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The Other in the Mirror
Philip José Farmer, edited by Christopher Paul Carey
Subterranean Press, 496 pages

The Other in the Mirror
Philip José Farmer
Philip José Farmer was born in 1918 in North Terre Haute, Indiana. He attended Bradley University, receiving a BA in English in 1950. His novella The Lovers, published in Startling Stories, won a Hugo Award in 1953. He won another in 1968 for the story "Riders of the Purple Wage," which was written for the Dangerous Visions series, and a third in 1972 for the first novel of the Riverworld series, To Your Scattered Bodies Go. Farmer has written also under a number of pseudonyms, the best known being Kilgore Trout. He died in his sleep on February 25, 2009.

Philip José Farmer Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Up from the Bottomless Pit and Other Stories
SF Site Review: Pearls from Peoria
SF Site Review: The Best of Philip José Farmer
SF Site Review: The Riverworld Saga
SF Site Review: Nothing Burns in Hell

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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Editor Christopher Paul Carey has collected three of Philip José Farmer's lesser known novels in The Other in the Mirror. The first, Fire and the Night, is a non-science fiction novel that looks at racism and religion in the United States. The second, Jesus on Mars, is probably the best known of the three, and the final one, Night of Light looks at religion and sociopathic behavior on an alien world. Carey sees the role of the Other as central to all three novels.

Up to a point, Carey is correct, however, the role of the Other is central to many science fiction novels, so the fact that it can be seen to figure prominently in both of the science fiction novels included in The Other in the Mirror may be a bit misleading. Religion, actually, seems to play a larger role in the three books and Carey could just have easily focused on that in his discussion as to why he has grouped these novels together.

In Fire and the Night, based on Dante's Inferno, Danny Alliger (Dante Alighieri) is led through Hell (Helsgets' Steel and Wire Company) by Vashti Virgil (who is not only representative of the poet's guide through Hell, but also his romantic ideal, Beatrice). One of the few Caucasians working at the plant, since most of the able-bodied white men are off fighting in World War II, he finds himself partnered with Vashti.

Despite his original misgivings, he comes to see her as an individual, if not as a person, replacing his initial distaste for her with a sort of enraptured obsession. Although originally published in 1962, with many parts of the novel feeling dated, the fact that Farmer set the book in an historical period helps preserve some of its relevance and readability.

Jesus on Mars is a much more straight forward science fictional story, based on the idea that after leaving Earth, Jesus did, in fact, migrate to Mars where his philosophy, in a different form, is being practiced by a mixed society of humans saved from Earth and the alien Krsh, who brought them to Mars around the time Jesus originally walked on Earth.

When Earth discovers the presence of this culture, a group of scientists are sent out to learn what it means, and they have their preconceptions and faith challenged in unforeseen manners.

While the first two novels included in The Other in the Mirror focus on Christianity as the religion of choice, in Night of Light, Farmer has created his own religion on the planet Kareen (which is nicknamed Dante's Joy, to tie it in with the first novel in the omnibus). This religion, which owes something to the dualist Zoroastrian religion, is based on the competing brothers Yess and Algul. Farmer throws sociopathic John Carmody into the mix who has a plan to kill Yess, the god of good and set off the titular religious rite, which could result in the death of up to seventy-five percent of the population. The most science fictional of the three novels, Farmer manages a good mix of philosophy and potboiler in the story.

Copyright © 2009 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a seven-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.


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