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Transfigurations (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 14 Nov 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (14 Nov 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575093099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575093096
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 330,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

A fascinating and compelling novel of alien life by the NEBULA AWARD-winning author of ANCIENT OF DAYS.

About the Author

Michael Bishop was born in 1945 in Lincoln, Nebraska. After receiving an MA in English from the University of Georgia, Bishop taught at the USAF Academy Preparatory School in Colorado, but soon began placing his short stories with the likes of GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, IF and THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION. His first novel, A FUNERAL FOR THE EYES OF FIRE, brought comparisons with Ursula Le Guin and James Tiptree, Jr and received a NEBULA nomination. It was followed by a number of critically acclaimed works including BSFA AWARD-nominated TRANSFIGURATIONS, ARTHUR C. CLARKE AWARD-nominated ANCIENT OF DAYS, and NO ENEMY BUT TIME, for which he won the NEBULA AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL. Michael Bishop lives in Georgia, where he is writer-in-residence at LaGrange College.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this, Very Alien Alien's who turn out to have a lot more in common with us than you would think.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard Fahey on 27 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent concept mashed by a clinical,newspaper prose and an over long story,rambling with a lot of unnecessary,tedious detail.It was largely unvisualised.

Having said that,I suppose it was not too bad,and might suite somebody who is interested in ancient civilisations and anthropology,and wants something different.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Great SciFi - One Of The Best IMO 12 Sep 2009
By Robert Evans - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I discovered this book on a top shelf, and read it a second time. I could not put it down the first time I read it many years ago. Ditto for my second reading. I agree with the first reviewer, placing it the same category as "Rama". It is one of the best, if not the best, novels I have ever read. The writing is spellbinding. You feel you are really "there" on the planet BoskVeld. The mysteries surrounding the totally alien Asadi presented in the first part of the book will force you to read the rest. You will HAVE to know the answers: the mysteries of the Asadi society (if you can call it that), the role of the bat-like creatures they interact with, the fate of the missing scientist who went to live among them. This book should be "rediscovered", reprinted, and placed on lists of great SciFi novels (or simply lists of great novels).
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
brilliant, haunting study of the human and subtly inhuman 15 July 2007
By G. W. Stebbins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am distressed that this book is out of print and seems to have fallen into obscurity. It is one of the best of the anthropological science fictions novels (Left Hand of Darkness and others) that delve deeply into what it means to be human. It is the haunting and disturbing tale of an anthropologist who follows the footsteps of his brilliant former partner who disappeared into the alien jungle after totally immersing himself physically and psychologically in the life of another species. The Asadi are hominids that appear to have degenerated from a much more advanced society into the primitive daily reenacting of brutish, incomprehensible, almost hallucinatory rituals. The closer he comes to the intuitive leap that would let him understand them, the deeper he slips into the madness, which may be the fate of any member of a species that too deeply partakes in the nature of another. The aliens are some of the most convincing ever invented, the story is gripping and the conclusion (actually the whole story) is unforgettable.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Novel expansion of Bishop's masterpiece: "Death And Designation Among the Asadi" (1973') 1 Aug 2014
By Mithridates VI of Pontus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
On the surface, Michael Bishop's anthropologically inclined science fiction appears deceptively simple. In his first novel, and unacknowledged masterpiece, A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire (1975), the premise (moving an alien people from a planet) evolves into a vast and complex anthropological tapestry filled with stories within stories creating an almost claustrophobic doubling of characters. In Stolen Faces (1977) the biological mystery of a virulent disease grows, tumor-like, into a brilliantly nightmarish exploration of bodily and societal decay and the gravimetric forces of memory.

Bishop's Hugo- and Nebula-nominated novella, "Death and Designation Among the Asadi" (1973) follows a similar pattern. This novella--conceived as a series of notes and transcribed recordings compiled and published after the disappearance of their author, a cultural xenologist named Egan Chaney--forms the prologue to the expanded novel Transfigurations (1979). The mysteries of this powerful text within a text recounting Chaney's trip into The Synesthesia Wild in search of the Asadi, are as unsettling as staring into non-human "eyes that look like the murky glass in the bottoms of old bottles" (15). Although the mysteries are slowly revealed, they remain truly alien.

