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The Void Captain's Tale [Kindle Edition]

Norman Spinrad
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £12.61
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Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
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Book Description

Welcome aboard the sex-drive void ship . . .

Captain Genro commands the giant spaceship Dragon Zephyr - on board are ten thousand passengers in electrocoma, a smaller number of conscious passengers eagerly utilising the ship's dream chambers - and a Pilot.

In the context of space travel, the Pilot is merely a biological component in the machine. Always a woman, her function is to launch the ship into the Jump by means of a cosmic orgasm. She is a pariah, shunned by all.

Void Captain Genro should never even have spoken to his Pilot, let alone tried to embark on a relationship with her. When he did so, the result was every space traveller's nightmare.

A Blind Jump into the Void . . .

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Product Description

About the Author

Norman Spinrad is the author of over twenty novels, including the acclaimed BUG JACK BARRON. He is a multiple nominee for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for science fiction achievement, an American Book Award Nominee writer, and winner of the Prix Apollo. He has written scripts for Star Trek and produced two feature films. He has also published over 60 short stories collected in half a dozen volumes, and his novels and stories have been published in over a dozen languages. He has been President of Science Fiction Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) three times. He is a tireless campaigner for authors' rights and is the creator of the "model contract" now in use by several writers' organizations. He's been a literary agent, President of World SF, briefly a radio phone show host, has appeared as a vocal artist on three albums, and occasionally performs live. He is a long time literary critic, sometime film critic, perpetual political analyst, and sometime songwriter. He grew up in New York, has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and Paris, and travelled widely in Europe and rather less so in Latin America, Asia, and Oceania.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 710 KB
  • Print Length: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Gateway (29 Sept. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005HRT7KU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #677,544 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's sex, but not as we know it... 1 Mar. 2002
This novel is the ultimate Freudian construct; religion, politics, spaceflight, all rooted in sex. In Spinrad's far-future certain erotic machinery has been bequeathed to us by an enigmatic race (akin to Pohl's Xeelee), which has been used to make FTL travel possible, but only at the orgasmic command of a particular kind of woman (read into this what you will), the Pilot. It is the religious Zeal of one Pilot for the state of bliss Beyond (The Great and Only) which turns her Captain's universe upside down and his struggle for meaning drives the plot forward.
The claustriphobic and incestuous life of the starfaring rich is beautifully drawn, their small minds a counterpoint to captain and Pilot.
The language is worthy of note, being a melting-pot mixture of European tongues (mostly English, thankfully for me), doggerel ("revulsive" and "tranquillify") and archaisms ("mayhap"),which lends an Otherness to the whole experience.
This novel is full of contradictions; intensity and formulaic ritual, passion and a medieval 'fin amor', transcendence and bigotry. Thought-provoking, darkly humorous and intriguing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bold, deeply human, masterpiece 25 Oct. 2007
By calmly
Transcendence is no simple affair. It's certainly no literal matter. Religions try to manipulate our impulses to transcendence but religions are easy to refute because they reek of human inventiveness but try so hard to hide that. And religious tales of transcendence are full of holes, so instead belief is demanded and submission to the authority of a few is encouraged.

To the contrary, Spinrad's tale of transcendence, however fantastic, is not readily dismissed. It lingers, having pointed directly at the human dilemma, being torn between what's practical and what our hearts really long for. But Sprinrad is no scripture writer, no temple is erected, and yet every reader can be enpowered. Who needs a contrived God when anyone can look out at the stars and feel overwhelmed by the Void, when everyone's heart feels ready to make the Blind Jump? ... Did you jump? The others seem to have forgotten. But Void Pilot Dominique Alia Wu is not to be forgotten. Can you captain the Void? This remarkable book with intoxicating language may help you answer that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't avoid this tale, captain 12 Jan. 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
First of all, I've given this book five twinklers, but I do have to say this is a very subjective score. This book is a prose poem that is both gorgeous and bleak, weaving a cosmos-sized Romantic loneliness with a paean to the depths of the human psyche and libido. That really rings my bell, though, obviously, it might not yours.

