Mysteries of Motion (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
Mysteries of Motion is a long, sweeping, ambitious novel. It explores, through the framework of a voyage into space, a wide range of human movement: from the first flutters of an unborn child, to the union of lovers, to the migration of cultures, to the settlement of extraterrestrial colonies. Hortense Calisher displays in this, her fifteenth book, a virtuoso hand at plotting and character development as well as remarkable research skills. She writes expertly of such varied subjects as space flight, Washington bureaucracy, Iranian domestic routines, and Cuba under Fidel Castro. Although her novel is not entirely successful, it has much of value and interest to say about contemporary society.
Set in the late 1990’s, the book focuses on seven characters, all passengers on a spaceship taking the first residents to the United State’s pioneer “habitat,” an island that is a two- or three-week journey from Earth. All seven are international travelers, citizens of the world, and each is drawn to the new possibilities in space to fill a different inner need. The book begins and ends with first-person narratives from Tom Gilpin, a journalist who is the publisher of an influential news magazine. It is he who has suggested, to the consternation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and military officials, that the first...
(The entire section is 2248 words.)
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