Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Chaos Weapon by Colin Kapp

I was intrigued by The Patterns of Chaos (reviewed here in June this year) and having discovered that there was another novel set in the same universe I located a copy. The Chaos Weapon, first published in 1977, is set at some indeterminate later time than Patterns, and features an entirely different cast of characters; the only link between the two novels is the concept of studying Chaos Patterns. To copy from my previous review:

This works by analysing the consequences of significant events and how they interact with each other. The analogy given is with the ripples that spread out from any disturbance in a pond. In principle, the pattern of ripples can be analysed and tracked back to identify the precise location, size and time of every event that created them – and projected forwards to determine how they will look in the future. So far so good, but the Patterns of Chaos also spread across time in that they are affected by events which have not yet happened. This enables Chaos analysts to predict future events, although the exact nature of such events may not be clear.

It is the far future and humanity has been successfully defending its section of the galaxy against hostile alien cultures when it becomes apparent that it is under a new form of attack. Its most important and influential people are being systematically killed off by what appear to be natural catastrophes. Investigation reveals that the circumstances that lead to the catastrophes are being altered through manipulated of the Chaos Patterns, causing (for example) an event to be delayed until it could hit the target individual. Someone had devised a Chaos Weapon.

In search of a response to this, Space Marshal Jym Wildheit – a galactic troubleshooter – travels to the distant planet Mayo. This had been colonised long before by human Sensitives, people with a variety of paranormal abilities, who had closed off their world from the rest of humanity. It had been reported that the Sensitives included a Chaos Seer; someone with the ability to see the Patterns of Chaos directly rather than waiting days for the results of a computer analysis. Wildheit believes that this ability would give humanity the necessary edge to track down and destroy the weapon, so tries to persuade the Sensitives to agree to their Seer joining the search.

What follows comes under the category of what has been described as "Widescreen Baroque" SF: it includes parallel universes, one of which is collapsing and dying, vast alien starship fleets, multi-dimensional gods symbiotically paired with humans, a novel explanation for the origin of humanity, and much devious double-dealing, with one unexpected twist after another. Kapp was not a literary stylist but was certainly a story-teller and, like his earlier novel, The Chaos Weapon is a real page-turner which I finished in two sessions. Recommended.


dlw said...

Yep, Kapp threw in all sorts of advanced physics and tech stuff. But in all that were the gods... used as an instantaneous communications system, powered by belief. We're told almost nothing about them, unlike the background technologies used in the plot, some of which are fleshed out in detail.

So, you have what Charles Stross might call "weakly godlike entities" inhabiting multiple universes or dimensions. Presumably, given what they're used for, they can't or won't manipulate the world to the point of making miracles... so in exchange for an anchor into this universe, they're willing to act as living satphones...

I've never been able to figure if they were just a throwaway tossed in for some wowzers, or if there might have been some further explanation that was clipped out to make a specific book length.

Anthony G Williams said...

Yes, the gods were rather an oddity in that story. Perhaps it might have been better to describe them as aliens with an interest in linking with humanity. The word "god" carries lots of baggage!