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The Star-Rover, by Jack London

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Meanwhile Captain Jamie fretted his head off and prepared for the night, while Winwood passed the word along to the forty lifers to be ready for the break. And two hours after midnight every guard in the prison was under orders. This included the day-shift which should have been asleep. When two o’clock came, they rushed the cells occupied by the forty. The rush was simultaneous. The cells were opened at the same moment, and without exception the men named by Winwood were found out of their bunks, fully dressed, and crouching just inside their doors. Of course, this was verification absolute of all the fabric of lies that the poet-forger had spun for Captain Jamie. The forty lifers were caught in red-handed readiness for the break. What if they did unite, afterward, in averring that the break had been planned by Winwood? The Prison Board of Directors believed, to a man, that the forty lied in an effort to save themselves. The Board of Pardons likewise believed, for, ere three months were up, Cecil Winwood, forger and poet, most despicable of men, was pardoned out.
I am not sure that I had ever read any Jack London before, and picked this up many years ago under the impression that it was sf in some way. Well, it is; but it's a story of reincarnation rather than starships, with some social commentary along the way as well. The protagonist is a university professor, (justly) imprisoned for murder and awaiting execution, who discovers that when horribly constrained in solitary confinement, he is able to relive what are apparently his own past incarnations - all very manly white men (and one boy) who do manly things with other white men, often involving killing, and making love to beautiful women from foreign cultures. Within those constraints (!) I thought that both the prison passages and the reincarnations were very well imagined and described. One chapter is set in and around the Crucifixion without being too mawkish; another relives the Mountain Meadows Massacre from the viewpoint of one of the victims. It all hangs together moderately well - I see some complaining that the reincarnation passages are not integrated, but I think they are telling different parts of the same story.

This was the top unread book on my shelves acquired in 2010. Next on that list is The Palace of Dreams, by Ismail Kadaré.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
huskyteer
Jan. 2nd, 2017 09:47 pm (UTC)
I've mostly read the doggy ones, of course, but a colleague recently recommended The People of the Abyss, about London's East End, and I found it fascinating.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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