The Unreasoning Mask by Philip José Farmer is yet another first edition hardcover I picked up for 50 cents. I’d been impressed with his book To Your Scattered Bodies Go, so when I stumbled across something else by him, and for such a good price, I picked it up. It was alright. I think Mr. Farmer does a much better job with characterization instead of talespinning. Spoilers past the jump.
This is a slightly mystical space tale where near-immortal Norn-like beings and a created universal simulacrum are each trying to control the universe. It just so happens that the universe, or multiple universes are akin to cells in a body of something a bit like God. The analogy is that sentient beings are like an infection to this something a bit like God. So this creepy antibody thing goes around destroying sentient life on all planets. Sort of like a white blood cell.
The thing is, the something a bit like God is just an infant, and has already died and been reborn twice and it needs the parasitic sentient races to teach it and foster it and let it grow up. So instead of unwittingly destroying cells in the body by using advanced technology, the Norns that figure it out know they have to destroy the white blood cell thing.
The main character is what makes the book interesting. He is a morally upright Arabic former Muslim that has some sort of emptiness within him that makes him seem distracted. He is always searching for something, even he does not know. He seems to prize his independence, but he is poked and prodded and herded about through the whole book by the universal simulacrum thinger and the Norns. He sort of resents this but ends up doing what he will nonetheless. Since he is the captain of a ship he is responsible for about 400 crewmembers, which makes his often selfish decisions gnaw at him. In the end though, his selfishness easily becomes selflessness since he has been serving a higher cause all this time.
The book wasn’t fantastic, but it was enjoyable and a quick read.