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March 2009
 
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Transfinite Man, by Colin Kapp (1964)

COLIN Kapp's first novel, also known as The Dark Mind, energetically pits super-antihero Dalroi against a vast corporation offering illicit pleasure in private dimensions where the law can't reach. This outfit evidently cares nothing for public relations: It's called Failway.

What's curious about Transfinite Man is the density of homage to Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination. Not actual plagiarism, but repeated echoes of sf motifs from the saga of Gully Foyle.

Like the transformed Foyle, Dalroi is "an indestructible and highly intelligent gutter-rat" with inhumanly fast reflexes. He's deliberately marooned in deep space (here, an empty dimension) but has an unprecedented ability to teleport. He's driven beyond his limits by vengeance and a personal Id Monster, though his "HATE! HATE! HATE!" is less memorable than Foyle's "Vorga, I kill you filthy."

Moreover: Dalroi experiences synaesthesia, with space-exposure tasting of lemons and feeling like raking talons just as in Stars, while colors become shouted gibberish. One foe is "blind" but sees via radar and infrared. Henchmen who spill secrets trip their "psychosomatic trigger" and die…again as in Stars. Dalroi acquires a uniquely destructive explosive—antimatter rather than PyrE. Finally, peppered with sodium ions from a terror weapon, he erupts into flame in precise imitation of Foyle's Burning Man.

Both novels end on a note of mystic transcendence and uncertainty about what our antihero will do next. Kapp's writing is no match for Bester's, but he clearly worked hard to channel the pyrotechnic inspiration of Stars.

—David Langford

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