Somehow, being an avid science fiction reader for more than 30 years, I’ve managed to never read any John Brunner. I know I’ve bought some of his books over the years, but unless I’m forgetting a short story somewhere along the way, Endless Shadow is the first thing I’ve read by him.
As half of an Ace Double, Endless Shadow is a novella set in a future where Earth is building a network of transport gates to re-unite its scattered descendants on distant worlds. Two new worlds are about to be opened, one a stagnant matriarchy and the other a world of death obsessed cultists. Could one of these worlds bring down everything Earth has built?
While the Science Fiction concepts certainly feel like they come out of the Golden Age, this 1964 novel feels intensely modern in some ways. It’s a reminder that women and people of color were given much more to do in science fiction of this era. Not by every author, sure. But not infrequently. And it wasn’t uncommon for novels and novellas to be about philosophical ideas, which is where this books main thrust aims. Does death make life worth living? Is life worth anything? Where does one find meaning or a reason to go on? Heady stuff.
-Matthew J. Constantine