Tuesday, 29 January 2002

George Turner: Vaneglory

Edition: Faber & Faber, 1981 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 1055

Set mainly a few years later than Beloved Son, Vaneglory is about another discovery from the past which threatens the new world order that has developed in the recovery from apocalypse. The exception to the recovery is the British Isles, which were destroyed by being covered in radioactive dust, and where the first part of the novel is set on the eve of this catastrophe. A small group escapes on the last possible flight to Australia, including several members of the "Company" - a society built up through the ages of immortals (who appear as natural human mutations). On their arrival, a shooting occurs, and those who do not escape are stored in cold sleep at the biological research laboratory at Gangoil. (This is because the director of the institute is killed so that no one knows the reason for the deaths.)

Vaneglory would be more interesting as a novel if the ground it covers were not so much the same as that of Beloved Son. Both are about the fragility of the seemingly utopian new world order in the face of temptations of new knowledge, in the one case telepathy and in the other immortality. (Immortality suggests the title, from Dunbar's Lament for the Makeris, a poem whose most famous line is Timor mortis conturbat me - the fear of death disturbs me.) Both are about the psychological reality behind the facade and how ordinary decent people can be driven into committing atrocities. It is too similar to be as good as its predecessor, but would certainly be worth reading as a novel if on its own.

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