Modes of Reality & The Ebon Tigress (4/5)
From September 22, 2011
Rear cover synopsis:
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..."
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
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.