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Black Prism

Novel by David Lippincott 1980.

The Black Prism is the black hole around Omikron Blue, 651 light years away from Earth, 'discovered' by Chad Lefferts, newly posted to Yale as an assistant professor in theoretical physics, and the cause of his many problems. For instance, Lefferts has been suffering from recurring nightmares about two people who seem to be fighting for control of his life, embodied in the two interlocking spheres of influence circling the black hole. One is Marcus Flavius, cohort leader of the famed Xth Roman Legion, a man crucified for his Christian beliefs. The other is Elua of Schrobenhausen, 'The Mad Abbess' of Augsburg, a evil and sadistic woman whose chief pleasures in life seem to be castrating choirboys and mutilating novice nuns on the pretext that they think about the sins of the flesh. Lefferts is undergoing psychiatric treatment, and is releasing under hypnosis stark evidence that he is a reincarnation of both.

This is an intriguing novel, unafraid to try something new. Lippincott combines historical and scientific detail, from the geography of ancient Rome to the techniques of giving a spinal tap. This, together with his believable characterisations (especially of Chad's wife, Lisa and Dr Nils Lee, one of his 'psychiatrists') makes a fascinating background to a particularly original reincarnation story. The antiquity of many of the settings, including the weird abbey, walled up behind the Lefferts' home, doesn't clash with the more modern slasher sequences, though the ripping open of a novice by the Mad Abbess is indeed set in the 14th century. The author seems to have researched his subjects excellently, and may well have personal experience of Yale, hinted at in the remarkably anecdotal description of the 'Old Blues'. The only down point to the book is the way some of its props have become obsolete. Many old books (and books set in the past) feel old, and that often adds to their charm; here, where the book is set in the modern day and where 'computers' with 'printers' are referred to as 'computer terminals' with 'print-out devices' and everything runs on reel-to-reel tape, it detracts somewhat from that feel. But that's a minor complaint, and it in no way should stop you from devouring this decent and original work.


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