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Neverness (1989)

Neverness (1989)

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4.13 of 5 Votes: 1
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0553279033 (ISBN13: 9780553279030)
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About book Neverness (1989)

Review Source @ ChrisTheo.comThe story follows Mallory Ringess, a young Pilot of the Order that finds himself in deep space on a mission that could have been entirely avoided if he wasn’t such a hot-headed, arrogant and stubborn man-child. Zindell expertly tells this tale in the first person and gives us the insight into Mallory’s personality necessary for us to warm to him. It’s ultimately this decision that allows the novel to succeed so completely. As a reader you find yourself sympathising with the flawed pilot and before long you are cheering for him on his dangerous quest. Each trial leaves Mallory changed and it’s these changes that contribute to one of the main themes of the book, is it possible to transcend our genetic programming and control our destinies? Secondary and ancillary characters are handled just as deftly as our protagonist. Mallory’s portly best friend Bardo provides welcome comic relief during some of the most thematically sombre parts of the novel. But he is no mere mouthpiece. There is a depth to Mallory and Bardo’s relationship that really lifts the novel and gives it a great warmth and familiarity. Another character highlight is the Lord Pilot of the Order Soli whose frictional relationship with Mallory is responsible for some of the most gut-wrenching moments I’ve read. The range of emotions that these relationships invoke in the reader adds a complexity that is often missing in a lot of science fiction and adventure novels. As such, every event carries with it a weight that supersedes those in most space operas.In addition to depth and complexity, the sheer scope of this novel is nothing short of astounding. It’s easy to see why Zindell has been compared with the likes of Olaf Stapledon and even Tolkien. The scale of his adventure juxtaposed against an intimate first person narrative imbues a sense of wonder in the reader. It’s a feat few novels achieve and even fewer manage to sustain this over hundreds of pages. Like a rag doll I was catapulted from the microcosm of Neanderthal life to a tragic war in the in the far reaches of space and back again. And I liked it. A lot.Combine these elements – an ambitious story, well rounded characters and themes that connect humanity across thirty thousand years of imagined future and you have an the makings of a great, timeless novel. But Zindell doesn’t stop there, because he also writes beautifully. His words are a pleasure to read, his descriptions succinct yet powerful and his prose poetic. There was one moment I remember clearly, where Mallory and Soli were riding their sleds across the snow in freezing conditions and Zindell’s words shot a shiver of cold down my body. But it was too cold to snow. We depended on the cold, even though the cold knifed through our furs and chilled us to the core. In truth, the cold nearly killed us. It was so cold that the snow was dry and gritty like sand. The air held no moisture, and the sky was deep blue, almost blue-black like an eschatologist’s folded robes. The dry chill air worked at our noses until they began to bleed. We sucked in air hard as icicles, and we felt ice points crystallizing in our nostrils, freezing and cutting our warm, tunnelled flesh.It would be easy to imagine another writer struggle to explore the kind of themes present in the novel. But Zindell uses the first person narrative to great effect, with Mallory’s personal journey of change and discovery serving as the novel’s main method of thematic exposition. We are sheep awaiting the butcheries of time; we are clots of brain tissue and bundles of muscle, meat machines that jump to the touch of our most immediate passions; we – I have said this before – we react rather than act; we have thoughts in place of thinking. We are, simply, robots; robots aware that we are robots, but robots nonetheless. And yet. And yet we are something more. I have seen a dog, Yuri’s beloved Kyoko, a lowly beast whose programs were mostly muzzle and hunger, growls and smell, overcome her fear and flight programs to hurl herself at a great white bear, purely out of love for her master. Even dogs possess a spark of free will. And for humans, within each of us, I believe, burns a flame of free will. In some it is tenuous and dim as an oilstone’s flame; in others it burns hot and bright. But if our will is truly free, why do our robot programs run our bodies and minds? Why do we not run our programs? Why do we not write our own programs? Was it possible that all women and men could free themselves and thus become their own masters?As I came to the end of this marvellous adventure I found myself very reluctant to let Mallory and Neverness go, to the point where I almost flipped the book over and started again at page one. I simply have too many good books to read, not to mention the sequels, but I have no doubt that I will return to this novel sooner rather than later. And while I’m hesitant to say such a thing so soon after finishing it, I can’t deny the impact this book has had on me. It’s one of, if not the best book I’ve read. And I’ve read a lot.

