A spy story with no messages that I could puzzle out!
Mar 13, 2010
I don't mind admitting it! "My Name is Legion" is a bit of a puzzle for me. I haven't been able to decide if there was a message of some kind that I missed or whether Zelazny was just having fun writing a few short stories in a spy vs spy mode built around a character with no name.
Nobody who has read science fiction is under any illusion about the loss of privacy we are suffering with the advent of the internet, computerized databases and national identification programs. Long before any of that came along, Zelazny prepared a story about a murky hero (or is it anti-hero) who managed to destroy his punch cards (what does that tell you about how long ago this story was written?), eliminate his credit cards, destroy his birth records and passport and simply drop out of society and into the mists of living by his wits taking on mercenary government jobs from time to time under different aliases for every case.
"My Name is Legion" is actually a collection of three novellas separately written and related to one another only to the extent that the man with no name is the hero in each of the stories.
The first in the collection, "Rumoko" revolves around the rather frightening prospect of the use of nuclear bombs blasting a hole in the Moho layer to create artificial volcanoes. The idea is to release magma to create artificial land surface which can then be made habitable in an attempt to deal with earth's apparent population problem. Some pretty exciting stuff for those sci-fi lovers that like their plots hard and tech-oriented!
The second story (with a title that is quite unpronounceable) moves to the far opposite end of the hard-soft sci-fi spectrum - we're talking here about the sentience of dolphins; whether they dream, compose music or are capable of murder; and even whether they have a concept of philosophy and religion!
The third and final story in the collection, "Home is the Hangman",was, in my opinion, the most interesting story of the three. Dealing with artificial intelligence and robotics, it broached that always interesting subject of a robot's possible self-awareness, whether it could be capable of murder and whether it could feel emotion of any kind. Unlike the rather pretentious feel of the philosophy in the central dolphin story, Zelazny's use of Gödel's unprovability theorems and Turing's Test for artificial intelligence made "Home for the Hangman" a much more convincing story. I suspect that Asimov who virtually made a career out of writing about robotic behaviour would agree.
Three stars for "Rumoko",two stars only for "Kjawlll'kje'k'koothai'lll'kjr'k", and four stars for "Home is the Hangman". Overall rating averaged out at three stars.