Friday, 21 December 2001
Michael Moorcock: The Black Corridor (1969)
Edition: Orion, 1996
Review number: 1021
The wonderfully atmospheric first few paragraphs of The Black Corridor immediately make it clear what the purpose of the novel is to be. Science fiction of the fifties and sixties in particular treat space travel as a glorious adventure, mankind (almost always male) against the stars. Here, though, the pioneer is a selfish, paranoid man who wants to save himself from the worldwide descent into 1984-style dystopian states.
Ryan is the only member of his family not in hibernation as the ship travels to Earth-like planets around Barnard's Star; he carries out the checks needed by the ship's systems during travel. In the meantime, he experiences nightmares about the past, to the extent that the reader begins to doubt whether the spaceship is real or the hallucination of a lunatic in an asylum.
The Black Corridor is a clever psychological study, told in the form of a classic science fiction story like those which Robert Heinlein specialised in at the time. By the way it is written, it exposes the limited assumptions about people that such stories made (though that was not their purpose - their authors sought to share their enthusiasm about space travel).