Monday, September 8, 2008

"The Morphodite" by M. A. Foster

Luto Pternam's Mask Factory manufactures shock troops and assassins to maintain the static totalitarian society of Lisagor on the Planet Oerlikon. His latest "creation" is a conditioned assassin with two unique abilities. The morphodite can initiate Change, a biochemical process that leads to regeneration and sex change. And this morphodite has a symbolic societal calculus that allows it to identify the keystone member of a society, whose removal will instigate catastrophic change. Half believing in his creation, Pternam looses him on Lisagor society, thinking that the chaos he will cause will lead to personal advantage. The morphodite, kidnapped and brainwashed, does his calculations, identifies the keystone individual, and sets loose forces that lead to revolution.

This book is extremely well written. The society is quite plausible. Characters are well developed. The hero does the best he can in his situation, refusing to initiate further force once his situation allows for a semi-peaceful existence. The concentration on sociological themes and the care with linguistic realism is reminiscent of Frank Herbert. Simplistic ad hoc moral dilemmas are not employed, rather, the hero acts with regret when necessary, according to the logic of the situation. Justice, while often cold-blooded and delayed, is done in the end. The writing is often wry and the language is formal, but this lends an authentic atmosphere to the Byzantine culture, into which the author put a lot of thought. The hero could seek power or revenge, but in the end, refuses to "rule."

I first read this book at 13 when it was published. Foster wrote two more books, which I have not read. They are reviewed under this title on Amazon. I have reread most of the fiction I have enjoyed over the years many times. I am happy to add this title to the list of books worth such attention.


Anonymous said...

Just to let you know. The title on the book cover says "The Transformer" and is the book you describe in your Blog post. I agree with your critique of the book.
But there was a sequel called "The Morphodite".
With the underpinings of a completely crafted up world society tearing itself apart, The world is finally visited by a space liner that offers anyone safe passage off planet. Unfortunately the Galactic government that was able to hide it's existence from the overt government, sent two agents to investigate the ruin of their test world. The plot is as engaging as the first one. I recommend reading it.

Ted Keer said...

Thanks for your comment. Actually, the cover picture I used is for the trilogy in one book (read the subtitle) while the first book published alone was called Morphodite. (I couldn't find a suitable image for it.) Reminds me I should get back to the other novels. Thanks!