- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 483 KB
- Print Length: 190 pages
- Publisher: Gateway (29 Sept. 2011)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B005OA8CM4
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #456,161 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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The Werewolf Principle Kindle Edition
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Set some five hundred years into the future, mankind has been exploring space for centuries. Yet, remarkably few of the new worlds that have been discovered are suitable for human life. In fact, only the terrible expensive and time-consuming process of terra forming can make more worlds livable for man.
However, genetic engineers have come up with a program to adapt man to fit an alien environment and not vice versa. Humans could be genetically altered to exist under hostile conditions of intolerable gravity, heat, cold, or toxic atmospheres. While they might not look strictly human in the traditional sense, inside they would still think and feel as any other human being might.
Reactionary elements, however, held that this would be unnatural and the results would not be human as much they would be abominations and monsters.
What neither side initially knew was that this experiment had been tried two centuries before- and abandoned. At that time an even more radical experiment had been attempted. Instead of adapting one strain of man to a single hostile environment, a synthetic man (an android) would be developed with an open-ended genetic structure that would be able to mimic the form, and the mind, of any alien life form. It was thought that this would be the perfect tool to infiltrate and study any alien culture. It was also thought that such an open-ended synthetic man could be reused on many different planets. What the bio-engineers didn't realize was that every time such a being took on the form of an alien he would also take on its mind- permanently. This meant that over time many different, individual, alien personalities would share the same brain- a sort of ultimate schizophrenic. Not only that, but these different alien personalities would be able to intercommunicate and cooperate. Plus, at any moment, they could take on their original form once again. That was why the original breakthrough had been termed the "Werewolf Principle."
Now, after 200 years of being frozen in deep space, the last surviving experimental "werewolf" has been found and returned to earth. Yet neither he, nor his rescuers know who or what he truly is. Not only that, but the two alien personalities melded with the original synthetic are a psychic wolf-thing that can even talk to the stars, and a chameleon-like biological computer of near infinite intellect.
The debate over genetic engineering is about to get very interesting....
Space travel as technology is now several hundred years old. But, currently debate is raging in the Senate over a proposal for a program of bio-engineering as a basis for the colonization of other solar systems. Is it better to force the planet to fit the man through terra-forming or to bio-engineer the man and mold his abilities to withstand hostile alien environments? There are those that feel the results of such a modification would somehow be less than human or may even be perceived as a monster.
But neither side to this debate is aware of Andrew Blake. Two hundred years earlier, this problem had already been faced and resolved at that time by producing a synthetic human - an android with the imprint of a fully human mind that would be capable of absorbing the form and mind of any alien culture it might encounter. The mission that carried Blake to the stars had been lost and the Space Administration reached the decision to formally bury any reference to the project as a regrettable failure! Luck and happenstance have now returned Blake to earth into the middle of the current debate and the world is shocked to learn of the flaw in their 200 year old experiment - the "data" from the absorption of an alien mind could not be erased. Blake is now an amalgam of three wildly different alien personalities able to interact and communicate with each other but within a single body.
Under the circumstances, Blake, of course, becomes the lightning rod "poster child" for BOTH sides of the debate. Even Blake himself is puzzled and questions both his humanity and his place on earth.
"The Werewolf Principle" is a trademark Simak blend of soft and hard sci-fi, crafted in his low-key softly stated pastoral Midwest style that cannot fail to amaze any thinking reader. The ending of the novel not only contains a blind-side twist worthy of the finest thriller but is also warmly romantic and intelligently optimistic without being trite or gushy. With standards like this to live up to, it is a miracle that contemporary writers of science fiction can actually make a living!
[The creature's] snout twitched. "Would you, perhaps," it asked in its squeaking voice, "have food inside that basket?"
"Why, yes," said Blake. "I take it that you are hungry."
It was absurd, of course. In just a little while-- in another minute, if not less-- this illustration from a children's book would go away and he could get on with his fishing.
"I'm starving," said the illustration. "The people who usually set out food for me have gone on a vacation. I've been scrounging ever since. Have you, perhaps, sometime in your life, tried scrounging for food?"
"I don't think," said Blake, "that I ever have". (40)
Here is a similar pattern of dialogue between Blake and a talking Diner:
"How are you?" asked the Diner. The voice was that of a brassy, wise-cracking waitress. "What will it be this morning?"
Blake looked around, seeing no one, then realized the situation. Another robotic installation, like the flying houses.
He went across the floor and sat down on one of the stools.
"Cakes," he said, "and some bacon. And coffee."
He let the knapsack slip off his shoulder and lowered it to the floor beside the stool.
"Out early, aren't you?" asked the Diner. "Don't tell me you have walked all night."
"Not all night," said Blake. "Up early, that is all."
"Don't see many of you fellows anymore," the Diner said. "What is your racket, friend?"
"I do a little writing," said Blake. "At least, I try to do it." (109-110)
Of course, Simak is much too crafty a writer to use this pattern of dialogue all the time. He can be terse and snappy when he needs to be. There is even one chapter in the form of dialogue from a Senate hearing. But Simak uses that broken, rhythmic pattern of dialogue a lot in novel after novel, story after story. And he uses a similar style when dealing with mental thought patterns:
It could not stay here, it told itself. It could not wander endlessly. It must find a place to shelter.
The lights? it wondered. Should it investigate the lights or should it... (7)
The style in _Werewolf_, laced with phrases like "of course" and "perhaps," loans itself to a slow, easy pace and a sense of Simak's brotherhood of all creatures. The story is one of Simak's better novels. We have a hero rescued from suspended animation whom we can be _pretty_ damned well sure is more than he seems to be, a political battle in Washington over the use of genetic engineering to colonize the stars (opposed by fundamentalists and social conservatives), and a 200 year old project called the werewolf project that apparently went askew. There is also a future world of computerized homes, giant flying freighters, alien brownies, wandering scholars, and antigravity devices. Read this one for the basic story. But read this one for the style as well.
I loved the portrayal of the Earth in 2466? AD. An amazingly positive story of a utopia spreading to the stars. And, not very dated even though the book was published in 1967. People's homes resettling themselves constantly using anti-gravity drives is totally cool.
Just the little things, like the wardrobe choices of the society in the novel, or the sentient AI houses were sources of immense wonder to me when I read this as a teenager in the late 70s/early 80s and to some extent they still are. It's a wonderful visionary SF novel that still works.