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Ring Around the Sun Mass Market Paperback – 1969
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
"Jay Vickers was an ordinary man, or so he thought. All he wanted was to be left in peace to finish his next book. However, strange things started happening- from his discovery of a mouse that was not a mouse, to the visit of an old neighbor that was not a man. Or at least he was not an ordinary man. For as it turned out, neither was Jay Vickers. This is the story of human mutation- the next step in the evolution of the species. What if mutants walked among us already? What if they were organized? What if they had unbelievable powers, such as the ability to cross between alternate worlds or dimensions at will, or to intuitively reach the absolutely correct answer by intuition or "hunch", or to telepathically reach out to the stars? Such supermen would automatically try to conquer lesser men, would they not? Or would they do everything in their power to free the rest of humanity from slavery and suffering? Just what would the political and corporate powers- that- be do to keep their power and their slaves? How would mutants undermine the power of these bosses to set mankind free? This is a story of unlimited freedom, of worlds without end, ready for the taking. It is also the story of powerful, benevolent beings that exist only to help those who need that help. Simak sets this optimism off against the far-flung future- of 1987. This is a future of a lop-sided mechanical culture of technology that could provide creature comfort for a few, but not human justice or security for the many. It is a future of hate, and war, and worry. Nothing like the way the world really turned out.. Years ago when I first read this novel the uncanny "coincidences" with my own life gave me chills. But then, there couldn't really be an underground of mutants working to free humanity.. could there?"
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It's interesting to see the same ideas popping up here that were shared with other authors of the era, who ultimately took them in different directions. Heinlein and Zelazny, spring to mind in particular.
However, there are some great details here that could have made it more seminal, or enduring, had they been exploited to the full. Instead, some of the most intriguing parts of this story end up as throw-away plot-devices, or serve no purpose in particular.
The one aspect of the book that I appreciate now, but wouldn't have appreciated much earlier in life, is the theme that technological progress doesn't equal human progress. This is very uncharacteristic of SF, and that it could be a continuing theme throughout the work of a "great" SF author is that much more impressive. Simak makes his point directly in Chapter 43: "It was a lop-sided mechanical culture of clanking machines, a technological world that could provide creature comfort, but not human justice nor security." This sensibility lends a weight to the book that few other SF books share.
I wouldn't recommend this book without reservation - in historical context it is impressive, but by now its most meaningful and interesting ideas have been expanded on in more powerful or interesting ways elsewhere. However, for me it was good enough that I've already ordered three other well-regarded Simak books that I haven't read - so a pretty strong endorsement.