(1952- ) US writer with a degree in mathematics who began publishing sf with "The Dreamer's Sleep" for Fantasy Book in December 1984. His career properly began, however, when he won the Writers of the Future Contest with "Shanidar" (in L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, anth 1985, ed Algis Budrys), which was modified into the first part of his first novel, the long and remarkable Neverness (1988), the first instalment of the Neverness/Requiem for Homo Sapiens sequence, an extremely ambitious example of the sf epic of cosmogony (a tale – usually containing some plot mixture of Space Opera and Planetary Romance – whose protagonist's life leads to an encounter with Eschatological questions about the origins, the ontological nature and the end of the Galaxy or Universe). The young protagonist – whose life and explorations are massively reiterated in the final three volumes, which focus on his son (see below) – has all the necessary complexity and drivenness to occupy the centre stage of such a tale, though some times passes before he fully establishes his own chilly selfhood. Before becoming an unmistakable character in his own right, Mallory Ringess may for some readers too closely resemble the Severian of Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun (1980-1983 4vols) as he recollects his cruel and ornate life at a distance of some years, and as that life becomes more and more isomorphous with the cosmic speculations that drive him.
The planet in which the city of Neverness nestles is drawn with a long-breathed relish reminiscent of Jack Vance, Wolfe's own model for the distillation of the Planetary Romance into a platform for grave and ambitious narratives; the growth to manhood of Ringess in this environment is expressed with a cold assiduous attention to the marriage of landscape and character, and a sense of immanent significance. As space-pilot in the Order of Mystic Mathematicians and Other Seekers of the Ineffable Flame – whose control of interstellar Transportation makes Neverness the effective heart of a small Galactic Empire – Ringess eventually becomes involved in a search for the Elder Eddas which bear messages of import about reality; encounters an entity whose brain is composed of moon-sized ganglia; betrays, comes to understand, and saves himself; penetrates finally, as it seems, the aeons-deep secrets of the nature of things.
The continuation of this narrative is constructed as a single novel in three volumes, The Broken God (1993), The Wild (1995) and War in Heaven (1998) with the overall title A Requiem for Homo Sapiens, and carries on the overall project outlined in Neverness, primarily through the viewpoint of Ringess's son. The recomplications and innovations of the tale are consistent with those adumbrated in the earlier book, which leads at points to passages of speculation and rumination that may seem unduly extended from their first iteration. The Order of Mystic Mathematicians of the first book gives way to the Architects of the Universal Cybernetic Church; Neverness gives way to the universe as a whole, which is being tortured by great beings into a terminal Transcendence; and Ringess gives way to his son Danlo the Wild, whose mythopoeic heroics are simultaneously congested and inspired. Zindell is an author only easily publishable within the frame of a mature genre, and only when that genre remains healthy in the marketplace. It is sf's good luck that he came in time. [JC]
A second series, the EA Cycle beginning with The Lightstone (2001) [see Checklist for details] is fantasy. [JC]
see also: Communications; Devolution; Faster Than Light; Gods and Demons; Macrostructures; Mathematics; Music; Pseudoscience.
David Neil Zindell
born Toledo, Ohio: 28 November 1952
Neverness/Neverness: Requiem for Homo Sapiens
- Neverness (New York: Donald I Fine, 1988) [Neverness: hb/Loretta Trezzo]
- The Broken God (London: HarperCollins, 1993) [Neverness: Requiem for Homo Sapiens: hb/Mike Van Houton]
- The Wild (London: HarperCollins, 1995) [Neverness: Requiem for Homo Sapiens: hb/Mike Van Houton]
- War in Heaven (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1998) [Neverness: Requiem for Homo Sapiens: pb/Dean Williams]
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