The Masters of Solitude
By Marvin Kaye and Parke Godwin
This was another relic (1978) unearthed on my bookshelves, remnant of a long-ago library sale shopping spree. The Masters of Solitude is a post-apocolyptic story about the divide between the two groups who have emerged since the disaster, and the attempt of one family to bridge that divide. In the book, some unspecified disaster occurred in the distant past. In its wake, humanity divided into two groups: those in The City who still possess advanced technology and have walled themselves off (literally and aggressively) from the rest of the world; and everyone else, spread across the land in primitive clans/covens who have developed their own special skill to compensate for their lack of technology. The story centers around one family: Garick, head of his clan/coven; Judith, the City woman he takes as his first wife; Singer, son of Garick and Judith and so half City/half coven and belonging to neither; and Arin, Garick’s son from his second marriage to a coven woman and so fully of the coven (at least at first). While it’s not always a gripping read, it is thought-provoking, one of those rare blends of books where story and philosophy are inextricable. Central to the book is the idea of Community vs. Self – where the line is, and what Alone truly means. There’s also the obvious Technology vs. Nature duality, explored through the covens’ quest to get through to the City, and the City’s continually uncaring non-response. The characters are complex and interesting, though due to their mindsets and the portrayal in the text it’s hard to get emotionally attached, but that’s just the nature of a more cerebrally-focused story like this. I’m not sure what else I can say here without giving out some spoilers. It’s good, will get you thinking, and is well worth the read if you don’t mind working through the few slow parts for it. It also has a surprising and satisfying twist at the end. I intend to pick up the sequel, Wintermind, at some point in the future.
I give it 3.5/5 stars.