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Dark Universe Analysis

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

This paperback original employs a theme that would dominate Galouye’s work: distorted perceptions of reality. In this case, without ever stating it overtly and keeping entirely to the point of view of his protagonist, Galouye is able to establish his nonvisual setting within the first two pages and show how Jared and other characters have adapted to it. He tells nearly the entire story without resorting to the visual sense—no small feat—but never loses the reader.

Nuclear war was a concept familiar to science-fiction readers even before the first atomic weapons were used in 1945, to the extent that editor H. L. Gold announced in the January, 1952, issue of Galaxy that he would no longer buy “atomic doom” stories for his magazine. Such stories continued to be written, though, some of the best known being Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960), Mordecai Roshwald’s Level 7 (1959), and Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon (1959), all showing the aftermath of nuclear destruction. Neville Shute’s On the Beach (1957; filmed in 1959) familiarized the general public as well.

It becomes obvious to most readers how Jared’s people came to be in their situation, especially when Strontium and Cobalt are deified as demons, Radiation is described as a kind of hell, and Hydrogen is named as the devil. One religious tenet holds that the presence of Light Almighty in Paradise made it possible for people to know what lay ahead without smelling or hearing it. Jared is accused of being blasphemous when he suggests that there may be natural explanations for these concepts and that Light is something attainable in this life.

It is fascinating to follow Jared’s reasoning as he presses his inquiries, especially considering that most readers already know the answers. One breakthrough comes when he finds that the “roaring silence” that emanates from the monsters, which is how the survivors perceive their lights, is cut off when he closes his eyes and that it is not coming through his ears after all.

The book also includes the science-fictional concepts of extrasensory powers (one of the survivors has developed telepathy), genetic mutations from radiation (sou-bats are giant and marauding descendants of cave bats), and immortality...

(The entire section is 557 words.)