Bizarre attempt to simultaneously criticize, explicate and science fictionalize the odd, minor Jules Verne fantasy whose English title is usually given as Off on a Comet (1877).
In response to a summons, immature late 30-something Hector Servadac arrives in California and drives out to the desert ranch where his father, Hector Senior, has holed up with a flock of believers, apparently convinced that the world is about to end. Senior, Junior understands, has had a series of visions about an extraterrestrial object striking the Earth. During the night, an earthquake rattles the ranch; in the morning, thick fog prevails. Strangely, daylight lasts only three hours, followed by two hours of night, followed again by daylight. Senior explains that the object has smashed the Earth and stuck to the fragment they’re standing on. This section is narrated in the past tense. Junior doesn’t buy a word of it but finds himself physically unable to leave the ranch. He falls desperately in love with a Bulgarian woman, Dimmi, and is gnawed by jealousy when he finds out she’s sleeping with his father. Most of the survivors experience intensely personal visions; Junior’s involve past relationships with women and his parents. It begins to rain. A weird mossy growth covers the desert. Senior babbles about intelligence; others speculate that the moss is a manifestation of the object growing through and absorbing the fragment it has broken from the parent planet. This section is narrated in the present tense. Finally, as the fragment whirls away into space, Senior disappears, to be absorbed by the alien moss, and Junior experiences the future—narrated in the future tense—as a single, all-encompassing vision.
Dazzling revelation or self-indulgent folly? We report; you decide.