The Wild Boy Reviews

August 13, 2001 1-930846-04-5

This literary first novel from Rochelle, who’s published short fiction and poetry in Aboriginal Science Fiction and other genre journals, updates a classic SF plot: aliens conquer Earth because they have a usefor humans. On their home planet, the Lindauzi require a symbiotic emotional relationship with the intelligent, dog-like Iani to remain sane and sapient. When the Iani all die in a plague, the Lindauzi invade Earth in the hope of breeding humans as acceptable substitutes. Ilox, a human bred to be a companion, forms a bond with Phlarx, but it is not complete enough to prevent Ilox from also bonding with other humans, i.e., women. When his Lindauzi masters discover this flaw, Ilox must fend for himself. Within a comparatively short compass, the author skillfully and effectively uses multiple viewpoints, including those of Ilox, Caleb (the son of Ilox by a “wild” woman), Phlarx and various other Lindauzi. Some may find the premise hard to swallow, but once past the initial suspension of disbelief, most readers will find the story absorbing. Those seeking contemporary significance in the animal-rights subtext will be disappointed, since Rochelle has produced what amounts to a solid alien-invasion novel of the sort not common in SF since the 1950s and ’60s. He deserves kudos for not bloating his narrative to limits beyond what the plot and characters can support. (Sept.) FYI: Rochelle is the author of Communities of the Heart: The Rhetoric Myth in the Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

July 15, 2001 1-930846-04-5

Touching first novel, containing occasional gruesome violence, about a race of genetically modified, technologically advanced, extraterrestrial canines whose survival requires they domesticate a primate species. For reasons unknown, the highly intelligent Lindauzi are seeing their genetic enhancements fade. Many, fearing the hopeless savagery of their canine past, commit suicide. Prince Corviax believes that an empathic relationship with another species might stop the reversion. On Earth, they unleash a plague that wipes out all but a few “wild” humans, and occupy the northern cities (they like the cold). A few captured human beings become subjects of a multigenerational enhancement program. The remaining ones are exterminated by the Lindauzi’s horrifying servant race of lizard hunters. The Wild Boy begins 150 years after the Lindauzi conquest, with wild boy Caleb. His village destroyed in a Lindauzi raid that kills his brother, Caleb begins a quest to find their father, Ilox. After escaping Lindauzi kennels, Ilox had mated with Caleb’s mother and then vanished mysteriously. Rochelle contrasts Caleb’s quest with ironic flashbacks of Ilox’s awkward, but ultimately loving, bond with a Lindauzi prince, Phlarx, who eventually commands the breeding program. In switching the roles between pets and masters, Rochelle makes an effective, albeit frequently heavy-handed, statement about the joy and sorrow man shares with animals, and his responsibility to them.

Rochelle, Warren. The Wild Boy. Sept. 2001. 260p. Golden Gryphon, $22.95 (1930846-04-5).

 

In Rochelle’s wonderfully moving variation on the classic theme of Earth’s subjugation by aliens, the conquerors just want to bond with us. The sophisticated, space-faring Lindauzi have depended on their powerful emotional linkage to their companion race, the simian Iani. But the Iani have all died of a terrible plague. After many Lindauzi suicides, Crown Prince Corviax determines to find a replacement species. Eventually, he discovers humanity. Regretfully, he begins culling to eliminate humans’ technology, advanced culture, and emotional ties to one another. Finally, people live either as the Lindauzi’s pets and servants or as tattered “wolves” in abandoned towns and forests. The long-lived Lindauzi continue breeding humans and improving their empathic capability, until Corviax’s son discovers one with the true bonding talent. But that human, Ilox, flees, falls in love outside, and creates a family. Years later, when he is stolen from the human community, his 11-year-old son, Caleb, starts “hearing” the Lindauzi in his head and enduring a fierce struggle between longing to join them and rescuing his father.

—Roberta Johnson, Booklist, August 1, 2001

 

“Warren Rochelle’s The Wild Boy is the most engrossing SF debut I’ve read in the past few years. While in no sense a retro homage, it updates the virtues of vintage Andre Norton and Edgar Pangborn with passion, humanity, and a millennial sensibility.”

—Ian McDowell, author of Mordred’s Curse and Merlin’s Gift

 

 

The Wild Boy is an exciting and thoughtful novel, told in a suspenseful manner and an engaging style. It explores the theme of the relationships between humans and aliens when the aliens are the “superior” species. Warren Rochelle tells this grand story with grace and panache. I admired and enjoyed every word of it.

–Fred Chappell, author of More Shapes Than One and I Am One of You Forever.

