Science Fiction Though the Decades

Saturday, June 23, 2012

1990: A Pursuit of Miracles (Turner, George)

Similar themes and brilliance as his novels (4/5)

The three novels I've read of George Turner (Down There In Darkness [1999], Brain Child [1991], and The Destiny Makers [1993]) have been very thoughtful reads with much attention paid to the detail of the plot. Only Down There in Darkness really wowed me, but the other two felt just as wholesome. When I procured this Aussie's collection, I was overjoyed to dive into it to see what other ideas the author had envisioned! Sadly, the author struck a single cord throughout the entire collection with themes that resonate with the above three novels: gross overpopulation, telempathy, a greenhouse effect gone haywire, and age extension. Some stories really strike the right note but others miss the catgut strings altogether. This is Turner's only collection which includes eight of his twelve total stories in publication. Besides his Ethical Culture series, I own his entire catalog... which says something of the caliber of this writing--excellent.

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A Pursuit of Miracles (1982, novelette) - 5/5 - The Paraphysics laboratory dabbles with experiments in telepathy but unexpectedly stumble upon a yet-to-be verified case of telempathy. The subject: Tommy, a genetic runt in his litter of "thoroughgoing little power packs" who is classified as a Non-Legal in the Age of Miracles. Populated with forty billion people, pets have become banished to act as laboratory animals, but Tommy shows signs of a gift in emotional communication with the department's animals. As his fondness for one researcher and his hate for another grows, this emotion manifests itself in Caesar, his Great Dane companion. 32 pages

Not in Front of the Children (1987, novelette) - 4/5 - Eight generations, of those privileged enough to afford the anti-aging drugs, live in their own generational squares of the city. The Liberated eighth generation tackle nasty words like "old" and "death", which shocks the other generations, namely the Neo-Victorian seventh generation, like Ellaline's mother Marianne. Seeking guidance on the matter, Ellaline is sent across the Generation Gap to her elderly great-grandmother who knows a thing or two about Ellaline's morbid fixation on aging. In fact, she's a linear descendant of the oldest man alive: Old Jock Higgins. 24 pages

Feedback (1983, novelette) - 3/5 - Doctor Kransic is a distinguished cosmologist and subscribes to the Thinker dogma of a solipsist universe, "a rotten theory because it isn't open to disproof." (72) His hypnotist, Miss Hettie Laroque, has been training him to enter a mental black-tank, an awareness without senses, a purity of thought and formlessness. Telempath Mr. Edwards is to work in unison with Ms. Laroque in order to probe the depths of a solipsist's mind. With cosmic manifestation and a return to the quantum soup of the Big Bang, what Edwards perceives is translated by a distant Foundation computer. 19 pages

Shut the Door When You Go Out (1986, shortstory)- 3/5 - After a three thousand year mission to find an inhabitable planet, one crew return to Earth with an ill-stricken technician placed in isolation. The inhabitants appear to be naked degenerates living amid the wintry forest canopy, so they so the crew send Smith, the ill man, down to seek treatment from the locals. With three millennia having passed, the global society isn't what it used to be with Nexus at the center of the locals' life and all decisions being relegated to the great earthly node. For want of relocation, the crew ask for emigration. 7 pages

On the Nursery Floor (1985, novelette [precursor to the novel Brain Child]) - 5/5 - An investigative journalist, with no intention of publishing his story, tracks down leads linked to a former genetic experiment which created three groups of super intelligent children: Group A are the enigmatic mathematicians, Group B are the aesthetic artists--both of which were released into the public to follow their careers--and there are Group C; insular children with a secret language and a heightened power of observation. Their extreme intelligence and manipulative ways keep them inside the Foundation... until one escapes and absorbs all knowledge of biology in eight weeks. The Director is the final lead. 34 pages

In the Petri Dish Upstairs (1978, novelette) - 2/5 - The eighty thousand strong Orbital community maintains an icy relationship with those Downstairs on Earth. Both sides agree to a non-interference pact regarding their cultural and financial growth, but Upstairs is playing a wild card: they're sending a handsome envoy to the city of Melbourne, a visit odd by itself but the agenda is as mysterious as the man's origins. D├ębutante Clarie Grant is wooed by the man and the two quickly marry. When in orbit, her role as fulcrum between the Upstairs' and Downstairs' tension surfaces. 34 pages

Generation Gap (1990, shortstory) - 3/5 - An Earthman art historian is taken on a tour of an extraterrestrial art museum. One artist's thirty-frame progressive self-portrait grabs his attention but his opinion and interpretation clash with those of the Guide. The spectacle of the human soul on canvas in female form leads to a similar twenty-six frame progressive self-portrait of an idealized yet incipient male figure. The sight spurs a quotation from the Earthman, a quote which strikes the Guide as misplaced, yet conveys the story to his peers, who also recognize the quote. 5 pages

The Fittest (1985, novelette [precursor to The Sea and Summer])- 4/5 - The family of brothers Francis and Teddy live a comfortable life in the Sweet, where their father is employed and their financial life keeps them from the horrors of the Swill, an impoverished territory succumbing to the advancing sea... until their father loses his job and ends his own life. They and their mother move near the Swill and eke out an existence under the watchful yet lecherous eye of the Protection Racket. As the boys mature, their separate skills are noticed and advances them both beyond the putrid walls of the Swill, yet mother remains behind. 33 pages

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