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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 3. 1971



The very scope of possibility that science fiction offers to the imagination means writers front amny another field are tempted to dabble in this medium. The impossible, from the reader's empiracal viewpoint, bores. So to sustain the effectiveness of sci-fi's essential incongruity the author must give the seemingly unfeasible a feasibility that our inhibited minds will accept. By definition, perhaps, the scientist is best equipped to bridge this credibility gap - Asimov for example. However the field of experience oilier writers possess offers one theme many different adaptations.

Anthropologist Oliver plants In his story a classic of science fiction - an "alien intelligence" descended from the heavens: the proverbial 'it', which gradually becomes semi-definable to a more material 'they'. This gradual build-up, however, is not fashioned by a logical sequence of events but rather is an accumulation of plot threads elevating the initial trauma onto a larger and larger scale. The author expects the self-identification of the reader with main character Royce Crawford - we wouldn't expect (of we don't belong to any bizarre groups such as The Society for the Reception of Potential Inter-Galazial Visitors) the anachronism of a large, white, spherical spaceship in the midst of our everyday living. It just doesn't fit within the dimensions of reality we or Royce Crawford are aware of.

So the trauma is the crux, with the stress on the psychological attitudes to the situation rather than any melodramatic societal repercussions, and this mental conflict takes place mainly in the mind of Crawford. Meanwhile an anthropological bent creates an overall framework for the story, born of the author's academic background and arbitrating the philosophy that permeates Crawford's thinking. There is a concern with a sort of primordial eternity, a link between past and future that Crawford finds reflected in his African invironment. It is, in fact, the unusual setting of a baboonery in the middle of Kenya that saves Oliver's hero from being six foot tall and All-American fullstop. He is allowed to reflect rather pantheistically with the help of his primitive surroundings and "huge African Sky". Crawford remains basically down-to-earth, however, and for a man whose imagination encompasses unexpected spectrums of time and space he reveals a remarkable lack of capacity towards his wife - the unfortunate stereotype of the average N.Z. male in fact.

Oliver's writing shows a perceptible strain in parts. It seems that his occupational obligations for the fast ten years have provided him with the stimuli for a few fundamental insights rather than any particularly brilliant literary aptitude. He enjoys the idiosyncracy or weakly amusing irony in the conversation of his characters. Through these characters, however, he docs leave room for comment on the relationships between 'Europeans' and natives - a frontier both fusing and segregating modern and traditional society.

The climax that the reader waits for comes in the best herioc tradition when the best in Royce Crawford (after fighting fires, enduring floods, much revolving of brains, and considerable sweating of crutches) is produced by the utmost in adversity - not in this case, by the siege of red indians, but through the efforts of undernourished baboons controlled by the alien intelligence who carry off Crawford's daughter. Fortunately this climax is not brought to a logical conclusion and the lack of explanation proffered for the previous occurrences at least provide for an epilogue with a pleasant aura of mystery.