Vilma Kadlečková (b. 1971) has written the comprehensive pentalogy Mycelium, which is a distinct highpoint of contemporary science fiction. The author, known primarily from the 1990s, has returned after a hiatus of several years with a complex work in which humanity is merely a less advanced species within the universe. The majority of her works belong to the “Legends of Argenite” cycle. These are tales on the boundary of science fiction and fantasy (‘science fantasy’, ‘psychotronic science fiction’), mapping the future history of the universe, which is similar to to to ours, but which contains “argenite”: a fictional mineral serving as a source of energy 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, and the Best Original Czech and Slovak Book of the Year 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 plot takes place on our planet a few centuries from now, where humans have survived only due to the technological achievements of the Össeans, an ancient theocratic alien civilisation. The two groups co-exist on Earth; however, the Össeans have brought more than just new technologies – a fundamental part of their culture is an ideology based on fanatical devotion, mysticism and sacred drugs, which is slowly spreading throughout the human population. This sets the stage for a deeply allegorical story about the current state of the western world, clashes of cultures, xenophobia and power. 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, like all great science fiction, the saga’s most significant conflicts are battles of ideas.
“Kadlečková enthusiastically enters into the minds of her heroes; at key moments she literally grills them before the eyes of the reader. As if you were watching a scene from a Quentin Tarantino film. When reading you will struggle to catch your breath and experience an intensive feeling of empathy with the book’s heroes. And all this despite the fact that you will not encounter an 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.”