While working for the benevolent religious sect, the Gentle Order of Saint Francis Dionysus, Wulf--one of the few remaining autoscribes--witnesses the downfall of John Wilberfoss, a starship captain driven to madness
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The fourth by New Zealander Mann (The Eye of the Queen, 1983, etc.--not reviewed): a complex study of a spaceship disaster in a well-drawn multicultural future society. The Wulf of the title is the narrator: a robot scribe whose warm, sympathetic voice is one of the chief attractions here. A survivor from a period of genocidal interstellar conflict, Wulf now works for the benevolent religious Order of St. Francis Dionysus and is charged with aiding the recovery of John Wilberfoss, captain of the doomed hospital starship Nightingale. We hear about Wilberfoss's childhood on a dreary farm world, where he killed a man and served a prison sentence, to his marriage with an alien woman, to his election as captain of the great ship, and on to the events leading to the tragic conclusion of its mission. In between bits of narrative, Wulf inserts history, songs, legends, and rumors, creating a mosaic view of a detailed, lived-in, organic- feeling future. Mann has created several distinctive alien species and fringe human cultures whose habits and customs often suggest additional levels of meaning without ever quite falling into outright allegory. Mann manages to talk about important human issues (original sin, genocide) without sacrificing old-fashioned storytelling and entertainment: impressive and well worth reading. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
This ambitious novel from the New Zealand-based author of Pioneers offers strong support for the definition of science fiction as a literature of ideas. The story appears to be a biography of a starship captain named John Wilberfoss, as written by an artificial intelligence called Wulf the Autoscribe. But Wilberfoss's life is only one small aspect of this immensely complex book, in which Mann unfolds his conception of the future. Mann envisions a universe where contact with aliens is commonplace, Christianity and paganism have been merged into a new religion, and the monks of St. Francis Dionysos are attempting to restore order to the galaxy after two devastating wars. There is a diverse and well-developed cast of characters--human, alien and artificial--but their main purpose is to serve as mouthpieces and illustrations for Mann's ideas about art, religion, science, war and human nature in general. This makes for occasionally slow reading as Mann interrupts the plot for long, tangential discussions. But the richness of the ideas ensures that the tale never gets boring.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description William Morrow & Co, 1992. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P11068811881X