Agustìn de Rojas, 240 pgs, Restless Books, restlessbooks.com, $15.99.
In his 1985 science-fiction novel, Cuban author Agustìn de Rojas evokes the political and existential anxieties of a mid-eighties communist nation on the skids.
The year is 2038, and space exploration has expanded to Saturn and beyond. These high-stakes exploits require the formation of “cosmogroups”: people matched and trained according to complex psycho-sociological algorithms. Planet Earth is divided between a socialist federation and a crumbling empire, whose power elite have abandoned the real world, escaping into virtual reality.
More closely at hand, however, the protagonists find themselves on a mission gone wrong, slowly dying and trying to salvage their damaged vessel for a return to Earth. The character Thondup suffers from space-madness while Gemma, a product of advanced psychological conditioning, attends to her paralyzed lover, Isanusi, the ship’s captain. She brings his very life and consciousness to new cybernetic extremes to save the ship while, in her spare time, she delves into memories of her previous space academy life. Years pass, and the ship, having returned to earth… sorry, but that would spoil a masterfully told storyline! The narrative is skillfully structured, one that describes and embodies the tediousness and dread of astronaut life in slow peril, eventually opening up into a rich back story of personal relations and introspection, and finally culminating into a suspenseful yet perhaps predictable climax.
As a first translation featuring only a few lines that may sound syntactically awkward, A Legend of the Future carries all what we love about science fiction: futuristic technology, the speculation of a future society, and the dilemmas that accompany these ideas. (Marc Tremblay)