Sunday, 31 March 2013


James Blish's The Star Dwellers (London, 1979) is narrated entirely from the point of view (POV) of its central character, Jack Loftus, - except that the (omniscient?) narrator does wade in when necessary.

Inside the Coal Sack Nebula, concealed from any external observers, is a new star cluster inhabited by many of the energy beings that Earthmen call "Angels." We are told that:

"The central temple of this great cluster was as alive as the Angels were, and in the same kind of way. Jack could not have defended his knowledge of that for an instant against a sceptic, but he knew it was so. He could see it. Anyone could see it!" (p. 87)

The first sentence here states, as if this were an objective fact, that the central part of the cluster was alive. However, the second sentence, beginning "Jack..." shows that the perception of life is Jack's. Thus, it does not quite have the status of a definite fact imparted by an omniscient narrator. Nevertheless, usually, when a fictitious text informs us that its POV character knew x, we understand that we are to accept that x is true, within the fictitious scenario of course, even if we are also told that he "...could not have defended his knowledge..."

Surprisingly, in the first sentence of the following paragraph, the narrator not only does come center stage but even contradicts Jack's perception:

"But about this he was wrong. He never saw that central temple, if it exists; nor has anyone else seen it since. It may be alive, as Jack thought; or it may not. Howard Langer may have come a little closer to it, but if he did, he saw less of it than Jack did. The Angels guarded their mysterious heaven very closely, then as now; and the First Cause remains unplumbed." (pp. 87-88)

"" refers to some later date at which the narrator tells us of these historic events. So maybe this narrator is not omniscient, just better informed than the viewpoint character? After all, he does seem not to know whether the central temple is alive. What was Jack wrong about? His certainty that anyone could see that it was alive. A mystery remains...

The sequel, Mission To The Heart Stars, closes with an Angelic dramatic dialogue that is not witnessed by any human being. Since it is in dramatic form (characters' names capitalized followed by colons, then speech), it does not present the POV of any one of the speakers. We are then told that neither Jack nor even his great-great-grandchildren ever heard any of it so we seem to have gone far beyond the range even of the narrator who said, "...then as now...," in The Star Dwellers.

No comments:

Post a Comment