Audiobooks, ratings, reviews (beta)

Past Master


a jungle, decorative

Author: R.A. Lafferty, introduction by Andrew Ferguson –

Publisher: Tantor –

Genre: Science-Fiction, New Wave –

Overall rating: 5/5 –

Writing: 5/5 –

Duration: 6:34 (short or medium) –

Narrator: Matthew Waterson –

Narrator/performance: 4/5 –

Impressions: 4/5 –

Performance errors: 1/5 –

Complexity/reading level: 5/5 –

Audience: General


This is another book taken out from my shelf by the mobile app, to my strong objections and this time without any explanation… It is an example of an interesting project. The book was originally published in 1968 while the audio was recorded with an informed introduction – in 2019.

The book is original under any standard. One of the reasons it is possible to follow its surrealist plot is the fact that the main character is supposed to be a fictionalized historical figure, Thomas More, who in the book is quite sane as opposed to his surroundings. The Wikipedia categorized the novel as New Wave science-fiction. The book contains several highly intriguing ideas such as the people who wish to be sick and miserable when the choice of happiness and contentment is always open to them and remains easily attainable.

The author played with several ideas, probably asking himself how unlimited power affects the human condition, understood somewhat mystically and vaguely. The image produced brings to mind images of the Apocalypse – as in a painting by Hieronymus Bosch but only if the master could imagine a world dominated by machines. The language Lafferty used is skillful but quite demanding to a contemporary listener.

One of the stronger impressions the book leaves behind is how it makes the reader care about an utterly outlandish story. It maintains and gradually raises tension, engages until the last moment, up until its thrilling ending. I read it quite a while ago but I think that it may be a story about dignity, being alive and preserving simple yet wholesome identity. It may also be about something completely different, the book contains quite an array of elements.

The novel would certainly be appreciated by admirers of Stanisław Lem and Isaac Asimov. The audio rendition is rather conservative yet I found if also quite captivating.

R. A. Lafferty, Past Master cover

I liked the cover, simple yet original. The use of slanted titles is rather uncommon in book covers but it does the job here. The cover reminds of a particular era and the effect is welcome.

Cover Photo by Ben Eaton on Unsplash