THE CHAIN OF CHANCE by Louis Iribarne


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As you might guess, this "novel of suspense" from Europe's favorite deep-think science-fictioner is rather light on the suspense, rather heavy on the philosophical implications. True, the first 50 pages or so do generate some tension--since we haven't the slightest idea what's going on, as the narrator, an American ex-astronaut, drives from Naples to Rome, wearing electrodes on his chest, apparently going through some sort of predetermined schedule, and then (not on the schedule) trying to foil a terrorist bombing at the super-secure, super-modern Rome airport. In Paris, however, where the narrator consults computer scientist Philippe Barth, all is explained: a series of mysterious disappearances, psychotic attacks, and deaths have Occurred around Naples (mostly to American tourists), and the narrator-detective has been recreating the route and the actions of the most recent victim--a decoy "simulation mission." Since this mission has failed to smoke out the evil forces, the detective has come to his last resort: Dr. Barth and his crew of logicians. They study all the case histories (including some similar deaths which pop up in Paris), and the culprit is deduced to be. . . Chance. "There's no such thing as a mysterious event. It all depends on the magnitude of the set. . . . The victims were the result of random causality. Out of the realm of infinite possibilities. . . you chose a certain fraction of cases that exhibited a multifactorial similarity." Obviously not for most fans of the suspense genre; Lem is just playing, seriously, with the form, and the result is tightly moody in that only half-translatable continental manner, alternately witty and scary and ponderous.
Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1978
ISBN: 0810117304
Page count: 190pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1978


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