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The Void Captain's Tale [Hardcover]

Norman Spinrad
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 1982
In the Second Starfaring Age, humans travel the universe via a technology they barely understand, propelled by a space drive consisting of mysteriously complex mechanisms and, symbiotically linked to it, a living woman, the Void Pilot. Pilots are rare, and the ability to be a Pilot also entails physical wasting and a shortened life.

But Pilots live only for the timeless moments of Transition, when their ships cross the emptiness of space in an instant. Now Void Pilot Dominique Alia Wu has begun to catch a glimpse of something more, something transcendent in that eternal moment . . . and she needs the cooperation of her Captain to achieve it permanently. Even at risk to the survival of the Ship.

Norman Spinrad has been one of SF’s most adventurous writers since the 1960s, an internationally praised peer of such writers as Harlan Ellison, Michael Moorcock, and Samuel R. Delany. His stories of the Second Starfaring Age, The Void Captain’s Tale and the later novel Child of Fortune, form a single epic praised by the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as “an eroticized vision of the Galaxy . . . an elated Wanderjahr among the sparkling worlds.”
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Review

“Spinrad’s best novel. A tour de force.” —Gregory Benford

“Without doubt Norman Spinrad’s finest piece of science fiction.” —Michael Moorcock
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Norman Spinrad is the author of over twenty novels, including the acclaimed BUG JACK BARRON. He is a multiple nominee for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for science fiction achievement, an American Book Award Nominee writer, and winner of the Prix Apollo. He has written scripts for Star Trek and produced two feature films. He has also published over 60 short stories collected in half a dozen volumes, and his novels and stories have been published in over a dozen languages. He has been President of Science Fiction Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) three times. He is a tireless campaigner for authors' rights and is the creator of the "model contract" now in use by several writers' organizations. He's been a literary agent, President of World SF, briefly a radio phone show host, has appeared as a vocal artist on three albums, and occasionally performs live. He is a long time literary critic, sometime film critic, perpetual political analyst, and sometime songwriter. He grew up in New York, has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and Paris, and travelled widely in Europe and rather less so in Latin America, Asia, and Oceania. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Different, But Interesting Nevertheless... March 21 2004
Format:Paperback
In this novel of the "Second Starfaring Age", Norman Spinrad has us on the starship Dragon Zephyr, a ship that instantaneously jumps from point to point in it's travels between star systems, covering several light years with each jump. The pilot of the ship (always a female) is an integral part of the jump circuit, and she enters a seemingly subjective state of ecstasy during these jumps. Captain Genro Kane Gupta becomes infatuated with the pilot and this leads to a terrible conundrum. In addition, there are also many passengers on this starship, and they lead a life of luxury in a complicated cultural and erotic lifestyle. The emotional lives of the crewmen and passengers are meticulously detailed by Spinrad, this being a well done and positive aspect of the novel, lending support to a superbly structured plot.
My only criticism is that I felt that Spinrad used a convoluted sentence structure much of the time, that coupled with frequent use of arcane words really did make this novel a chore to read, at least for me. Overall though, well worth reading.
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3.0 out of 5 stars All those phallic rocket ships Sept. 20 2001
Format:Paperback
Well, this is a blast from the past. I was very surprised to see this listed as 'new in paperback', but then there does seem to be a swathe of classics being re-released.
Is this a classic? Not sure. It must be around 20 years old now, and certainly when first released it was regarded as prime new wave material - advetised in *Omni* no less! But of course age doesn't make it a classic.
It's certainly original: I can't think of any other tale in the genre predicated on starships propelled across space by the power of orgasm. But that doesn't mean this is a sex fantasy either. Spinrad makes the idea work, and casts the captain of his ship into a credible (at least within this premise) dilemma, and eventually a real bind ... with a very new wave lack-of-ending to boot.
The genre may have moved on from the needs to break through barriers of editorial conservatism that - in part - inspired books like this. In some ways 'The Void Captain's Tale' will seem terribly dated, and I have to say that I think other wirters have since tackled broadly similar ideas and one it better. So this re-release may be of more interest to people who are bona-fide fans of 70's sci-fi than to the general reader.
But if you want some idea of where the genre has come from, it's worth a look.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A classic that stands the test of time Sept. 11 2001
Format:Paperback
Dragon Zephyr Void Captain Genro Kane Gupta delivers goods and passengers to Estrella Bonita. During a stop Genro meets beautiful Dominique Alia Wu. The woman is a shocker because she is a jump pilot. Everyone knows that jump pilots are physically wasted, as they are the keys to interstellar jumps that each time kills them a little more. This makes Dominique an enigma.

Dominique asks Genro to jump blind. His failing to set the proper navigational mix will free her so that she lands in eternal ecstasy inside the Void. Fascinated by her, he leans towards neglecting his duty to his crew, passengers and himself because no one knows what will happen if a ship jumps blind.

Though at times the use of "modern vernacular" slows down the story line because the reader needs time to interpret, THE VOID CAPTAIN'S TALE remains a strong science fiction novel. The theme compares sexual prowess with power and the hold that sexual needs have on humans (Freud must have been a passenger on the Dragon Zephyr). The tale is different, but works on several levels because readers can feel the magnetic tension between the Void Captain and the Void Pilot. First released in the 1980s Norman Spinrad's novel still spins quite a tale...
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