Review of “Long Leap” by Derek Kunsken. In On Spec Vol. 24, No. 1, Spring 2012.
By Derek Newman-Stille
Derek Kunsken takes on a huge challenge by portraying a character who is utterly without emotions, a sociopathic (though not officially a sociopath) character who is distanced from the human and who murders. He portrays the ultimate monster – the one that can hide in our society and pass as human. Robert IS officially human, but he is so dissociated from the human experience, he should be unrelateable. However, Kunsken creates his character as a futuristic Dexter, a sociopath that is portrayed as somehow possible for the audience to understand if not entirely relate to.
The skill of Kunsken’s craft can be seen in his ability to make Robert understandable to the reader. Despite the offputting, offsetting nature of the sociopath, Kunsken is somehow able to get into his mind and make him human for his audience.
Kunsten sets his sociopath on a small, restricted society – a space ship adrift in the cosmos on its way to a colony world. This society, knowing that it is going to be in transit for years beyond their own lives have decided to almost entirely give up the sciences and become a colony of artists. He suggests that if given a society in which their physical needs are accommodated, almost everyone would opt to become an artist.
Artists are figured in our society as creatures that live in perpetual emotion, and Kunsten reinforces this by having only a handful of people interested in anything other than the arts. Of the few scientists is the only sociopath, cut off from emotional understanding and the humanistic touch that guides the arts. Despite travelling through space, the only one interested in looking up at the sky and becoming an astronomer… is someone who cannot understand humanity.
This colony of artists are pulled off course and end up having to rapidly learn the sciences when dropped into a binary star system where the only planet is made entirely of toxic metals. The sociopath in the village, dissociated from humanity, is the only one who is able to understand a wider interpretation of life and make calculated risks.
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