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Fun Novel – Edge of Time – Donald A. Wollheim, 1958 - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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March 25th, 2018

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03:03 am - Fun Novel – Edge of Time – Donald A. Wollheim, 1958
I read a fascinating short novel yesterday – Edge of Time by Donald A. Wollheim (writing as David Grinnell), written in 1958. I primarily know Wollheim as the founder of the SF&F press DAW Books (named after himself) and a YA novel I read when I was maybe 8 or 9 - The Secret of the Ninth Planet (1959).

Without giving anything away (because it’s surprisingly worth reading) – most of the novel consists of late 1950s humans observing the development of various humanoid intelligent species in a different galaxy, and doing so on what amounts of fast forward, so over (rather lengthy) observation is a few centuries after the last. One such observation involves watching the first journey a species makes to their moon. You have a description of what sounds a lot like the Overview effect, astronauts from two very different rival powers working together for mutual survival, leading to a lasting peace between the two rivals.

Later on, there’s a wealth of interstellar travel, but all of it, relativistic. Nevertheless, the various species eventually create a peaceful and lasting galactic confederation, based largely on instantaneous communication which honestly sounds a lot like quantum entanglement. There are also mentions that all these species seem to survive their eras of national rivalry, unify into humane and peaceful states, expand out into the galaxy, and then (mostly) peacefully encounter other species, and eventually create a peaceful union of worlds, with comments from the humans that given how widespread this seems, they expect the same will happen on Earth.

Then, there’s the fact that which there’s only one female character among the humans (out of what in practice amounts to half a dozen characters – there are a few others, but they play little part in events), but she plays an impressively crucial role, is extremely active and smart, and the (male) protagonist delivers a very brief lecture on what we’d call toxic masculinity to a man there who get jealous of her attentions to someone else, despite her lack of interest in him.

There’s no deathless prose here, it’s only 140 pages long, and while the female character is well better than expected, don’t expect anything like modern attitudes about gender equality. However, it’s a fun, fast read that’s surprisingly humane and optimistic and is again making me think about how a SF RPG setting with instant communication and relativistic travel might work.

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