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The Void Captain's Tale

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  317 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
In the Second Starfaring Age, humans travel the universe via a technology they barely understand, propelled by a space drive consisting of mysteriously complex mechanisms and, symbiotically linked to it, a living woman, the Void Pilot. Pilots are rare, and the ability to be a Pilot also entails physical wasting and a shortened life.

But Pilots live only for the timeless mom
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 20th 2001 by Tom Doherty Associates (first published 1982)
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Dune by Frank HerbertFahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyThe Martian Chronicles by Ray BradburyThe Foundation Trilogy by Isaac AsimovRendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
Golden Age & New Wave SF
110th out of 227 books — 239 voters
Starhammer by Christopher RowleyMetropolitan by Walter Jon WilliamsThe Vang by Christopher RowleyA Gift Upon the Shore by M.K. WrenPolice Your Planet by Lester del Rey
Less Popular Science-fictions
60th out of 90 books — 6 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 630)
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Elf M.
Oct 30, 2011 Elf M. rated it really liked it
In contrast to the recently-reviewed Charles Runyon's "Deeply Sicko SF" (as determined by the readers of rec.arts.sf.written) about which I blogged the other day, Norman Spinrad is simply a writer's writer, and his book, The Void-Captain's Tale is a masterpiece. His characters have individual, powerful voices, and one can literally feel the number of re-writes Spinrad went through to make sure everyone in his books is unique and special. His cultures are dense, and with just a few special touche ...more
Jeremy Leipert
Although the book contains much quotable and interesting material, it ultimately fails in a way almost uniquely reserved for science fiction: The artificiality of its construction leaves it bereft of humanity. The book blends Japanese, French, Spanish, and German phrases into the English of its projected future; this conceit is never as interesting in practice as in idea, and wears heavily on the reader only one quarter into the text. The projected culture of the book is permeated by free and op ...more
Jason Arnett
Jul 12, 2013 Jason Arnett rated it liked it
This may have been the most difficult book I've read all year. Using its literary aspirations and eccentric mix of languages to support a slow-moving - though compelling - plot, Spinrad has crafted one of the most interesting books I've read all year. Even though it's thirty years old it still has relevance, especially in the way he handles the cultura onboard the ship. One is left, at the end, wondering what it was all for. And maybe that was his point. Glad I read it, but gladder still to be d ...more
James Jesso
Jan 04, 2015 James Jesso rated it it was amazing
This has been one of the best books I have read in recent memory.

As someone who researches consciousness studies a a part of my career, I found the authors capacity to creatively articulate vastly complex philosophy while effectively weaving it into a science fiction narrative was brilliant. The style of writing was extremely colourful and really accentuated a sense of immersion into the world he was creating. Though extremely dense, I found myself quickly harmonizing with his writing style and
James Broussard
Feb 06, 2013 James Broussard rated it really liked it
I've talked before about SF authors setting their sights a little too high, and some of the novels nominated for the Hugo or Nebula getting by more on concept than actual delivery. In my review of 'Dark Universe' I talk a little about Samuel Delany's opinion on 'story' and 'writing' and why I think he's wrong to say a novel's delivery cannot be exceeded by it's concept. I might be putting words into Delany's mouth (I had trouble finding the actual quote), but either way Void is a good example o ...more
Sep 04, 2012 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
My boyfriend gave me this book with essentially the pretext of "it's a ship powered by female orgasms!!!" to which at first I just rolled my eyes, but eventually I gave it a shot. The first really striking thing was the writing, which was a blend of languages that made it comprehensible to the solely English speaker, but also added a layer of depth and intrigue to those who understood more. It's a style that either you love or you hate, and I loved it. It made his descriptions seem oddly more sp ...more
Sean O'Brien
Jul 18, 2012 Sean O'Brien rated it liked it
I had read Bug Jack Barron some time ago after I found a used copy of the novel in Seattle (it is not easy to find) and I was enthralled by it. Spinrad is a master of his own made-up dialect (not to the mind-bendingly thorough extreme of, say, Anthony Burgess) and in Bug Jack Barron he affects a sort of 60's hipster mode of writing I found very rich.

The Void Captain's Tale does not disappoint on this score. Instead of the 60's lingo, though, Spinrad uses a melange of English, German, Spanish, F
Apr 26, 2016 Donkic rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gigantesco pippone pseudo-filosofico che non arriva da nessuna parte. Sarà pure stato finalista ai premi Nebula, ma non mi puoi scrivere cose come "lancia fallica" con tono serio senza sperare che io non mi metta a ridere come una scolaretta.