Highly recommended for fans of anthropological and social SF--especially fans of 70s exemplars of this subgenre. As with most of Bishops' SF Transfigurations is not a plot-driven work.

Brief Plot Summary/Analysis (*some spoilers*)

Transfigurations deploys a traditional SF trope: scientist sets off to decipher the nature and culture of an alien species. But under this purely anthropological veneer--hinted at by Egan Chaney's mantra "There are no more pygmies, there are no more pygmies, there are no" (14)--is an intense character study and meditation on post-colonial mentalities that builds towards inevitable conflict. The planet BoskVeld is modeled on the open, uncultivated landscape of the Bushveld of Southern Africa (parts of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe). The Synesthesia Wild, the same continent's more forested wilderness... Both Stolen Faces and Transfigurations drew some inspiration from Colin Turnbul's controversial ethnography, The Mountain People (1972) on the Ik people of Uganda.

The prologue, "Death and Designation Among the Asadi," truly conveys the alienisms of the Asadi. Cyclical rituals, rooted inextricably to the natural forces (the movement of the sun) of BoskVeld, dominate Asadi activities. Possessed by "Indifferent Togetherness" the Asadi mill around clearings, engaging in "brutal" sexual activity and "quirkish staring matches" which seem to be the only indications of social behavior (29). Egan Chaney, treated like the outcast Asadi whose eyes do not swirl with colors, is a deeply conflicted man.

In a desperate move to save a people after the "African Armageddon" that resulted in the complete contamination of the continent, Chaney oversaw the transportation of the dozen remaining BaMbuti pygmies to the New World (114). On their arrival, perhaps due to "homesickness, nostalgia, disorientation" they slowly died off one by one (115). This guilt and confusion generated by his earlier failure boils beneath the surface and influences all of Chaney's actions and conceptions of the aliens. He is simultaneously terrified and intrigued by the Asadi, who often resort to animalistic violence, burning out their own eyes but prolonged exposure to the sun, and even practicing nocturnal cannibalism.

Chaney is unable to decipher all the cryptic clues to Asadi behavior. He tries to return to the settlements on BoskVeld but slips into deep depression, refuses to discuss elements of his discoveries with Thomas Benedict, his principle colleague and friend. Despite Chaney's concluding monologue as he observes another Asadi ritual, "the show is beautiful and grotesque, grotesque and beautiful, but at this stage my principal reaction seems to be one of...well, of disgust" (71), he feels their inexorable pull, the desire to assuage his guild. Before he heads back into the clearing he leaves a note: "I'm one of them. I feel for them" (87).

Soon new forces enter the narrative in an attempt to find Chaney: Thomas Benedict, Chaney's daughter Elegy, a modified primate designed to look like an Asadi, and the interplanetary government. There is more at stake than the discovery of the explorer. The mysteries unravel and clarify. Incredible scenes of decay permeate the pages.

In A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire the nature and rituals surrounding eyes define each group of aliens. The eyes of the diseased are read in order to divine the Final Vision before death. The eyes, after they turn to dust, are carried by the progeny of the diseased: the physical material that conveyed the image of the soul. The Asadi in Transfigurations define social roles via the nature of the eyes: the outcasts have murky eyes and are unable to engage in the central communicative ritual of intense staring bouts, where eyes swirl with incandescent colors, that interrupt the "Indifferent Togetherness" of Asadi existence.

The mysteries of the Asadi are perceived through a variety of lenses: Chaney and his past guilt, Elegy and her desire to find the father that abandoned her, Thomas's drive to discover find friend. Despite the biological explanation for many of the Asadi rituals, their alieness remains unsettling and inhuman. As the expedition sets off again into The Synesthesian Wild, Elegy confesses, "I never thought... never thought I'd sink so low" (214).
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Amazing.... 15 Oct 2008
By C. Hoffman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I too am sad to see "Transfigurations" is out of print. Definitely one of the best book sI have ever read, the same caliber as Clark's "Rendezvous With Rama" or "Childhood's End". Superb.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
One of my favorite all time sc fi novels. 21 Mar 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I first read this when I was in my early 20's and really enjoyed it. I had been more of a fantasy fiction fan up to that point. I have re-read this book half a dozen times over the past 25 years and never get tired of it. There is always another, new thought process that gets started while I am reading the story. The theory of "indifferent togetherness" struck a cord with me from the very first reading.
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