Science Fiction Though the Decades

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

1980: The Infinitive of Go (Brunner, John)

Modes of Reality & The Ebon Tigress (4/5)
From September 22, 2011 

Brunner has remained one of my favorite authors (this book being fifth for the year and fourteenth for all time) over the years as, through his novels, he presents flexibility for subject matter and uniqueness over those in the same genre of science fiction. He's hit on colonizing planets (Bedlam Planet), future-dystopia of earth (The Sheep Look Up), seeding planets (A Maze of Stars) and a whole slew of other themes. In 1974, Brunner wrote about matter transmission as a mode of people transport in the very short novel Web of Everywhere. Brunner revisits this idea in The Infinitive of Go.

Rear cover synopsis:
"The first practical matter transmitter was a success, or so everyone thought. In spite of paranoid security restrictions. Justin Williams and Cinnamon Wright, co-inventors of the device, counted on it to revolutionize civilization and gain them an honoured place in history. But the first long-distance field test with a human being - a diplomatic courier carrying a vital message - somehow misfired when the courier killed himself on arrival at his destination. To prove his faith in his invention - and to escape charges of sabotage - Justin had himself 'posted' thousands of miles. He came through unchanged. It was the world that was somehow different..."

When things aren't going so smoothly back in the lab because of the courier's explosion, Justin transmits himself to prove that he isn't a saboteur. When he returns to the lab via matter transmission, he finds his car is messy, there's a new restaurant he's never heard of... and some love he's never had before. In addition to this twist and revelation, there's an extra twist when an orbital astronaut transmits himself from space to earth... only he isn't himself anymore. This is when he plot becomes thicker, more pseudo-scientific with jargon thrown around. Take a minute to try and understand the infinities on top of the infinities and you'll find yourself pleased with Brunner's work.

The direction of the plot isn't too difficult to discern (one of two plot directions popped into my head within the first five pages - the first guess was correct!). It's curious why Brunner went back to his 1960s-ish novel format rather than continuing with intriguing social fiction in The Sheep Look Up and Stand on Zanzibar.

It's not a perfect novel. The 154-page book doesn't paint a worthwhile cast, as most stend to omit. The politicians are political, the military are militant, and the scientists are scientific. The addition of a female scientist is welcome... it's a bonus that she's an African-American scientist, but the way Brunner characterizes her borders on racist. Her name is Cinnamon but Brunner might as well had called her Sugar, Coco or even Chocolate. She's got an attitude, likes to mouth-off, ends sentences with "man" and "honey" and likes to wear tribal-print dresses. A few passages definitely had me raising an eyebrow. One final gripe: Brunner overuses the phrase "of course" through this novel. I'm a stickler for word repetition and Brunner has never failed in this category until now.

It's BRUNNER though, so all is forgiven. I've got eight more Brunner novels lining my shelves so it's only a matter of time before I pick another one up. This is the second 1980s Brunner novel I've read (the other being The Crucible of Time) and the quality just isn't the same as it was in the 1970s.

No comments:

Post a Comment