Saturday, March 01, 2014

Edmund Cooper. Transit (1964)

     Edmund Cooper. Transit (1964) A nicely conceived variation on the cast-away motif: Richard Avery finds himself transported to an alien place, along with three others, who like him are failures. There’s Tom, a public school man who is incapable of a human relationship; Mary, a clerk who thinks of herself as plain and plainly useless; and Barbara, a TV personality who has retreated behind a mask of glamour. Richard himself still grieves over the death of Christine many years before. He’s hardly able to decide to get up and perform the chores needed to enable him to do his job as an best accidentally competent teacher. These four must not only mature and become the people they were meant to be, they must also compete against four other humanoid beings who have been placed on the same island as themselves. Why? Because the immortal beings who placed them there want to know which of the two races should be nurtured as their heirs in the business of guarding and guiding this sector of the galaxy. The humans win, of course, but just barely.
     Cooper’s conception is better than his skill in conveying it. He’s a writer who tells rather than shows. What he mostly lacks is the ability to do much more than sketch his characters, but the sketches are convincing enough that we care for them, and are pleased when they reveal themselves capable of change and growth. They must all find that they are not only capable of loving but deserve to be loved. They must learn how to forge a community. And of course when the test comes, they must be willing to risk death in order to save their community from destruction by the competitors. **½ (2012)

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