My life in outer space

Fury – Henry Kuttner (1947)

FuryFury by Henry Kuttner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Earth has been rendered uninhabitable by nuclear war. Humans have fled to live in ‘Keep’s far below the surface of the oceans of Venus since the planet’s land masses are covered in jungles inhabited by deadly flora and fauna. The ruling government of this remainder of Humanity is an Oligarchy of immortals, the rest of the race destined to live out normal lifespans.
Against this background is told the story of Sam, the son of Blaze Harker, youngest in a dynasty of a powerful family of immortals. Blaze, however, is borderline insane and, for reasons we need not go into here, has his baby son surgically altered and abandons him to be brought up among the short-lived humans.
The child grows up with the name of Sam Reed, working initially under the tutelage of the Fagin-like Slider.
Meanwhile, the immortal Robin Hale believes that Humanity should be moving out onto the surface of Venus, a policy that the ruling immortals currently oppose.
Sam decides to help Hale; a decision which brings him into conflict with Zachariah Harker, while neither of them are aware of the fact that they are closely related.
Sam manipulates the media to raise volunteers and money to establish a colony on the surface, but is betrayed by his mistress.
The narrative jumps fifty years ahead to where Sam awakens in a street, having been helped there by a mysterious stranger. He discovers that he was discredited as a drug addict after his disappearance, but the surface colony is just surviving. He also discovers, to his surprise, that he has not aged and realises the fact of his immortality.
Once more, he rejoins Hale and launches a new campaign to establish Humanity on the planet’s surface.
The immortals, however, set up a long term plan to deal with Sam permanently.
It has elements of both a Shakespearean tragedy and a Dickens novel. Sam seems driven by his fury on a predestinate path. Indeed, Kuttner also includes the character of The Logician, a mysterious immortal, born on Earth, who has been masquerading as public logic machine, to which anyone can submit questions.
It was The Logician who advised Hale to start his surface colonisation programme. The Logician (who describes himself as a sort of oracle in the text, and who seems to extrapolate the future in much the same way as EE Doc Smith’s Arisians) explains that his talent depends on guiding people, rather than telling them what to do and it seems clear later that he has manipulated both Hale and Sam in order that Humanity can return to the surface.
Sam is eventually betrayed by another woman, programmed from birth for the role and placed in a position of trust, but Sam is not killed, merely put to sleep again by The Logician to be reawakened at a time when his drive and fury may be needed again.
Stylistically it has that odd juxtaposition of the feudal and the futuristic. For its time the use of drugs and narcotics in a narrative was not standard practice. Addiction features several times, the female surgeon who originally altered Sam’s physical appearance for instance was addicted to the lethal embrace of a native life-form which stimulated pure pleasure in her body as it slowly fed on her.
As is common for novels of this period, the concept of genocide (not just a species, but an entire biosphere) is not considered an issue.

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