Birthday Reviews: Adrian Rogoz’s “The Altar of the Random Gods”

Birthday Reviews: Adrian Rogoz’s “The Altar of the Random Gods”

Almanahul literar
Almanahul literar

Adrian Rogoz was born on April 19, 1921 in Bucharest Romania, and died on July 28, 1996. He was a founding member of the first science fiction fan club in Romania, SF Cenacle. In addition to his own work, Rogoz translated works by Ivan Efremov and Stanislaw Lem into Romanian.

“The Altar of the Random Gods” was originally published in Almanahul literar in 1970 as “Altarul zeilor Stohasrici.” Its English translation first appeared in Franz Rottensteiner’s anthology of European science fiction View from Another Shore, and has been included in several reprints of that volume. The story has also been translated into French, Dutch, Hungarian, German (twice), Serbian, and Italian.

In this translation of “The Altar of the Random Gods,” by Matthew J. O’Connell, Rogoz describes the trip from Mobile to Huntsville Alabama via a superfast highway of computer controlled cars. Homer is making the journey and looking forward to seeing Barbara at the end of it when a freakish malfunction occurs.

The story is interesting not because of its predictions about technology or the way Homer takes the superhighspeed transportation for granted, but rather because of the way it feels like a mixture of science fiction and fantasy. The first half of the story, up until the collision, is clearly in the realms of science fiction, tothe point where Rogoz’s descriptions (or at least the translations of those descriptions) feels clichéd.

Following the accident, the story moves more into the realm of fantasy, with Homer meeting three gods, who may well be aliens, who explain to him what has happened. Rather than speak in the terms gods in fantasy stories usually use, the gods in “The Altar of the Random Gods” speak in terms of probability, using mathematics to tell Homer what has happened to him and what he can expect for his life going forward.

Rogoz presents a high concept story, where plot and character take a backseat to the concepts he is presenting. Even his science fictional trappings seem less important than the ideas he is proposing relating to the laws of chance and probability.

Reprint reviewed in the anthology View from Another Shore, edited by Franz Rottensteiner and translated by Matthew J. O’Connell, Liverpool University Press, 1999.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Doing Busines at Hodputt’s Emporium” in Galaxy’s Edge. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 5 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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Rich Horton

I confess this is a writer I have never heard of! The field is clear for me to repost one (or maybe all!) of my reviews of Tom Purdom’s Ace Doubles. (Which will also allow me to continue to review Samuel R. Delany!)

(Tom’s an excellent writer, and I’ve also reprinted a few of his stories in my anthologies.)

Rich Horton

I was wondering why you didn’t pick the last one on that list!

Rich Horton

Reading it now.

John ONeill

I half expected to tune in this morning to see a Birthday Review of Steven H Silver.

Next year for sure!

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