The Wild Boy by Warren Rochelle (Golden Gryphon Press, $22.95, 260 pages, hardcover; published September 2001.

This book–strange, subtle, sentimental–is the first novel published by Golden Gryphon Press, and comes from a new writer best known for his academic criticism. So there is risk here: an editor who knows his collections may not know his novels, and the most perspicacious critic may bodge utterly the transition from theory to practice. It is thus pleasant to report that the editor has chosen well, and that the author writes fine prose, characterises passing well, and translates his anthropological insight into a gripping narrative of cultural crisis and individual estrangement. There never was an alien invasion quite like the one in The Wild Boy, and it signifies much about humans and the animals they remake to their convenience, if not in their own image… It’s not clear exactly when Warren Rochelle wrote The Wild Boy; perhaps long years passed while it traversed the more conservative quarters of the literary market. So the novel’s depiction of a plague-devastated 1990s and alien-manipulated turn-of-the-millennium may have been safe future history when put to paper, or instead an unfolding uchronia; but this affects only the tale’s finer degrees of irony. Not at all tentative is the novel’s central holocaust: the alien Lindauzi conquer the Earth, initially by guile (plague and propaganda) and then brute force (enslavement and pogroms). They are physically intimidating predators with hugely advanced technology; they have vaguely Classical names and obey absolutely their Emperor, their Crown Prince, and subordinate panjandra; they are a grim grandiose distillation of the Assyrians, the Romans, the Mongols, the Conquistadores, and the Nazis, and behave with apposite arrogance. Nothing novel there; but Rochelle imparts an unsettling spin: however uncouthly genocidal their methods, the Lindauzi have acted entirely out of love: love lost, and then love unrequited. Basically, the Lindauzi are loyal pets, dogs by best analogy. On their home world, they had masters, the anthropoid Iani, who performed Uplift, bestowing full intelligence on a species they had first merely domesticated. There followed a partnership, a high symbiosis; but a pandemic abruptly annihilated the Iani, and the Lindauzi, surviving but dogged in their loyalty, are now at risk of pining away. Love lost; but perhaps it can be regained. So the Lindauzi come to Earth, hoping that humans can replace the Iani, restore their sacred dependency. But now we are to be the dogs, the Lindauzi the breeders, the overseers, the owners. Humanity is soon divided between lineages bred by the aliens for utility or beauty and tribes of “wolves”, skulkers, outlaws, consigned to the wilderness and hunted for sport. The price of continued existence for the human race is that they love their oppressors, but this love is fugitive, and the terrifying affection of the Lindauzi is not easily requited. A great and affecting sadness is generated by this dilemma. The Lindauzi know only possessive love, exclusive, consuming. Their jealousy is their tragic flaw; they demand a devotion that is too much to expect, yet without which they cannot live. Rochelle dexterously explores this cultural neurosis through two media of counterpoint. First, there is the contrast of a more balanced human love, that of the slave Ilox for his family, and especially for his son, Caleb. And then–the dichotomy around which the entire novel is structured–there is the pairing of disengagement and engagement: Ilox is born into captivity and moves painfully out of it, while his son, born a wild human, just as traumatically enters slavery. A tame boy becomes wild; a wild boy becomes tame–but no. Caleb cannot become what his father was, no more than his father could remain that way. And in the face of this obduracy whole worlds totter. Rochelle’s analysis of different species of love–of the forms love takes within and between species–has a lot to say about how humanity loves, how that love evolves into shared emotional wealth, or, just as easily, into hatred and all the captivities hatred brings. Further, the accelerating horror of The Wild Boy imparts the dreadful truth that even a genuine mutuality in love may not be a safeguard against the tragic sterility that brings tears to the eye but that fertilises no ground. And so The Wild Boy is a sad novel, Dickensianly sad, tugging the heartstrings with some of the rhapsodic lachrymosity that felled Little Nell. This is a danger in a first novel: an amateur’s passion may corrode the entire enterprise. But not here: Rochelle’s sentimentality is sufficiently in check, even if the amateur does at times show through, as in the gratuitous and contrived “Interchapter Four”.

Warren Rochelle has put his academic understanding to unusually fruitful use in The Wild Boy, in a rich and turbulent study of emotional extremism. His literary craft recalls Le Guin, his emotional force Poul Anderson; but his searing insight into cultural dysfunction is very much his own. (Order from: Golden Gryphon Press, 3002 Perkins Road, Urbana, IL 61802, USA, or visit www.goldengryphon.com)

Review by Nick Gevers., Infinity plus

 

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