The Wild (1995) by David Zindell

Don't miss out on the other works in the series:
Neverness (1988) Book Review
The Broken God (1993) Book Review
War in Heaven (1998) Book Review
Available works by David Zindell


The Wild is the second book in David Zindell’s trilogy A Requiem for Homo Sapiens (1993-1998), the sequel to Neverness (1988). Now that Danlo has become a pilot of the Order, The Wild moves on to trace Danlo’s quest to discover the Elder Eddas and find the Architects thought to be responsible for destroying the stars of the galaxy. Zindell’s epic space opera interrogates the pressures placed on what it means to be human in the face of ever advancing technology.

As the exploding stars in the remote part of the Milky Way known as the Vild now pose an immediate threat, even in far-away city of Neverness, the Order launches a major expedition into the Vild. It is hoped that contact and ultimately rapport can be established with the Architects of the Infinite Intelligence of the Cybernetic Universal Church, thought to inhabit the planet of Tannahill. At this point the Architects are presented as just another version of a technological singularity, their ultimate aim to consume and remake the whole of the Universe in the name of the God, Ede.

Like his father before him, Danlo ventures into space alone, and most of the narrative is concerned with his travels. What unfolds is a picture of the galaxy where different machine gods have been at war for eons, a cycle of eternal recurrence. He learns that the Ieldras were once engaged in a bitter war with the the machine god, the Dark God, and that the secret to their victory is encoded in racial memory, the Elder Eddas. He also learns that the current scourge of the galaxy, the Silicon God, defeated the God of Ede 3,000 years ago, and is now propping up the Architects’ plan to convert all matter in the universe, transforming it into new earths and populating them with redesigned, perfected humans. It transpires that not even the Silicon God is free from the human condition, hating the humans for creating him in the first place, destined to live a life in perpetual agony. The Silicon God’s scheme, known as the Program of Totality, is thus a variation of Hanuman’s efforts to rid humanity of the the human condition, a flesh-version of pure bliss. When Danlo discovers the defeated God of Ede, now confined to a small computer, a similar picture is revealed. Ede has had enough of technological transcendence, the artificiality of life, and only wants to return to his human form. The all-too-human nature of machine-god wars are mirrored in the all-too-human religious wars, past and present. On his journey through the Architects’ worlds Danlo learns that Narain heretics broke away from the Tannahill Architects to set up their own ‘true’ version of Edeism, the main point of contention being whether man should be allowed to strive for godhood. And this is after a previous schism – culminating in the War of the Faces – had forced a faction of Tannahill Architects to flee into the remote region of the Vild.

All the while, Danlo’s struggle to embrace the human condition is tested to the extreme. The Solid State Entity, a nebulae of moon-sized machine gods, now at war with the Silicon God and thus sympathetic to Danlo’s cause, transports Danlo to a replica of Old Earth and disguises herself as a replica of Danlo’s girlfriend, Tamara who had her mind cleansed of any memory of Danlo in The Broken God (1993). Like the God of Ede, the Solid State Entity has its feeble beginnings in the brain upload of just one human being, Kalinda, but now, more than 3,000 years later, it spans a whole nebulae, more than 100 light years across. Like Ede, the Solid State Entity also struggles with technological transcendence and has created Tamara as much to experience Danlo’s love. Danlo struggles with the artificiality of the Tamara construct, however real she might appear, and while he is tempted to reunite with his lost love, he ultimately ends up reconfirming his belief in embracing the human condition, in what is essentially an internalisation of Friederich Nietzsche’s concept of self-overcoming:

“No one can construct for you the bridge upon which precisely you must cross the stream of life, no one but you yourself alone.”

Friederich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditation (1873)

At the end of the day, Danlo stands firm and refuses the computer-aided transcendental short cuts on offer, whether it is Hanuman’s attempt to create a simulated meta-life of pure bliss or any of the escapist religions proffered by cybernetic churches. He does not believe in quickening or vastening – he believes in deepening only.