is the Old City — ruins from the last war, a reminder of mankind’s violent past. Magellan is the sign of everything that is good — however, mankind yearns for a further evolutionary stage — Eternity: a “perfect state” subsumed into a gigantic computer called the Chronophrage which sends its veritable power cord tentacles into Earth’s very core.
Our “hero” Euri is an emotionally conflicted individual (he appears at points in the novel to look forward to Eternity but then lashes out in unusual ways). He visits the Old City and engages in illicit activities with the Gamblers. As a historian, his job is to reduce history into a form that can be subsumed by the Chronophage.
When Eternity arrives Colin Anderson immerses the reader in a bizarre allegorical landscape (sentient castles, a creepy Pied Piper-esque Sir Daddy, endless marshes, etc). Euri is seperated from his wife in Eternity and seeks to reunite with her.
Of course, Eternity is drastically different than anyone expected…
Colin Anderson’s world-building skills are on show for the first half of the work — Magellan is a fascinating sci-fi cityscape. However, as I mentioned above, the Anderson’s prose fails to create lasting, unusual, or powerful images of this ultra-technological future. The prose truly fails to convey the magnitude of Eternity.
For die-hard fans of science fiction I recommend picking up this little forgotten oddity (it actually was published more than once!). For others less interested in the act of discovering (and being disappointed by) the tattered paperback inhabitants that proliferate dusty back shelves but are intrigued by “the future evolution of man” trope pick up Arthur C. Clarke’s masterpiece Childhood’s End (1953).
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