I don't know if that's how the author got the idea for this story - making an imaginative connection between the phrase 'sex drive' and all those spaceship propulsion cliches of SF, hyperdrive, etc, but in the book a spaceship's ability to leap across the starry vasts is enabled by an orgasm brought about by intercourse, of a sort, between the vessel and the pilot. I won't give away the plot, but it has something of the defiant anti-socialness and seedy gothic of Edgar Allan Poe. The book is very well written. The characters speak in a neolexical English that incorporates a lot of words and phrases from other European languages delivered in a slightly pompous, high-flown manner. To say Mr Spinrad gets away with this sounds like faint praise, but since most attempts at this sort of thing fall horribly, cheesily, flat, then it is actually a laurel - the only better one being Burgess's unsurpassed Nadsat.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellant thought Provoke story 29 Oct. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Discribes the comflict between the Numinious and Humatarian values.Qusi Utopian society Flawed by exploitation of few. Sequel to PASSING THROUGH THE FLAME pendant to CHILD OF FORTUNE
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read, haunting story, sexually explicit 22 Feb. 2001
By Kevin W. Parker - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In an undefinedly distant future, humankind navigates to the stars using alien "Jump" technology aboard each Void Ship, which technology must be controlled by a Pilot, who must be female and who experiences orgasmic ecstasy with each Jump. The ship's captain, ostensibly in charge, is at the mercy of the Pilot.
Our protagonist is Genro Kane Gupta, Void Captain of the Dragon Zephyr. The events of the story are kicked off when he encounters an attractive woman enroute to his ship, a woman whom to his surprise turns out to be Jump Pilot Dominique Alia Wu-surprise because Pilots tend to be wasted, emaciated creatures who live only for their next Jump. He becomes infatuated with her, haunted by the thought of the Jump ecstasy forever denied him, and neglects his duty to his passengers (which includes participating in the sexually charged social rituals used to distract them from the long voyage). And Dominique has a request for him: in his responsibility as Captain, neglect to set the navigation matrix so that the ship Jumps Blind. She believes it will free her soul to join the Void in permanent ecstasy, and of course she doesn't care what happens to the ship. Will he do it? Well, that would be telling.
One of the great aspects of science fiction is that it can put people into situations they would not encounter out of science fiction, and this is an example of that. Spinrad completes a tour-de-force with a masterful futuristic patois that is a hodgepodge of today's major languages and as such can be followed with some slight strain by the attentive reader.
A good read and a haunting story, though not for those who are easily offended by sexual situations.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All those phallic rocket ships 21 Sept. 2001
By "" - Published on
Well, this is a blast from the past. I was very surprised to see this listed as 'new in paperback', but then there does seem to be a swathe of classics being re-released.
Is this a classic? Not sure. It must be around 20 years old now, and certainly when first released it was regarded as prime new wave material - advetised in *Omni* no less! But of course age doesn't make it a classic.
It's certainly original: I can't think of any other tale in the genre predicated on starships propelled across space by the power of orgasm. But that doesn't mean this is a sex fantasy either. Spinrad makes the idea work, and casts the captain of his ship into a credible (at least within this premise) dilemma, and eventually a real bind ... with a very new wave lack-of-ending to boot.
The genre may have moved on from the needs to break through barriers of editorial conservatism that - in part - inspired books like this. In some ways 'The Void Captain's Tale' will seem terribly dated, and I have to say that I think other wirters have since tackled broadly similar ideas and one it better. So this re-release may be of more interest to people who are bona-fide fans of 70's sci-fi than to the general reader.
But if you want some idea of where the genre has come from, it's worth a look.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly Good 6 April 2010
By Just another reviewer - Published on
Do not make the mistake of thinking The Void Captain's Tale is science fiction. It is not.

Yes, the entire novel takes place off the ground, in spacegoing vessels. But this novel is an exploration of the universe not in terms of its physicality but in terms of its ultimate essence, i.e. the great unknown. Why exactly have we never found other civilizations? What lies beyond the limits of knowability? What is the "Great and Only"?

It is also a disturbing story of a man's incomprehensible drive toward self-destruction, and a morality tale like I have never before encountered.

