Ring Around the Sun Critical Essays

Clifford D. Simak


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In some ways, Ring Around the Sun recalls the novels of A. E. van Vogt. As in van Vogt’s Slan (1946), mentally advanced mutants are hunted and persecuted while other mutants unobtrusively achieve positions of power, and as in The World of Null-A (1948), a man has his identity incarnated in different bodies. Clifford D. Simak also echoes the argument of the latter novel that Aristotelian logic—Simak calls it “reason”—has outlived its usefulness and must be supplanted by a different thought process, in this case Vickers’ “hunches.” In a calm manner unlike that of van Vogt, Simak employs these motifs to project his own characteristic philosophy.

Simak abhors many aspects of technological civilization, including its hurried pace, crowdedness, anonymity, and propensity for war and violence. He does not abhor technology; rather, he believes that amazing scientific advances resembling magic might enable humanity to return to an earlier pastoral lifestyle, with some rough edges removed. Asa Andrews exemplifies Simak’s utopian vision. He generally lives the simple life of an American pioneer farmer, but if he gets sick, robots are waiting to treat him with scientific techniques. Simak thus combines the technophilia of Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888) and the technophobia of William Morris’ News from Nowhere (1890), endorsing futuristic science as a way to restore and improve...

(The entire section is 414 words.)