“The Place of No Shadows”

The Alexander Jablokov series continues.

I’ll return to this story at another time since it’s part of the Future Boston shared world series Jablokov wrote some stories for.

Raw Feed (1991): “The Place of No Shadows”, Alexander Jablokov, 1990.Place of No Shadows 

This story’s main flaw is that it’s too short.

Ostensibly, the story’s main conflict is whether Lester Kronenbourg can talk Chris Tolliver, zoologist/student of alien physiology, into joining him in an institute to define man’s place in a strange universe full of aliens. That universe is well symbolized in a stinking Boston that’s become an interstellar port full of strange, sometimes sinister aliens.

As with the cultural conflicts of human’s history, the alien/human meeting has produced poignant, silly, sometimes tragic attempts at human imitation (sometimes even radical surgery) reminiscent of Melanesian Cargo Cults and pathetic American Indians.

This is well portrayed in the subplot of Gavin Mercour, graduate student in Systematic Physiology. Mercour turns on his alien spiritual teacher who promises to let Mercour see the world — via telepathy — as he does. The experience — a view of the universe unorganized by chronological sequence or surface appearances — is senseless. Mercour’s hope that each alien has a unique insight, a light, to illuminate the world,is dashed, and he is murdered (petrified alive by the sinister alien Targive with their obscene technology of twisting living matter to their ends). 

Tolliver says, at finding Mercour’s body, that Mercour forgot that light casts shadows (hence the title, an allusion to Mercour’s hope of a completely illuminated universe revealed by alien perceptions). It is Kronenbourg’s goal to find out what man’s place, his light, is in this new universe.

The quest for that knowledge and its inherent conflict is the true heart of the story and really unresolved at story’s end. Kronenbourg merely says, hopefully, that someday he and Tolliver will be remembered for succeeding.

I liked this world.

Some lines in this story are memorable:

“Human beings don’t have much aptitude for being crystals. They don’t have much aptitude for being swamp lizards or Koltsoi, either, but that doesn’t stop them.”

and

“Death is more stable than life, Gavin, and life inevitably collapses into it. That’s not news.”

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

4 thoughts on ““The Place of No Shadows”

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