The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

A poet of the post-World War II era, Edward Venn-Thomas, is called into the future by magicians of New Crete. New Crete is a harmonious, antimaterialistic, antitechnological society where women enjoy higher status than men and where the dominant forces are custom and the worship of the triune Goddess, who is Nymph, nurturing Mother, and withered Fate.

Questioned by New Cretans, Venn-Thomas criticizes the twentieth century for the hypocrisy and hectic pace of its scientifically and economically oriented society, as well as for the violence of the age. He is intrigued and at first attracted by New Crete’s alternative to twentieth century life. New Cretan society is divided into five estates or classes. The most numerous, the commoners, includes farmers and craftsmen. Other estates are servants, including priests and teachers; recorders; captains; and magicians—witches and poets serving as legislators and magistrates of sorts. People take their places in one estate or another according to their temperaments, and every village harmoniously incorporates members of all five estates. Occasionally disputes between villages give rise to “wars,” day-long contests similar to large games of capture-the-flag. The monarchy of this theocratic society is defined by rituals culminating in the human sacrifice of the king or his proxy.

As Venn-Thomas learns more, he is increasingly troubled by New Crete’s lack of true creativity and of what might be...

(The entire section is 459 words.)