cover image The White Abacus

The White Abacus

Damien Broderick / Author Avon Books $12.5 (342p) ISBN 978-0-3

Telmah's father, Orwen, has mysteriously died, and Orwen's younger brother, Lord Feng, has married Telmah's widowed mother, Gerutha. Moreover, Telmah suspects his uncle of having murdered his father. Sound familiar? It should, and if it doesn't, consider the anagrammatical possibilities of Telmah's name. This Shakespearean tour de force by Broderick (Striped Holes and The Black Grail) is a tale that challenges and provokes by liberally mixing quantum mechanics, literary patterning and psychological mapping. (The book is dedicated to Samuel R. Delaney, a pioneer in the yoking of science fiction to poststructural thought.) Though this is Telmah's tale, there are actually two narratives operating in Broderick's story. One concerns the Hamlet-inspired shenanigans that shape Telmah's abrupt departure from Earth (where he has been a student) to confront his uncle, who has usurped the Directorship of their homeworld. Another focuses on Telmah's evolving friendship with Ratio, a more-than-android-like being whose destiny is to assist Telmah in the discovery of his space- and time-bending abilities. The two, however, are linked by the story's implicit theorizing of its own possibilities. Broderick's virtuoso handling of his material crisscrosses his own textual universe, establishing links where none might have been seen before. The result is a tumultuous, often challenging, roller-coaster ride of a story that rises and plunges with astrophysical wonders, literary puzzles and psychological insights. (Mar.)