The Unreasoning Mask

Philip Josť Farmer
The Unreasoning Mask Cover

The Unreasoning Mask


Philip José Farmer, one of the Grand Masters of Science Fiction, published this compelling novel in 1981. I would argue that of Farmer's stand- alone novels, this is one of his best. Of course, I'm not alone in asserting this. Writer and critic David Pringle included The Unreasoning Mask in his book, Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels, and Science Fiction author Ian Watson called it "a masterpiece, Farmer's finest."

This novel might be viewed as a variation on the plot of Star Trek's "The Doomsday Machine" or "The Immunity Syndrome"; but it's so much more than that, with its metaphysical themes and implications, as well as its well-conceived descriptions of alien cultures and psychological examination of human motivations.

Captain Ramstan commands a rare alaraf drive starship which allows it to jump instantaneously to distant regions of space. Just as Ramstan sets off an interstellar incident by stealing the idol-deity of an alien world (called the glyfa), he is alerted that another alaraf ship has disappeared, a victim of a world-killer called a "bolg." What is the mysterious connection between the glyfa and the bolg, and why does Ramstan begin to have waking visions of a mystical being from his long renounced Muslim faith? Ramstan, chased by the aliens who worship the purloined god, races across the pluriverse to find the answers.

The Unreasoning Mask is a gripping, captivatingly disturbing book. Even at his most fantastic, Farmer manages to entrance the reader with a compelling degree of realism, in particular with his depiction of human nature, which in his oeuvre seems to be both good and evil. Be sure to read this darkly riveting book.