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October/November 2007
 
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Tentacles of Dawn, by Robert Wilson (1978)

THERE WAS a time when it seemed as though new paperback imprints appeared nearly every month, most of them lasting a year or less. The latter—like Flagship Books, Book Company of America, Carousel, and Major Books—primarily published genre authors that no one had ever heard of before, and never would hear of again after the imprint disappeared. Major Books, which actually has the distinction of publishing the first novel by Charles L. Grant, published the only book to appear by Robert Wilson, who certainly wasn't Robert Charles or Robert Anton.

Wilson's Tentacles of Dawn is a post-apocalyptic novel, one of those in which we don't know until very late in the story just exactly what the apocalypse was. In this case, humanity got lazy and relied so heavily on an artificial intelligence to run the world that it was unable to cope when the AI began to fail. Our hero wakens in a barbaric world filled with Brutemen, the Primitives, the Dark Invaders, and the Deformed, all tribes of mutants. He manages to escape the "clutches of Mo-Tung," tracks down the tentacled Prophetess in his quest to understand his purpose, battles with intelligent, man-sized bats, and eventually confronts the Watcher of the World, which turns out to be the surviving portion of the AI.

Tentacles of Dawn is one of a handful of novels so badly written that readers may take a perverse pleasure in following the protagonist, "the man from the Egg," as he discovers that his destiny is to reawaken a sense of dignity and the urge for progress in a decadent human race.

Actor Rainn Wilson's father reportedly wrote at least one science fiction novel. Could this be it?

—Don D'Ammassa

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