Salvo soltanto alcune idee interessanti, ma che sono comunque lontane dal tema centrale del romanzo, e quei rari momenti in cui Spinrad ripone sulla mensola il tritacoglioni e scrive come un essere umano.

Andrew S  Taylor
Nov 06, 2009 Andrew S Taylor rated it really liked it
Set in the same universe as "Child of Fortune," this book concerns the lives of people only mentioned in the periphery of that book - the Void Captains. Like the spice navigators in Dune, these intergalactic pilots are a breed apart, since their profession requires mental and physical rigors that fundamentally change them, removing them from "normal" society. The narrator of this tale breaches protocol by becoming sexually involved with one of them. Spinrad is certainly an acquired taste, but ve ...more
Keith Davis
A story of addiction and sexual obsession on board a luxury space craft. In order to transverse hyperspace the Void Pilot must enter into an euphoric trace similar to a drug high. When the Void Pilot dies en route one of the passengers must sacrifice herself to take his place. The Void Captain becomes obsessed with the young woman and what she is experiencing. A fascinating idea set in a complex multilingual multicultural milieu.
Mar 19, 2008 David rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: undersexed adolecents
Ack. This book smells bad. There's not much science in the fiction. I couldn't tell if the plot was meant to be an indictment of rich hedonistic culture, or a treatise on the worship of female orgasm as the pinnacle of human experience. The prose was tortured, and the story uninteresting. The constant references to sex and the sex scenes weren't even titillating enough to warrant a recommendation on that level.
Doggonit, I loves me some Spinrad. He has such a wide & deep voice that all of his novels are completely distinct from each other in tone & style. The Void Captain's Tale was way, waaay, out there; and brought to mind Pride & Prejudice, Dune, and some elements of Warhammer 40,000.
Mar 27, 2010 Todd rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
Tried hard to get into this, but it seemed way too cute and quaint and "look how sci-fi we is, aren't we teh coolest?1!?!/?" for my liking. This failed my 100-page rule, in that it never developed into anything I'd want to explore after I read the first 100 pages or so. //TB
Craig Harris
Mar 10, 2013 Craig Harris rated it really liked it
I read that book back in the 80's, but though I could not get into specifics about it, I found it to be good, trippy sci-fi. (The author's name came up with another book being read by someone I know, so I just wanted to give a shoutout to this volume.
Vince Ackerman
Feb 03, 2010 Vince Ackerman rated it did not like it
the worst written and least worthwhile book I think I have ever forced myself through. I gave it a chance because I thought the story idea was good, but the writing and the language was a waste of my time. 12 days of reading I will never get back.
Sep 26, 2013 Tuula rated it liked it
Interesting theme about new space travel methods and what how that unfolds in the roles and behaviors of the ship's crew. Requires concentration as easily can drop from the rhythm of the book.
Apr 07, 2008 Jamil rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
that old lesson of deep space tantra: when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares into you.
Feb 22, 2012 Annika rated it did not like it
Too much showing of how the author can write a world and society and too little story.
There is sex in some sci-fi!

That's all I have to say about that.
Apr 08, 2008 Steve rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Tantric yogis & rocket scientists
A novel of Tantric space travel and the cost of breaking taboos.
Edward Rybicki
Edward Rybicki rated it really liked it
Apr 30, 2016
Patricia marked it as to-read
Apr 25, 2016
Ed Kelly
Ed Kelly marked it as to-read
Apr 24, 2016
Stirling Westrup
Stirling Westrup rated it it was ok
Apr 24, 2016
Ema marked it as to-read
Apr 21, 2016
Jessica Coleman
Jessica Coleman marked it as to-read
Apr 19, 2016
Bobo The
Bobo The rated it liked it
Apr 13, 2016
Christopher marked it as to-read
Apr 05, 2016
Kyle Harper
Kyle Harper is currently reading it
Apr 04, 2016
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Born in New York in 1940, Norman Spinrad has been an acclaimed SF writer.

Norman Spinrad, born in New York City, is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science. In 1957 he entered City College of New York and graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Science degree as a pre-law major. In 1966 he moved to San Francisco, then to Los Angeles, and now lives in Paris. He married fellow novelist N. Lee Woo
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