I first picked this one up on a whim at a used bookstore some years ago. It had an attractive enough title, and the author was one which I could not for the life of me recall having ever heard of. Opening the cover, I was greeted with one of those short, sweet summaries. It read as follows:
"The Being had to get away, had to hide from the consequences of its creative powers.
It picked the lowliest of the low, and Earthling, a freaked-out young man, a homeless wanderer at the end of his rope. It would hide itself in him.
But even there it was not safe. Its ancient antagonist, a force of total evil, sought it out and prepared to bring their millennia-long struggle to a hideous climax."
Now, that sounded awesome. But the book was all of two-hundred pages. How would it be possible, I thought, to encompass such a vast subject in so short a novel?
I suspect Galouye himself was troubled by this as well. An obscure, though brilliant author, his stories -- none of which, I believe, exceed two-hundred pages -- all deal with topics entirely abstracted from the scope of our own little rock in space. It is his talent, however (some would call it an unfortunate affliction), to greatly condense these topics of universal significance by personifying them, then poking and prodding at their insides in the form of impressionist, often slapstick characters more splattered about on the canvas than portrayed with any particular degree of dedication.
So, with this in mind, what is The Infinite Man all about?
Milton Bradford, our "freaked-out young man" at "the end of his rope", is an extreme stereotype of any normal hippie to be found in the midst of the counter-culture movement of the 1960's. Assaulted by the Being as he lays innocent and half-conscious within an immobile cargo train (don't ask me what he's doing there), his whereabouts are immediately pinpointed by a government project headed by disgruntled astronomer A.J. Duncan. Named 'Project Genesis', it spans a triangular diameter of three miles from base to opposite angle, the area of which is under watch for the spontaneous creation of neutrons, which would subsequently decay into hydrogen atoms. It is Duncan's aim to test the steady-state hypothesis of the universe, which states that the universe always existed and that, as matter decays into light and shoots off to an infinite distance away, new matter is created between the gaps of the heavenly bodies in order to continue its population.
And so when the Being incorporates itself into Bradford's mind, just on the perimeter of Project Genesis' detection area, Duncan realizes he's just opened a great can of worms... or neutrons. He immediately realizes that something far greater than an isolated event of simple subatomic creation had occurred within Bradford. Indeed, he also realizes that, owing to the safety of mankind and perhaps even the universe, Bradford must not be allowed to interfere with the delicate resonances now present aside his own consciousness. But he also must not even be made aware of its very existence lest the slightest tumult agitate the infinite powers of Creation itself. So it becomes incumbent upon Duncan, along with psychologist Dr. Boris Powers and feminine romantic figure Ann Fowler, to keep Bradford's mind as peaceable as possible while also rousing the Being to a more receptive state through periodic, drug-assisted sessions of hypnotism. But owing to the exceptional circumstances, a shrink and a broad are entirely insufficient to ween this rebel off the acid and keep him mentally stable. Thus the whole of his external life (and thanks to Dr. Powers, as much as possible as his inner one) is carefully emulated by way of having installed the young man as figurehead of the state's 'biggest financial kingdom', placing him in a streamlined position of the utmost confidence.
Naturally, Bradford falls in love with Ann, Duncan becomes the prime solver of his own carefully engineered problems, Ann falls in love with Bradford and must go through marked pains to keep up her role in the grand charade of deception-for-the-sake-of-humanity, and Dr. Powers... well, if his name didn't give it away, he's the one who becomes tyrannically corrupt as a result of having the entirety of reality at his fingertips. Three key topics are therefore developed herein: the will to power, sacrifice of the one for the many, and the over-complication of a grotesquely exaggerated system.
The latter and most prominent is reflected two-fold. The first fold, "consequences of the Being's creative powers", are no more than those necessary, though chaotic and altogether mortifying to the intellectual sensibility, additions of patchwork fixes meant to cover up the holes of a system developed far beyond the reaches of its original functionality. Here, the existence of neutrinos and quasars (or pulsars, I think -- don't recall exactly) are given as examples of such additions, themselves supposed to be yet more blockades in the way of discovery of the TOE (theory of everything), which is at the end of every sentient creature's search as they poke more 'holes' in the foundations of the world around them. The second fold is an analogy to this which manifests in Bradford's treatment as a system which must not, at any cost, discover itself.
But let's not forget that essential cultish entity, led solely by a former employee of Project Genesis, which seeks as a countermeasure against Duncan's perceived act of ultimate cruelty to all at once release the powers that be within Bradford's mind.
And let us also mention another essential ingredient of Galouye which I should be utterly ashamed to have left out. Never satisfied with only what is materially seen, he staples deep, sometimes perplexing philosophical vignettes at the beginning of each chapter and within the midst of explorations through Bradford's mind.
It all pans out rather haphazardly from here, but the ideas remain firmly in the background as Bradford comes to terms with his position and the Evil and Good forces become more prominent.
Oh, yeah -- the last word in the story is "BANG!"
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