The Wanderer Analysis
Fritz Leiber won more major awards in science fiction and fantasy than any other writer: six Hugos, three Nebulas, two World Fantasy awards, and the World Fantasy Life Award. The Wanderer, winner of a Hugo Award, illustrates well the talents that led to such popular acclaim.
It is apparent that Leiber cared for the human race rather than being concerned solely with gadgetry, like some other science-fiction writers. He focuses on the courage and resiliency of people under tremendous pressure, fighting for their lives and the lives of others. An African American is shown leading a small group, and an American confronts an alien with dignity and compassion. Even those who die are given their moment, as in the case of a Welsh poet who is perhaps too imaginative for his own good. People from both high and low stations in life are displayed, with the poor and outcast ones generally showing the most spunk. Many of the most important human fears and drives are on display, from death to sex. The novel includes a touching story of a human falling in love with an alien being who initially shows nothing but contempt for him.
In addition, Leiber manages to convey the sense of wonder that one expects from the best of science fiction. He demonstrates the immensity of the cosmos and the relative unimportance of the human race through alien comments about what is going on elsewhere. The reader learns very little about the Wanderer itself—how it was built, what the various devices in it are for, or what powers it has. Leiber thus keeps the aliens mysterious. Readers also do not learn much about hyperspace travel, the method used by the advanced civilizations to travel from place to place.
A third reason Leiber has succeeded to such an extent is his style. The son of Shakespearean...
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