by Romain Gary ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 26, 1972
Gary is up there again on his bald-faced mountain top of metaphysical, neo-Manichean speculations, with 20th-century technology pumping up some black humor from below -- all of which adds up to a lively if crowded science-fiction-morality tale salted with both humor and horror. In previous novels Gary dandled the dualities of humanity and death within myth; here he explores human nature as ""the dichotomy of good and evil. . .culture and civilization."" French scientist Mathieu perfects a method for harnessing the cheapest power source on earth at zero cost -- namely, that peculiar energy that leaps forth from an individual at death, here named the gsp, or ""gasp."" Of course there are innumerable problems beyond the expected clerical fuss about utilizing the ""soul"": should the potential donor have a choice of where his yield is to be put (washing machine, electric razor, etc.)? and there is the matter of the curious fallout from captured gasps -- masterpieces of art materializing out of nowhere, echoes of symphonies, visions, sound and color. . . Mathieu finally designs the ultimate destructive weapon (it appears later he knew what he was about) which he will detonate by fission of the gasp during which all spirit will return to dead matter. (Was this the way the world was created?) World leaders find themselves in a failsafe nightmare when Mathieu gives his invention to Albania (""a small country, small and nasty enough to help. . ."") and the race is on to call it all off. But the collective gasp is released finally in celestial harmony -- a vision of man's ""ultimate freedom."" Some rather stirring moralistic pith ("". . .there can be no such thing as 'limited dehumanization.' You can't limit it to the Nazis, to Stalin or to My Lai. . ."") farce, political satire and sf gadgetry -- but there's just too much of everything for more than a series of jolts, however bracing.
Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1972
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1972
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