Monday, September 27, 2010


In Radix, A.A. Attanasio has created a post-post-apocalyptic science fiction world with a scope so vast that it occasionally gets away from him, despite his attempts to create a "God-Mind."

There are so many ideas and aliens in this novel that there's an appendix at the end, one which would make little sense to anyone who hasn't already read the novel. Take the alien race called "Voors" for example. I would call them a race of mind-readers who are capable of taking over native life-forms on whatever planet they visit, and who are under sentence of death from one main form of earth's present government, the Masseboth. The appendix defines a Voor as "a being from Unchala who has evolved into the Line and who spontaneously and creatively usurps the physical forms of species on whatever life-worlds the Line reaches." That gives you a small taste of the complications of Attanasio's mythology.

The ideas are interesting, but the writing doesn't carry me along easily. When I read Frank Herbert's Dune, for instance, one of the attractions is the vista--the sense that not everything is explained, but that those mysteries are themselves due to how strange this alien world is. When I read Radix, I find myself trying to go back to earlier explanations of who the "Eth" is and what he has to do with the "Delph" in order to understand even the title, which is defined by the appendix as "a mantic term for the root of existence" (what is "mantic" you ask? It's "a human brain coupled to an ATP-pump...").

There are occasional passages where the idea came together clearly, and those kept me reading, like this conversation between the main character, Sumner, and an artificially created being working to further the plan of the Delph:
"The kro used radioactive material just to heat water to run turbines. Small-visioned, no? This whole area was hot." He flicked ash into the mess at his feet. "And it would have stayed hot for tens of thousands of years."
Sumner grunted. "That was stupid. Who cleaned it up?"
"The Delph before he fully developed. This was the best he could do at the time."
"Tell me about the people who lived here."
"The kro were like the Masseboth. Like all people." He bit down on his cheroot and spoke through his teeth. "A hot fuse of ambitions and ideas burning from generation to generation. Victims of memory."

And then there's this kind of mystical gibberish:
"Skyfires vapored into nothingness when they rocketed through them, higher than the weather, and the blackness of space yawed deep as the mindark; the eternal glide of starlight filtering through the razed dust of the galaxies provided the only illumination."

The most interesting parts are when Sumner goes native for a while, developing friendships and allegiances with various individuals and tribes. When he pulls back from the action to see the bigger picture, though, a reader's mind can't completely comprehend his expanding god's-eye-view.

I got this novel as an advance copy from Phoenix Pick; they're reissuing it, along with two other novels set in that world.

1 comment:

FreshHell said...

Gah- this makes my eyes cross.