reads like a lesser The Einstein Intersection
, which was published a mere year earlier. Both are looking at future societies, and attempting to integrate myth and legend into the stories they tell. But what Past Master
lacks is the lyricism of Samuel L. Delany. Similar figures, archetypes of myth and Christian legend occur, but Lafferty tells these stories in much more prosy prose, and having read and loved The Einstein Intersection
earlier, I couldn't help but be disappointed by the story told here.
It's not bad. It's just that if you're looking for a successful integration of myth and science fiction, go with Delany.
In this book, on the golden world of Astrobe, human society has reached its zenith. Or so they thought. But more and more humans are rejecting the life of ease and comfort to live in a hardscrabble settlement, Cathead, just outside of the main city. No one can understand why. Machines live side by side with humans, and can indeed even interbreed with them. Programmed Killers stalk the streets, to take out anyone who interferes with the Astrobe dream.
In the midst of a society that seems perfect, yet is being rejected by increasing numbers, the Circle of Masters decides they need a new candidate for President. One who can be manipulated. But is honest. They pick Sir Thomas More, and pluck him forward in time. Once on Astrobe, Thomas sees the similarities between this new Eden and his own Utopia, which he insists was written as a satire rather than a practical plan. Despite this, and despite the urgings of his own disciples, Evita, the female embodiment of, well, femaleness, her brother Adam, doomed to die again and again, More falls in love with the Astrobe dream, and vows to save it.
But is his will his own?
But while Past Master
was interesting, the writing didn't live up to the promise of the ideas, and it was never a book I was eager to get back to. I didn't mind reading it, mind, but it never really grabbed me. Delany's a far better bet. Too bad for Lafferty his great idea coincided with a much better delivery of the same sort of themes.