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The Flying Sorcerers by David Gerrold
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The Flying Sorcerers (original 1971; edition 1975)

by David Gerrold

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508419,998 (3.45)10
Member:ashamel
Title:The Flying Sorcerers
Authors:David Gerrold
Info:Corgi Childrens (1975), Paperback, 320 pages
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Tags:novel

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The Flying Sorcerers by David Gerrold (1971)

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This is the worst book I’ve read in a very long time (the memory of woman runneth not to the contrary), so bad I’m almost tempted to try to make rachelmanija review it because she could be funny. I thought initially the book might be a parody of the “white man space explorer comes to uplift savage natives” trope, especially when I got to the Wizard of Oz homage, but the book was really just trying to be funny while using the White Man’s Burden as the humorous vehicle. See, they really are savages! His condescension is fully justified! They don’t name their women, they just beat them, until the noble space explorer shows them that women can be allowed to work (and sit while they work) and have names! There’s a Wright Brothers thing with Wilville and Orbur (I’m not lying) building an airship, except not really because the noble space explorer has to teach them what to do, in the process introducing money, betting, and theft, among other innovations, to the savages. The worst part is: I just ordered another David Gerrold book, before I read this. ( )
2 vote rivkat | Dec 31, 2010 |
The Flying Sorcerers is a difficult book for me to get a good handle on. Through much of the book it seems as though the two authors had different ideas about the tone of the books, as it is goofily humorous at times (mostly as a result of the rampant Tuckerization of names such as the bicycle making Orbur and Wilville), and a serious work of science fiction concerning the effects an outside visitor might have on an isolated culture at others.

The story takes place on an isolated planet, surrounded by a dust cloud with two suns and five moons. Consequently, the planet's weather, tides, and seasons are so complicated that true science (which relies upon a certain level of predictability) is unable to take root. The inhabitants, unable to see the stars, are completely unaware of anything outside their corner of the universe. A sort of pseudo-science has evolved, that the inhabitants refer to as magic, and one of the primary characters in the book is the village wizard Shoogar.

Into this world comes an off world visitor whose name translates as "As a color, shade of purple-grey" ("as-a-Mauve" or Asimov, another Tuckerization), and they promptly dub him "Purple". Purple's technological devices are seen as magic by the inhabitants, and the villagers are scandalized by his disregard for their gods and customs. The main character of the book, a native named Lant, tries to figure out the visitor and mediate between him and Shoogar, leading to much frustration and cross-cultural misunderstanding. Eventually, Shoogar (with Lant's help) decides he must get rid of the visitor, by destroying his means of transportation (described in the book as a flying egg). He succeeds, but the ensuing explosion drives all the inhabitants of his village out of the area, turning them into refugees.

They eventually find a new home on a peninsula later turned into an island by the erratic tides of the planet, but Purple is there already, thrown miles away by the explosion that destroyed his egg. Purple eventually decides he must build a flying machine (a ship won't work, the waters are too treacherous) and return to his original landing spot to call down his mother ship and leave. Much of the book details the somewhat unintended effects of this effort, as Purple converts the natives to an industrial society, introducing concepts like money, assembly line production, division of labor, and sexual equality along the way. Eventually, Purple succeeds and leaves, but it is clear that the natives will never be the same.

The story is interesting. Purple's unintended changes to Lant's culture have far reaching ramifications, most of which are followed up upon in the course of the story. The story is told from Lant's perspective, and while the reader can figure out what devices Purple has, and what concepts he is introducing, by having a native narrator, the viewpoint of the natives is made quite clear – including their misconceptions concerning the nature of Purple's devices and outrage at some of Purple's actions. Overall, a very solid and well-done science fiction story provided one can get past the groan inducing names. ( )
1 vote StormRaven | Jan 2, 2009 |
SF, fantasy, library, first shelf ( )
  ladysprite | Mar 3, 2008 |
Sometimes one is able to retreive a piece of one's past and experience it anew. Such is the case with this book. Years ago when I first was getting into science fiction, I picked up a coverless copy of The Flying Sorcerers from a sidewalk sale at Page One bookstore. (I didn't know then how blatantly illegal that was.) I read it and enjoyed it and later discarded it when I started running out of book space. Now, years later, I've picked this book up again (cover intact) in an effort to spend a gift certificate. The Flying Sorcerers tells the tale of a space traveler who encounters a group of "primitive" natives and incurs the wrath of the native wizard, who sees him as a rival. The traveler, called Purple by the natives, loses most of his equipment and then has to work with the natives and their primitive technology to get himself back to his mother ship. The story is a comedy of errors, told from the native point of view, and filled with all sorts of in jokes for science fiction fans. (I don't recall if I caught any of them the first time around, and this time I probably still missed a lot.) I enjoyed it more, however, for a humorous look at cross cultural mis-communication. I recommend that you check it out, even though for me it's good enough to keep... again.
--J. ( )
1 vote Hamburgerclan | Sep 16, 2006 |
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David Gerroldprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Niven, LarryAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345253078, Mass Market Paperback)

This funny and insightful science fiction classic introduces Shoogar, the greatest wizard ever known in his village. His spells can strike terror in the hearts of even his most powerful enemies. But the enemy he faces now is like none he has ever seen before. The stranger has come from nowhere and is ignorant of even the most basic principles of magic. But the stranger has an incredibly powerful magic of his own. There is no room in Shoogar’s world for an intruder whose powers match his own, let alone one whose powers might exceed his. So before the blue sun can cross the face of the red sun once more, Shoogar will show this stranger just who is boss.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:55 -0400)

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