Couldn't finish this book myself, but the writing is poetic and transporting. Just ordered another copy to try again. Suddenly having an '80s moment, thinking about unread books on the floor next to my bed back in the day. From amazon, an unfortunately "red" company that happens to be a place A. A. Attanasio fans can meet and greet:
Overlooked masterpiece..., August 3, 2003
Reviewer: A reader
[...] a real mind blower with a slipstreamy feel to it at times, hard SF at others, and an occasional hint of some New Age elements.
On a future Earth where the planet has crossed paths with a beam of intense radiation from deep space (and which seems to have brought an alien influence to humanity in the form of genetic mutations), an angst ridden teenager named Sumner Kagan has taken to calling himself the "Ziggurat" [actually it's the "Sugarat" --ed.], and begins to take out his frustrations, vigilante style, on the gangs who menace the remnants of humanity.
And as the posessor of a "white card", testifying to his clean set of genetics in this society of mutations, Sumner is allowed to breed with what are roughly the equivalent of government sponsored prostitutes. But his physical appearance (he's overweight, acne ridden and a total slob) repulses the prostitutes whose function it is to save his genetic material.
Unable to find his place in life, Sumner begins a relationship with one of the alienistic mutants, called a Voor, and soon after must flee into the hellish wastelands that are all that remain of Earth after the encounter with the beam. During his journey and the trials that come with it, Sumner begins to gain insight into what he is and discovers powers that he may not be able to control.
Although Attanasio's SF novels are largely out of print, and that doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon (what a shame...), do yourself a favor and find a tattered copy of this book...
One of the most frustrating and annoying SF books I've read, March 16, 2002
Reviewer: A reader
[...] It started out all right, with the protagonist Sumner Kagan gaining revenge against various gangs. Although it didn't hook me, it was enough to keep me reading. But once the novel introduced the voors, telepathic entities, it started going downhill into an endless stream of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. The plot, if it could be called such, veered off into a hundred different directions and I couldn't buy Sumner's development from fat, picked-on punk kid to Nietzchean superman. The novel might have been better if it just stuck to the pre-developed Sumner. And the climax and ending were so scattershot and confusing, I felt like I was reading Mad Max meets Monty Python meets Nietzche. Half the time I didn't understand what was going on. And when I did, it didn't interest me.
Reading this book was also an exercise in frustration, as a hundred different characters keep popping in and out. You need a score card to keep track. And terms. He sticks together so many words and phrases and similes that my eyes glazed over trying to read them. Psynergy, eo, Delph, godmind, voors, starglass. It's annoying to have to go back and forth trying to figure who's who and what's what. The only reason I even finished this book was because I had already read half of it and wanted to see if it got any better.
Reviewer: AndyC (Canberra, Australia)
I am glad that I read the later, harder-SF "Centuries" before "Radix". Attanasio operates well as either a hard SF writer or as a metaphysical fantasist. In this, his first book, he tries to be both at once and it doesn't quite work. "Radix" is a saga of a far-future Earth in which mutation has gone rampant after a cosmological cataclysm. Daringly, lead character Sumner Kagan starts off as a screwed-up, homicidal, obese urban teenager. Through the several hundred pages, he transforms into a battered-but-charismatic hero and troubled demigod. Kagan, the divers supporting characters and some of the Big Ideas are great: I was satisfyingly creeped out by the concept of a powerful AI spying on the world through the senses of millions of synthetic "wild animals". However, the highly metaphysical treatment of the nature of one of the species, and of "life force" generally leaves something to be desired, the "Love Reigns Supreme" moral is a tad heavy-handed, and the pseudoscientific rationalisations that appear here and there are bogus enough to break belief for any reader with any scientific nous. Then there is the writing style. Later Attanasio is lyrical and reads beautifully and easily. Here, he overdoes it. Some sentences are elliptical to the point of incoherence. Pretentiously florid adjectives are piled on top of hopelessly inappropriate metaphors. The overall effect is a bit like "Covenant"-era Stephen Donaldson trying to write a Greg Bear novel by channeling acidheads from Zeta Reticuli. [...]
Extremely original; stark but inspiring!, May 27, 1999
Reviewer: lewcas (Long Island, NY)
What I wouldn't give for more of the centuries-long backstory of RADIX! The idea of Earth precessing into a Line of exotic radiation from the galactic center, and being forever altered is one of those incredibly elegant, simple ideas that I would KILL to have thought of myself! What a great premise! Once you've got an idea that great, it must be so much easier to write something wonderful.
I am SO curious about this A.A.Attanasio person! I've seen other reviewers here refer to this author as "she" [...] I picked up Attanasio's very next book and was VASTLY disappointed. Something boring set in Hawaii, as I recall, and it certainly didn't have anything to do with RADIX, far as I could tell.
A.A is a guy, July 17, 2000
Lives in Hawaii himself. Just letting you all know. I loved this book i am just trying to find it again.
Transparent and inflexible center of the diamond of time, September 24, 1999
Reviewer: Douglas L. Jones (BLOOMINGTON, MN United States)
The "A.A" stands for Alfred Angelo, so I don't think it's a female. I love this book. His wonderful use of language alone is just amazing. I've never read anything remotely like it.
Update: I originally said amazon was the "only" place Attanasio fans could gather: d'oh, he has a website.
Update 2, January 3, '06: Read this book and don't know why I couldn't finish it in the '80s. It really is a perfect combination of Bruce Sterling-esque post-human sci fi and Carlos Castaneda mysticism. I've also since read several other of Attanasio's sf books. He is a hell of a writer and a true visionary who isn't afraid to stick close to pulp roots.
Oddly enough, I read this book as a teenager. I liked it, but not enough to search out any of his other books.
The other Attanasio book I read back in the day was In Other Worlds; I reread it recently and liked it and am now curious to read all the works in what he calls the Radix Tetrad: Radix, In Other Worlds, Arc of the Dream, and the Last Legends of Earth. I know it sounds like one of those Piers Anthony "escape to the same lousy planet nine times" series but there's something about Attanasio I find transcending genre. He does a really interesting hybrid of fantasy and hard sf, his writing is gorgeous, and he has a visionary quality that Gary Indiana likes to pooh pooh in sf writers but that doesn't seem forced. What got me interested in AAA was a Lovecraft-influenced story called "The Star Pools"--that one I've read and re-read.
Hmm, well if you liked Motherless Brooklyn (as I did, the Turrets thing was an awesome device) and you like sci-fi, I can also recommend 'Gun with Occasional Music'. A hard-boilded detective story that takes place in an alternate reality/future poplulated with "Babyheads" and human like animals. A fun, fast read.
I like Gun, also Amnesia Moon. here are my earlier Lethem posts. Not trying to convince anyone that Fortress is bad. More like self-examination about why I didn't finish it. I saw Lethem got a MacArthur grant this year. Well, he should have gotten one for his earlier fiction. It just bugs me how the "serious" literary world always wants you to tell your damn autobiography, and won't give you props until you "grow up."
May 2007 issue F & SF...Telefunken Redux...AAA put it all together...contexture equates with Universe maker...and of course there is that son of AAA in another universe...Valis Attanasio...special circumstances is attempting to bridge the gap between verses....and the 6.7 quake @ Hawaii...a perfect number followed by a key prime...call it the miocene effect...been around a long time...can you guess who AAA is?
i just ordered the book.....i have not read a book (besides the child care stuff) in years but its coming just in case life gets easyier with 2 brats (yes i know the first brats is my fault, i did read that book)
Great--I think you will like it.