Friday, December 12, 2014

FFB: The Compleat Traveller in Black -- John Brunner

Way back in the early '70s I read an Ace Science Fiction Special called The Traveller in Black by John Brunner.  It's presented as a novel, but it's really a fix-up book, composed of four previously putlished novellas.  A long time afterward I came across the paperback shown on the left, The Compleat Traveller in Black, so naturally I bought it.  It has one additional story, so it was worth it.  All the  the stories have the same main character and the same theme, and they work well as a novel.

The Traveller is a man with many names but a single nature.  He carries a staff of light, and his job is, simply put, to bring order out of chaos.  It's a lot more complicated than that, of course.  He's involved in changing the world of magic into a world of reason, and his method is to grant people's wishes:  "As you wish, so be it."  If the expression "be careful what you wish for" ever applied, it's in this book.  You can be sure that almost always the result is going to be surprising and not at all what the wisher had hoped for and expected.  Each story begins with some short examples, parables maybe, of granted wishes before moving on to larger concerns.

John Brunner was one of the greats of 20th century SF, though he's almost forgotten now.  He began with space operas and then wrote such classics as The Squares of the City, Stand on Zanzibar, and The Sheep Look Up.  The stories about The Traveller represent some of his very few ventures into fantas.  I found them wonderful when I first read them, and reading them again was a treat.  They're beautifully written and clearly the work of a powerful imagination.  They might not be for everyone.  They're not the heroic fantasy or Howard or the sweeping high fantasy of Tolkein (though that's closer than Howard).  If you enjoy a well-written and different kind of tale, you should give these a try.


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Bill, thanks for bringing John Brunner to my attention.

mybillcrider said...

He's very good.

Anonymous said...

Don't know this one but sounds good.


Anonymous said...

OK, you sold me. I ordered it.


George said...

I loved the Traveller in Black series. ACE BOOK brought out the first incarnation and later this more complete version appeared. Brunner is one of my favorite SF writers. This was a departure for him and I wish he wrote more fantasy.

Squints said...

For a course on SF my senior spring at college -- which is when you take such courses -- one of the assigned books was The Shockwave Rider. Loved it.