Past Master (novel)
Cover of first edition paperback
|Author||R. A. Lafferty|
|Illustrator||Leo and Diane Dillon|
|Genre||Variously described as science fiction, or dramatic fantasy|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
|Pages||191 pp (first edition, paperback)|
Past Master is a novel by science fiction writer R. A. Lafferty. It was first published in 1968, and was nominated for the 1968 Nebula award (Rite of Passage won) and the 1969 Hugo award (Stand on Zanzibar won). It is generally categorized as part of the New Wave of science fiction.
Past Master is set in the year 2535 on the world of Astrobe, a utopian Earth colony that is hailed as Golden Astrobe, "mankind's third chance" after the decline of both the Old World and New World on Earth. Despite idealistic intentions, it is suffering moral and social decline that may be terminal for both Astrobe and the human race.
In an attempt to save their dying civilization, its leaders use time travel to fetch Sir Thomas More (chosen for his fine legal and moral sense) from shortly before his death in the year 1535 to be the president of Astrobe. More struggles with whether to approve of the Astrobian society, noting its possible connections to his own novel Utopia. His judgements soon lead him into conflict both with destructive cosmic forces on Astrobe and with its leaders who thought him a mere figurehead who could be manipulated.
R. D. Mullen commented that "The prose style is Besterian and page by page a joy to read, but the narrative technique is Vanvogtian not only in being pyrotechnic but also in being indifferent to causal consistency, and this is perhaps not the best technique for the theme. Judith Merril praised Past Master as "a complex, subtle, colorful, and highly sophisticated book", saying that "Lafferty magics me with humor, anger, and love, and with unpredictable corner-of-the-eye perspectives and perceptions, but above all, I suspect, with his word-music." P. Schuyler Miller declared the novel showed Lafferty "writing like the heir to 'Cordwainer Smith', yet always completely himself -- more macabre, more cryptic, with more of the humor of the incongruous [that] Samuel R. Delany calls 'ultraviolet' on the cover." Alexei Panshin found Past Master "an eccentric, idiosyncratic minor masterpiece", saying "it has all of Lafferty's usual color and pyramiding of manic invention" as well as offering "easily the most real immediate problem of spiritual agony yet seen in science fiction".
- Lafferty, R.A. (1968) . Past Master (First ed.). New York, USA: Ace Books. p. 191 pages. OCLC: 10835111.
- Lafferty, R.A. (1968) . Past Master. New York, USA: Ace Books. p. 248 pages. OCLC: 3838861.
- Lafferty, R.A. (1968). Past Master (paperback) (Reprint of Ace edition as part of The Garland library of science fiction ed.). New York, USA: Garland Pub. p. 191 pages. ISBN 0-8240-1421-9. OCLC 1693870.
- Lafferty, R.A. (1968) . Past Master (SOFTCOVER) (Reprint of first Ace Books? ed.). London, England: Rapp & Whiting. p. 191 pages. OCLC: 17697.
- Lafferty, R.A. (1970) . Past Master. London, England: Science Fiction Book Club. p. 191 pages. OCLC: 2014876.
- Lafferty, R.A. (1981) . Astrobe, der goldene planet (paperback) (in German) (Deutsche erstausgabe ed.). München; Zürich: Droemer Knaur. p. 207 pages. OCLC: 70117779.
- Lafferty, R.A. (1982) . Past Master (SOFTCOVER) (Ace reprint ed.). New York, USA: Ace Books. p. 248 pages. ISBN 0-441-65303-0. OCLC 8713622.
- Lafferty, R.A. (1993) . Tomasu Moa no daiboken: pasuto masuta (paperback) (in Japanese). Inoue, Hiroshi,; 1954- (translator) (Shohan; part of the Seishinsha bunko series ed.). Tokyo: Seishinsha. p. 379 pages. ISBN 4-87892-030-0. OCLC 50672738.
- Lafferty, R.A. (1999) . Past Master (Wildside reprint ed.). Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, USA: Wildside Press. p. 248 pages. ISBN 1-880448-99-8.