The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Traveler in Black, a novel formed from interconnected stories, concerns Mazda, a magician ordered to transform chaos into order. When his task is finished, the world, like Mazda, will have one nature, united with the totality of existence. The essence of Mazda’s power is the ability to grant people their expressed desires. His power confirms the adage, “Be careful for what you wish, you may receive it.”

In the first tale, “Imprint of Chaos,” Mazda travels to Ryovora, a city of highly rational people. He finds Ryovora gripped by chaos because its citizens wish for a god. Mazda grants their wish, sending Bernard Brown from contemporary England. Brown, a man of practical imagination, faces the animated idol of the Quadruple God, the horrifying deity of neighboring Acromel. Brown defeats the Quadruple God by erecting an even greater idol that frightens it away. As a result, Ryovora’s people see the power of reason and return to their sensible ways.

In the second story, “Break the Door of Hell,” chaos possesses the city of Ys because its aristocrats blame their ancestors for Ys’s declining trade and infrastructure. Instead of squarely facing the city’s difficulties, they wish to use magic to raise Ys’s dead founders to solve the problems. Mazda grants Ys’s aristocrats the power to raise the dead. Soon, thousands of deceased citizens flood Ys’s streets, stressing its limited resources and in some cases continuing interrupted careers of horror and violence. Thus, Ys’s aristocrats learn that magic produces nothing of value. Mazda returns the dead to their graves.

The third...

(The entire section is 671 words.)