Quicksand, John Brunner (1967)

November 16th, 2009

I read that John Brunner, besides being a well known name in Science Fiction, often had trouble getting his novels published. The reason for this could be that in a genre that is geared towards a twelve year old soul, Brunner wrote for adults. Quicksand is an example of a Science Fiction story written without very much science and fiction which is too personal and too real. It was written for adults, but mature souls don’t read much Science Fiction.

The plot of Quicksand is about a psychiatrist working in an insane asylum who rescues a naked woman found wandering in the woods. It is obvious from the beginning to readers of SF that the woman is a traveler from another world, time or dimension, but that is not really important to the plot. The woman, called Urchin, is just a catalyst to the internal conflicts of the psychiatrist.

The book is largely concerned with Paul the psychiatrist, and his failed marriage and low self esteem. The lost visitor is committed to his care because she cannot speak English and has no cultural experiences that allow her to cope with the world she has been dropped into. He sees in her an echo of his own confused state where he feels that he is a stranger and does not belong.

The plot slowly brings Urchin and Paul together until they flee together to France where the inevitable happens.

My chief problem with the book is that I didn’t like any of the characters. I did not care if the psychiatrist was badly unbalanced and I did not really like the character of the traveler Urchin. At the end, my reaction was that it’s about time we finished this up so I can read another book.

This is an earlier book of Brunner’s and perhaps he was still experimenting with newer forms, and this explains why the book is a failure. It is very much like the book Echo X by Ben Barzman which was much better. Quicksand seems more like a mainstream book with a minor sciencefictional element, but where Barzman maintained the SF requirement of a "sense of wonder", Brunner seems to have wandered off into a self indulgent quagmire of motives and ideas.

 

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