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The Star Rover

Jack London

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Prometheus Books

Published : 1915, 1999

Copyright : Not Known

ISBN-10 : PB 1-57392-695-7
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-57392-695-9

Publisher's Write-Up

Novelist and short story writer Jack London (1876-1916) contemplated the strange theory of astral travel, penning The Star Rover in 1914. The last of London's fifty books, which include White Fang and The Call of the Wild, The Star Rover centres on San Quentin prison inmate Darrell Standing, a former university professor who is serving a life sentence for murdering a colleague.

To escape the tortures of his confinement, he withdraws into dreams of past lives in which he experiences what he calls his "eternal recurrence on earth." Thus the fantastic becomes a vehicle for exposing the social injustices of the U.S. prison system.

Inspired by his friend Ed Morell, who spent five years in the barbaric San Quentin jail, The Star Rover is a searing indictment of a violent and corrupt penal system. Describing the brutality of a life behind bars, it explores the power of imagination to transcend physical hardship, and ultimately sustain hope.

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Review by Paul Lappen (050303) Rating (9/10)

Review by Paul Lappen
Rating 9/10
This is the story of former college professor Darrell Standing, serving a life sentence in San Quentin for murdering a colleague. Another prisoner, Cecil Winwood, convinces forty other convicts to join him in a jailbreak. At the appropriate time, the guards capture everyone and throw them into solitary confinement (little better than a dungeon). They knew about the jailbreak ahead of time, because Winwood turned stool pigeon in hopes of reducing his sentence for forgery. All of the "conspirators" are beaten by the guards, including Standing, some to the point of becoming permanent physical and mental cripples.

Winwood then tells the Warden that a supply of dynamite to be used in the jailbreak is hidden somewhere in the prison, and that only Standing knows the location. He finds himself on the receiving end of torture by the guards, including being left in a strait jacket for days at a time.

He escapes the pain and torment by astral travel, withdrawing into dreams of his past lives during his "eternal recurrence on earth." At one time, he is a nobleman in medieval France. Another time, he spends years shipwrecked on an outcropping of rock barely one-half mile square in the middle of the ocean. His only possession is an oar on which he wrote his tale.

While in prison, he gets word to a famous museum that just happens to have that oar in storage. Still another time, he is an Englishman living in 1600s Korea. For a time, he is a trusted friend of the
Emperor. When the local political winds change, he and his Korean wife are made outcasts by the new Emperor. For twenty years, they are forbidden to leave Korea, and are not to receive any help (under penalty of death) from the local population.

Back in the real world, during one of his periodic beatings by the guards, Standing, having wasted away to a bag of bones, is able to defend himself just enough to cause one of the guards to have a nosebleed. For this, he is sentenced to death by hanging, not for murdering his college colleague.

Having spent time in jail for vagrancy (today it's called being homeless), this is London's attempt to expose the horrors of prison. It's not his most famous novel, but it's still very good and very thought provoking, and is well worth reading.
Paul Lappen (5th March 2003)

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