I'm not a writer (but Spinrad is, and he's amazing), so don't expect this mini-review to even begin to adequately describe how I feel about this book. It's not an easy read - it takes work to get through it, and understand it. But what rewarding work it is!

I have read (parts of) a couple other of Spinrad's works. They were OK. This one is different, way different and way better. I will go out on a limb and describe The Void Captain's Tale in a way I rarely describe anything. In my opinion, it is Great Literature. Don't miss it.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Spinrad's best, but still worth reading ... 30 Sept. 2005
By Paul Hickey - Published on
"The Void Captain's Tale" is one of those alternately frustrating and rewarding books that leaves you intrigued by the imaginative ideas in the fiction but somewhat disappointed it did not amount to more.

Basically, this is an ingenious narrative with a simple plot twist about what happens when an individual's personal morality clashes with his professional duties and the ethics of society. As such, it works best when Spinrad stays focused on the internal conflict between (and within) Captain Genro Kane Gupta and Void Pilot Dominique Alia Wu, and the latter's attempt to seduce Gupta into betraying his own command for the sake of exploring what they both believe is the destiny of their souls.

The ultimate test comes when Gupta must decide whether to send the starship Dragon Zephyr on a Blind Jump through the universe to learn the secrets of what lies beyond the Great and Only Unknown (and thereby risk the lives of all on board), or to deny Wu and himself the fulfillment of their mutual heart's desire. Because Spinrad cleverly postulates the idea of a stardrive based on the power of female orgasm to complete a Jump Circuit, sex is necessarily an important factor in moving the ship (and the story) forward.

However, this is much more of an intellectual journey than an erotic passage, and the author tends to emphasize the philosophical quest of Gupta and Wu at the expense of examining their emotions or physical chemistry together. A hot and sweaty description of intimate encounters it is not.

Instead, on the one hand, Gupta is confronted with the chance to unravel the mystery of our species' existence in time and space. On the other, he faces the potentially terrifying consequences of placing his ego above his conscience. The conclusion he reaches, and the choice he makes, is the engine that advances the plot. And although Spinrad introduces some interesting secondary characters along the way (most notably Lorenza Kareen Patali, the ship's cultural hostess, and Maddhi Boddhi Clear, a dissolute seeker of truth), "The Void Captain's Tale" is essentially about the dramatic tension between following one's dreams versus mastering one's fate.

This is the sixth Norman Spinrad novel I've read, and if it isn't as creative and finely nuanced as "Little Heroes" or "Pictures At 11," it isn't as dense and dull as "Child of Fortune" or "The Mind Game" either. Spinrad's fondness for metaphysical transcendentalism and polyglot psychobabble is still here, but it isn't as annoying or pretentious, and his storytelling style is far more disciplined. Furthermore, in spite of his occasionally awkward dialogue and tedious exposition, he often manages to produce prose that borders on pure poetry. Take this line, for instance:

"... And so our spirits touch in exile in this shadow realm ... and comfort each other as best they can."

Or this:

"From nothing are we born, to nothing do we go; the universe we know is but the void looped back upon itself, and form is but illusion's final veil."

No, it isn't brilliant, inspired writing, but it does work well enough most of the time to get its point across. Throughout the more prosaic parts of the book, Spinrad drops lots of such tiny literary gems and nuggets that will leave you re-reading them with a serendipitous sense of appreciation for his lovely, lyrical turns of phrase or sudden glimpses of insight. In other words, if you're looking for a suspenseful potboiler or page-turner, "The Void Captain's Tale" is probably not what you want. But if you are in the mood to stretch your concept of science fiction past the genre's typical fascination with technology over humanity, this is a novel that will offer you something different, unexpected, and worthwhile.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth the effort 7 Oct. 2002
By Mitchell Glodek - Published on
I have to admit that when I first started Spinrad's novel I found the tone and the use of so many foriegn words pretentious and irritating. However, a third or half way through, I was hooked; Spinrad's description of the human relationship that develops between the captain and the unique pilot, and of the tension the captain feels between his duty and his obsessive lust for the transcendent experience the pilot opens his eyes too, are compelling. Spinrad creates a strange alien setting, but uses it to describe emotions and dilemmas that are timeless and universal, with which most readers should be able to identify.
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