BARRETT, Neal Jr


BARRETT, Neal Jr
(1929-)
   US writer who began publishing sf with "To Tell the Truth" for Gal in 1960 and who has contributed with some regularity to the sf magazines. Though he has never been prolific in shorter forms, some of his later stories, like "Hero" (1979), "A Day at the Fair" (1982), "Trading Post" (1986), "Sallie C" (1987), "Perpetuity Blues" (1987), "Diner" (1987), "Stairs" (1988) and "Tony Red Dog" (1989), have caused considerable stir for the dark bravura of the vision they sometimes expose of a savaged USA. Some of these stories, though frustratingly (in the absence of a further gathering) the selection is weighted toward lighter work, are assembled in Slightly Off Center: Eleven Extraordinarily Exhilarating Tales (coll 1992). NB's first novels did not seem urgently to foretell the ambitious author of the 1980s, and titles like Kelwin (1970), whose eponymous hero has stirring adventures in a post- HOLOCAUST venue, the equally rambunctious The Gates of Time (1970), and the alternate-history (ALTERNATE WORLDS) tale, The Leaves of Time (1971) - despite the title, not connected to the earlier volume - seemed little more than amusing and competently told routine fare, with twists.Stress Pattern (1974), a densely constructed fable set on an alien planet whose profligate alienness is at points reminiscent of the worlds of Stanislaw LEM, was clearly more ambitious, and NB followed this striking work with the Aldair series - Aldair in Albion (1976), Aldair, Master of Ships (1977), Aldair, Across the Misty Sea (1980) and Aldair: The Legion of Beasts (1982) - whose baroque surface tends to disguise the alarming implications of the tale, for the hero is a genetically engineered humanoid pig, the FAR-FUTURE Earth he travels lacks real solace, and his discovery of humans on another planet grants him no peace, for they themselves have been enslaved by a race of ALIENS. In retrospect, then, THROUGH DARKEST AMERICA (1987) and its sequel, Dawn's Uncertain Light (1989), which have gained NB considerable attention 30 years into his career, are a logical development of his earlier work. Their protagonists' hegira through a most terrifyingly bleak and terminally scarred USA, though told with an exhilarating and genre-sensitive competence, conveys a sense of grieved, embedded, millennial pessimism impossible to sidestep; and even The Hereafter Gang (1991), which less savagely focuses this vision on the churning psyche of a middle-aged man in crisis, turns into a sharp and garish parody of a sentimentalized small-town past over which it is easy, but dangerous, to pine - posthumously, as it were. NB is a writer who deserves to have come into his times. Other works: Highwood (1972 dos); Tom Swift: Ark Two * (1982) and Tom Swift: The Invincible Force * (1983), two Tom Swift tales as by Victor APPLETON; The Hardy Boys: The Swamp Monster* (1985) and The Hardy Boys: The Skyfire Puzzle * (1985), two Hardy Boys tales as by Franklin W. Dixon;The Karma Corps (1984);Pink Vodka Blues (1992), associational; Batman in: the Black Egg of Atlantis * (1992 chap), tied to Batman.
   See also: ECOLOGY; EVOLUTION; LIVING WORLDS.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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