Novel, Treatise or Manifesto?

Today I finished Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon, and the first thing that comes to my mind is that this isn’t a novel, it is more of a treatise or a manifesto, though seeing how this is supposed to be science fiction those labels don’t quite fit either. Well, whatever the correct noun happens to be, this thing is way too long and wordy for my liking.

Okay, as you may have guessed by now I would rate this book as a major disappointment, especially considering that Sirius has long been one of my favorite SF books of all times, but at the same time I think I understand where the author is coming from, after all, the book was published in 1937, when the world was still struggling to move past the horrors of World War I and even a blind man could see that World War II was right around the corner. Of course, the fact that I do understand doesn’t mean I have to like it. The problem, at least as far as I am concerned, is that somewhere along the line, and before he even sat down to write this thing, the author seems to have forgotten about the need for such trifles as characters and a plot. Yes, in its own kind of way the book does offer a glimpse at how that particular period was perceived by those living in it, but its attempts at allegorizing, if they can even be called that, come across as more than a little ham-handed, not to mention that as the book progresses it grows in both arrogance and pseudo-mysticism until it becomes almost unbearable.

So does this thing have any redeeming qualities at all? Oddly enough the answer to that question is yes, and those go back to what is missing, namely characters and a plot. What can I say, writing a 272 pages ’novel’ unencumbered by either of those things seems to me like a pretty remakable achievement (that, and the fact that I feel like I should probably give it some leeway because, as I mentioned above, I can see where it is that the author is coming from, and I realize that some of my objections may have more to do with my poor understanding of what it meant to be alive in that period than with anything else).

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