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Necromancer is the second published novel in the Childe Cycle, following Dorsai!, but is actually the first volume in internal chronology among the published works. This novel was intended as a bridge between the projected (but never published) historic volumes in the Cycle and the near future novels of the Dorsai series.
In this novel, Paul Formain is a mining engineer who has an accident that tears off his left arm. Although he has regeneration treatments, the arm does not grow back. He is told that the problem is purely psychological, so he consults a therapist, but only learns something that he already knows: he is unusually resistant to hypnosis.
Taking another approach to the problem, Paul tries the Chantry Guild, an organization created by Walter Blunt after being the only survivor of a hunting party caught by a freak early-winter blizzard. While the others died of exposure, Walter walked out to shelter wearing only the lightest of hunting clothes and arrived warm and rested. Chantry Guild literature claimed successful regrowth of missing limbs even in the treatment of resistant individuals. Paul meets with Jason Warren, the Guild Secretary, and is provisionally accepted in the Guild. He finds the training to be weird, but effective, and becomes a Necromancer.
This novel shows Paul developing certain skills in the Alternate Laws, but otherwise seems to lack any forward movement. The reason for his passivity is implied by the continued concern over a sailing episode five years before. Paul had been caught in a small sailboat by a severe storm and nearly died of exposure, much as Blunt had come close to death. Paul has a continuing vision of dying in that boat.Read more ›
I have no idea what order the Childe Cycle (aka that series with Dorsai) was published in . . . I'm reading them in the order listed on the back of the Final Encyclopedia, which gives this as the first book and so off we go. It's a slim, slight book with a seemingly straightforward plot that starts to go in all kinds of weird areas very quickly, almost too quickly. Paul Formain is a guy with not so good luck who loses his arm and can't have it replaced because none of the grafts will take. But some people tell him he has some ability with the "Alternate Laws" and so the Chantry Guild, led by Walter Blunt, decide to take him in and train them. Little do they know what it leads to. And neither does the reader, apparently. Dickson is too good a writer to not make the book any less than interesting and readable but some of this stuff doesn't seem worked out too well, the Alternate Laws remain kind of a catch-all and after reading the book I still have absolutely no idea what they are supposed to do. Other than Paul, none of the character have anything other than thin personalities (the lady, Kanteele is never developed at all and her at times strange behavior never really explained) and even Paul isn't that interesting since in grand SF hero tradition he mostly reacts to stuff and overcomes obstacles mostly because hey, why not? A lot of stuff happens toward the end that basically serves as a prelude for everything that comes after, which is where this book becomes essential. While if you skipped it, the rest of the Cycle probably makes perfect sense, this lays down the foundations and while not a spectacular book on its own, when fitted in with the rest of the series, it takes on a different resonance altogether.Read more ›
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I don't know what the "Synopsis" above is reviewing, but it's not this book; nor is this the first of the Childe Cycle (which you can start by reading DORSAI). When engineer Paul Formain loses an arm in a mining accident, he seeks the help of the Chantry Guild, a secret society whose members believe in what they call the Alternate Laws (read: magick). Though skeptical, Paul is intrigued and joins the group. Their aim: what their leader-prophet Walter Blunt calls "Destruct": the end of a society far gone down the path of cybernetic conformism. In this book you see, through Paul's eyes, the development of the major Splinter Cultures: the Exotics (from the Guild), the Friendlies (from Butler), and the Dorsai (from McLeod). The ending will surprise you.
Gordon R. Dickson's _Necromancer_ (aka, _No Room for Man_, 1962) is listed as the first novel in his Childe sequence of stories. While there was the faintest of obvious connections when the novel first appeared-- there is a footnote reference to _Dorsai!_ in chapter 10-- early readers of the novel might be forgiven for missing the connection. Randall Garrett reviewed the novel as essentially a van Vogt-style "kitchen sink" superman novel in which everything but the kitchen sink was tossed into the mix. And I'll tell you what I think. I think that Garrett was right. I think that _Necromancer_ is more closely related to van Vogt than to the Dorsai novels.
To be sure, there are a lot of odd touches that you probably wouldn't find in a van Vogt novel. There are the parts with the mathematical titles: "Set," "Isolate," and "Pattern". There is the haunting song that begins: "_In apple comfort, long I waited thee/ And long I thee in apple comfort waited_..." (28). There is the "lykewake dirge" sung by a chorus of Chantry Guilders just before an explosion:
" If ever thou gavest roof and flame, _Evrie nighte and alle_... Pass thee by the standing stane, _Destruction take thee alle_." (77)
There are the Scandinavian war songs. There is the philosophy of man, _Destruction_, inspired by a deal with the gods on a hunting trip gone wrong. No, I don't think that van Vogt would have come up with those details.
But the main plotline is very much van Vogt. Engineer. Paul Formain ignores his subconscious warnings of danger, goes into a mine, and loses an arm in an accident. His body has rejected all attempts at regrafting. Formain approaches the Chantry Guild, a rather mysterious organization founded by a fellow named Walter Blunt.Read more ›
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