Vilma Kadlečková (b. 1971) has written the comprehensive pentalogy Mycelium, a distinct paragon of contemporary science fiction. The author, known primarily for her achievements in the 1990s, has returned after a hiatus with a complex work positing humanity as merely a lesser-developed species within the universe. The majority of her works belong to the “Legends of Argenite” cycle. These are tales straddling the boundaries between science fiction and fantasy (‘science fantasy’, ‘psychotronic science fiction’).They map the history of the future universe, which will be similar to to to ours, but contains the mineral “argenite”: a fictional source of energy endowed with psychotronic powers. For the first part of her Mycelium saga, Vilma Kadlečková received the Book of the Year award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, as well as the Best Original Czech and Slovak Book of 2013.
2013–2017, 319–482 pages
Available material: English sample
Mycelium presents readers with an “interplanetary and inter-civilisational thriller” also accessible to those who are not sci-fi enthusiasts.
The story takes place on our planet a few centuries from now. Humans have survived only thanks to the technological achievements of the ancient, alien, theocratic civilization of the Össeans. Humans and Össeans co-exist on Earth; however, the Össeans have brought more than just new technologies – their culture is founded upon on fanatical devotion, mysticism and sacred drugs, and it is slowly spreading through the human population. This sets the stage for an intense allegory of our contemporary western world’s culture clashes, power imbalances and xenophobia. Because of Mycelium’s profound and often unsettling insights, and the psychological complexity of the narrative, critics have compared it to Orson Scott Card’s classic Ender’s Game. While never short on action, as in all great science fiction, the most significant conflicts in Kadlečková’s saga are battles of ideas.
“Kadlečková enters enthusiastically into the minds of her heroes; at key moments she grills them before the eyes of the reader. It’s as if you were watching a scene from a Quentin Tarantino film. When reading, you will struggle to catch your breath, and experience an intense feeling of empathy with the book’s heroes. And all this despite the fact that you will not encounter one unequivocally positive character.”
“You don’t know how to kill,’ said Össean. ‘You would be glad to avoid it. You are agreeing to it now because you think that when my back is turned you can ask those two for help. You think that if you confide in them, that will rid you of your responsibility. But be aware of the fact that if you warn them, you will lose the chance to discreetly carry out what you have to. You will not be rid of your responsibility as you hope, only the opportunity to choose. And then you will die with them.’ He fell silent. ’So don’t be rash,’ he added. ’I’ll send you the code which allows you to bypass the ship’s safety systems. When you enter it onto the plasmodial keypad, the transfer chamber will open on both sides regardless of whether there is air in the cabin. The vacuum will pull both passengers into space. It’s a clean way of doing it. There is no dirty work afterwards — no removal of bodies or washing away the blood. All we ask of you is a few minutes of inconvenience.”