Science Fiction: Ten Explorations

By C. N. Manlove | Go to book overview

10

A. A. Attanasio, Radix
(1981)

This carefully written first novel, which was long in the making, is hailed by the blurb on the front cover of the Corgi edition as being the most 'complete world of the imagination' since Tolkien's Middle-earth. The same fanfares heralded Frank Herbert's Dune, Stephen Donaldson's Lord Foul's Bane, Robert Silverberg's Lord Valentine's Castle, Julian May's The Many-Coloured Land and others besides. But in Attanasio's case, barring an element of the ponderous and the intellectually overwrought, there is indeed a very thorough and original imagination at work. He has built up a picture of a world inhabited by many different races and set them all in a complex metaphysical and moral analysis without losing clarity or vividness. The sense of highly articulated yet living structure is the dominant one with the book; the whole journey of the hero involves discovery of the ever-widening patterns of which he is a part.

In the concern he shows in this book with mental force or 'psynergy' Attanasio is nearest to Herbert: but for him man must go out of himself into mystic oneness with phenomena rather than move inwards as in Herbert. Again, as in Herbert, there is stress on the training of the hero: more emphasis on what one must be than on what one must do. Attanasio is something near to a pantheist: creation is instinct with mind, and one enters the current of things when one merges with it aright (the book's central image is of a stream of psychic energy flowing over the Earth). Radix shows that passion for the infinite that is behind numbers of science fiction works. In its concern with landscapes Radix is like Aldiss's Hothouse: but Aldiss portrays nature as divorced from mind, where Attanasio shows the two joined together. What particularly marks Attanasio is his combination of the extremely fantastic in the premises of his story with extraordinary realism of portrayal. There is a sense of enormous

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