Past Master by R.A. Lafferty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It's 1967. Most SF is generally steeped in a light-adventure mythos. Some are more tech-heavy, but around this time, most are leaning toward sociological SF constructs. Let's face it -- those were the times.
But when we have a fish-out-of-the-water novel that includes the famous Thomas Moore, the writer of Utopia, being turned into a front-man for far-future utopians to fix their broken world, the novel only *appears* to fit in the standard SF mold.
I mean, it's not like SF novels haven't tackled utopias before. Nor have they ignored Thomas Moore's own SF *SATIRE* from back in King Henry VIII's time. It's almost like Thomas Moore's own character was being used as a reasonable foil for his own satirical vision, flip-flopping back and forth between Hope and Disgust.
And it is. But there is something else that goes on this book that kinda blew my mind. I can totally get that most people might not see or care about it, but this particular book turned the popular medium of satire SF into a treatise on MYSTERY RELIGIONS.
I honestly laughed out loud as I read point after point. Right below the surface of the adventure, Lafferty was laying out something rather fundamental and somewhat universal. Okay. So. What the F am I talking about?
Hey! All you fans of The Golden Bough, Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz: Digest, or The Secret Teachings of All Ages! Lafferty OUTLINES in his plots the basic foundations of these mystery religions!
Being familiar with them, myself, I really enjoyed the deeper mysteries within THIS ONE.
And that's kinda the whole idea isn't it?
Past Masters refers to actual PAST MASTERS. Giants of thought. And it's funny, too, when we consider the Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz, one of the original subversive literary ALCHEMICAL masterworks of the day, that it should feature under the surface of a completely transformed social society, only to be fixed (or turned into a Rosecrutian allegory) BY one of the great minds that dabbled IN alchemy back in the day!
But what, you ask, would an Average Joe get out of this book?
Probably a great deal, assuming you know it's a clear and easy blueprint for the Greater Mysteries and not simply a light, easy SF tale from the '60s.
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