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White Light
William Barton and Michael Capobianco
Avon EOS Books, 343 pages

White Light
William Barton
William Barton has authored a number of single novels including Acts of Conscience and The Transmigration of Souls in addition to those co-authored with Michael Capobianco. Their joint efforts include IRIS, Alpha Centauri and Fellow Traveler.

William Barton Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Michael Capobianco
Michael Capobianco has one solo science fiction novel, Burster (Bantam 1990). He was born in Washington D.C. in 1950 and graduated from the University of Virginia with a major in Interdisciplinary Studies. For many years he was involved in the development of computer simulations and game software.

Michael Capobianco Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Jean-Louis Trudel

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Mixing religious metaphysics and science or science fiction is a pastime Americans are particularly inclined to pursue. In The Religion of Technology (1997), David F. Noble traced the history of religious ideals translated into technological dreams of transcendence, but he didn't notice that several of his lines of inquiry culminated in the United States. In White Light, the characters leap from a future Earth, devastated by a thermonuclear war, into a succession of ever more exotic locales, climbing the great chain of beings until they start rubbing elbows with godlike entities and delving into their own neuroses.

One has to appreciate the authors' usual fervid take on human psychology and sexuality to enjoy White Light. The main viewpoint character is Wolf O'Malley, a tough spaceship pilot and a man's man who's hardly ever met a woman he didn't want to take to bed, yet a man scarred by his father's early death. His companions, an unlikely assortment of one bureaucrat, two widows, and two teenagers, must also deal with tangled personal relationships. At times, the bewildering trip through space and time, through inner psyches and past traumas, feels like an E.E. "Doc" Smith space opera updated to feature the latest techno-scientific speculations and a self-help group as the protagonists. It is hard not to be left with an impression best voiced by Corazón, a teenager herself, who feels she's on a ride with a shipload of "Teenagers from Hell."

The in-your-face, tough-jock prose style makes for an intense, driven narration. While the short and punchy sentences sometimes devolve into the simplistic, they define the very personal voice of the authors, love 'em or hate 'em. The hard-edged tech talk adds to the verisimilitude of the action, and the authors rarely shirk on the technical or scientific details of the places explored by starship NR598h.

However, when the authors refer to some currently fashionable theories, such as Tipler's speculations about an Omega Point, they can be rather short on explanations or elucidations. As a result, uninformed readers may find the novel frustratingly elusive in spots. Furthermore, once the NR598h takes sort of a wrong turn, its crew is often faced with settings that are beyond their comprehension. The end result is a novel that veers between the baffling and the compelling.

Overall, the novel is a stimulating read, but the characters are neither engaging nor memorable and the plot is more episodic than suspenseful. White Light concludes with an apologia for an ethic of infinite personal responsibility, which feels more like an article of faith than a logically argued position, however seductive. One may be reminded of Heinlein's Job, a Comedy of Justice (1984) and its final confrontation between the hero and the deity, though in much less earnest fashion than in this novel.

I've enjoyed previous novels, such as Iris and Burster, by one or both of these writers, but I probably lack the common religious grounds that would make me find this one equally fascinating.

Copyright © 1998 by Jean-Louis Trudel

Jean-Louis Trudel is a busy, bilingual writer from Canada, with two novels and fourteen young adult books to his credit in French. He's also a moderately prolific reviewer and short story writer.


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