Endless Shadow – John Brunner (1964)
‘TWO WORLDS IN CONFLICT
Azrael – Where pain was the only reality, and murder was not a crime but a ritual
Ipewell – Where motherhood was honored and manhood meant a life of servitude and fear.
These two worlds were at the heart of a taut and dangerous situation which threatened to explode, and Jorgen Thorkild, director of the Bridge System that connected forty worlds among the stars had to try to tame them.
But Thorkild faced still another problem: the loss of his own sanity…’
Blurb from the 1964 Ace Double F-299 paperback edition
Earth is slowly reuniting herself with her lost colonies on worlds settled centuries before The Bridge which is essentially a wormhole gateway to the rediscovered worlds.
the latest worlds to be discovered are Azrael and Ipewell. Ipewell is a matriarchal society where men are treated as an inferior species. Azrael is a darker society where the inhabitants court death as a regular ritual in order to remind themselves of the reality of their own mortality.
Before the worlds can be opened up to this galactic community their society has to be analysed and assessed by a ‘programmer’, one who can accurately map the factors within an alien human society, determine what ‘makes them tick’ and how they can be prepared for integration into this Galactic civilisation of almost forty worlds.
In this decidedly van-Vogtian piece programmers are, it is suggested, an evolutionary advance. They are van Vogt’s logical pacifist hero. On Azrael, the last programmer made a fatal error and engaged in a ritual which ended in his death. His successor must use all his Programme training to find a way to analyse and undermine the Azrael philosophy before they can be admitted to the Bridge system.
Jorgen Thorkild, upon meeting the formidable leader of the Azraelis has a nervous breakdown and has to be relieved of his post. He is also plagued by the suicide of his predecessor.
Much of it is about people whose world-views are dramatically altered, most of them painfully but to their own benefit.
It’s an odd piece which perhaps has concepts which could not be properly explored within the word-count constraints of an Ace Double.
It was revised in 1982 as ‘Manshape’.