Author: Brian Stableford
First Publication: 1975, reprinted 2014
Publisher: Open Road Media
The 2015 Sci-Fi Experience
Harker Lee is known as a prisoner, a survivor, and insane. These traits combine to make him the perfect candidate to pilot a faster-than-light ship. All of the previous sane pilots either did not return, returned dead or deranged. By taking a person who knows how to survive while insane, humanity might be able to leave the cage that is the Earth and spread to the stars.
“In the beginning, you create the heaven and the earth. That’s the first thing you do, every time-build cages. And the second thing you do is to pin the labels on.” (from the beginning of “Man in a Cage”).
Stableford’s own words best sum up the idea behind this novel. Harker Lee is the schizophrenic narrator of this psychological tale. While it is short by today’s standards, it is not a quick read. The basic idea falls in the same sub-genre as some other classics of that time. I group it with “Mindship” by Gerard F. Conway, “Beyond Apollo” by Barry Malzberg, “The Black Corridor” by Michael Moorcock, “Tetrasomy Two” by Oscar Rossiter, and many of Philip K. Dick’s surreal works.
The author does an excellent job of handling the characterization of someone who is “not normal”. One of the best things that comes out of well written science fiction is the ability to let us see what it would be like to be different. Stableford’s stories continue to show that he is a very good writer who has been overlooked. I would like to get back to reading more of his work in the upcoming year.
The first works of his that I read were two short stories, “Captain Fagan Died Alone” and “An Offer of Oblivion”. Both impressed me with “An Offer of Oblivion” being my favorite. Both are worth looking up and reading if you can find them.
Highly recommended for fans of psychological fiction.