This is a really enjoyable 'big idea' science fiction novel that takes place millenia in our future on the planet Icefall, also called Neverness. It's kind of Dune meets Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, Vol 1 with high level mathematics, posthumanism, and trippy metaphysics thrown in.The story follows the life of Mallory Ringess, a trainee enrolled at "the Academy" that was founded by a pseudo-monastic order of truth-seekers called 'the Order of Mystic Mathematicians and Other Seekers of the Ineffable Flame' hoping to become a pilot. Now in this day and age a pilot is a very special kind of beast who combines the aspects of a theoretical mathematician with those of a questing knight. Using advanced mathematics the pilots are able to navigate within the manifold, a kind of hyperspace that links all parts of the universe, but whose dangers can lead the untrained or the unwary to get lost in the tangled skeins of space-time. The pilots are thus a special breed. They are men and women who live for the precarious dangers of the manifold and who search, quixote-like, for the proof of the elusive Continuum Hypothesis which would allow a pilot to fall from any point in the universe to any other without the complicated mathematical mappings normally required to traverse hyperspace. It is also a quest for godhood as the pilots search for the secrets known as the Elder Eddas. These secrets are said to allow beings to transcended their mortality and become gods of one sort or another, and the galaxy is sparsely populated with some of these dangerous and unknowable superbeings, former humans whose consciousness is now housed in nebulae or moon-sized computers. This dangerous life has brought about the motto of the pilots: "Journeymen die", for it is few pilots who ever survive to their mastership.The world Zindell creates is a fascinating one full of strangeness and wonder. Mallory is an interesting character, equal parts idealistic dreamer and pompous ass. His best friend Bardo is even more entertaining...a figure equal parts Falstaff and Porthos. The story bogged down a bit for me in the middle where Mallory and his fellow searchers look for the Elder Eddas among the Alaloi, a group of humans who had 'carked' their flesh and minds to become like the Neanderthals of earth in rejection of the advanced technology used by the other people of Neverness. Overall, however, this is a great tale, bursting at the seams with crazy-awesome ideas that leave a lot of food for the imagination.Recommended.Also posted at Shelf Inflicted

Do You like book Neverness (1989)?

A ratos soporifero esta novela merecio (?) ser nombrada entre las 100 mejores novelas de ciencia ficci��n del siglo XX de Solaris Ficci��n en Factoria de Ideas.Para que os hagais una idea el protagonista es como Viki el Vikingo se pasa toda la novela pensando en resolver problemas matematicos indescifrables o bien haciendo lo que nadie en 30.000 a��os se ha atrevido a hacer....Y algunos la comparan con Dune de Frank Herbert...
—Ramon Yáñez lópez

Strange convergence of topics. I just read a book that talks about the elimination of free will. Free will was a less pessimistic topic in this book. Also, I just read a collection of short stories involving neanderthals. This novel had a group who'd genetically modified themselves to basically be neanderthals, and lived like them.I liked the treatment of (basically) hyperspace. Also, the "gods"(technologically based) were interesting, and not just superpowered men.The city and its society were interesting, too.I liked the main character, and sympathized with him. A couple of the secondary characters, too.

I picked this up because I read several comparisons to Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, and there are similarities - dense, evocative prose; rich, textured, and unique world-building; a taste for the striking strange - both in well-written imagery and concepts; a young, arrogant, first-person narrator who is not a philosopher but is given to philosophical pondering; a combination of humanity's past with humanity's far-flung future. Zindell definitely takes his own path though, inspired as he may be by Wolfe (and by one of Wolfe's inspirations, Borges). The biggest difference is Zindell is not being tricky as Wolfe in presentation of story and theme. The book approaches heavy concepts, including the nature of consciousness, and free will vs. determinism, but these things are directly embedded in the problems the main characters face. New Sun worked its themes under the surface and fractured them through its unreliable narrator - when Severian of the New Sun told you something or revealed a thought, it could not be taken at face value. In Neverness, the things the narrator Mallory Ringess deals with -- for example: being a mathematician-pilot who shortcuts through space-time by solving intricate, visualized mathematical calculation-sculptures made while in mental union with his spacecraft's computer; facing a space entity that uses networked moon-size brain-nodes to think its unapproachable thoughts -- are complicated enough that New Sun trickiness would have made it ridiculously obscure.New Sun is embedded in and explores mystery -- Neverness is about piercing and solving mystery, or, at least, the human drive to do so.As a member of an order of mathematician pilots who navigate the "manifold" in the manner I mentioned above, Mallory goes from his icy home city of Neverness (where the denizens skate on frozen roads of colored ice, the colors identifying where the road goes) on a quest that sends him deep into the folds of the aforementioned cosmic brain, compels him to live with a tribe that harkens to humanity's prehistory (this part is a great contrast to the city and space settings in the book, and the tribe's life and rituals are as thoroughly realized as the far-future elements. There's also some of the book's most gut-wrenching moments here), and involves him unwittingly in deadly plots between different guilds of Neverness. There's many fascinating ideas throughout (I haven't even mentioned my favorite, Zindell's particular take on the idea of a warrior-poet), and Zindell includes a lot of human drama (sometimes clunkily, sometimes very effectively (both apply to Mallory's continual conflicts with Soli)) along with the exotic world-building and idea-riffing. The attempts to inject some humor through Mallory's more earthy friend Bardo sometimes fall flat, but I did grow quite fond of Bardo by the end of the novel. The very end of the book perhaps doesn't live up to all the high stakes Zindell raised, but, overall, the book's a rewarding and imaginative feat.

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