This review is available here by kind courtesy of the author. Originally published in "Fantasy Review 88" (2 - 1986). Copyright Brian Stableford, 1986 - 1999.THE ROD OF LIGHT by Barrington J. Bayley. Methuen, London, November 1985, 193pp. £2.50, paper. ISBN 0-413-58160-8.
The Rod of Light is a sequel to Barrington Bayley's classic robot novel THE SOUL OF THE ROBOT, and carries forward the adventures of Jasperodus, the only robot in existence to possess a soul. Here he becomes involved with Gargan, a robot of great intelligence who resents his own lack of a soul and is determined to find a means of ensouling robots so that they shall be able to inherit the hegemony currently possessed (and somewhat ill-used) by mankind. Because it continues the development of ideas formulated in the earlier novel, The Rod of Light has not quite the same level of quirky inventiveness as most of Bayley's novels, but it is still a delight to read for its liveliness and its subtly ironic perspectives.
Like a number of other British writers Barrington Bayley never seems to have achieved much popularity in America, but this is probably an accident of marketing. Most of his works were released in a boom period when the number of sf titles being produced was far beyond the carrying capacity of the marketplace, and they were drowned along with many other worthy books by worthy writers. Now that sf is not being published in such quantities the conditions ought to be right for Bayley to be discovered by the appreciative audience he deserves. He is one of the few contemporary writers to preserve something of the special excitement of playing cleverly with ideas, producing stories which are colourful and fast-paced but which nevertheless have some imaginative substance. He is by no means so distinctively British that his prose is beyond the idiomatic range of the American ear, and he has the deftness and economy of style which should be welcome in these days when so much imaginative fiction has become both turgid and pompous.
- Brian Stableford, 1986