The Morphodite (Book Review)

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written by M. A. Foster
published by DAW Books Inc., 1981
ISBN 0879976691

Sequels: Transformer, Preserver

The Morphodite is an interesting little book, based on the premise that a culture or group can be destroyed by killing one key individual at a specific point. This individual is not necessarily the obvious one. It then demonstrates the process on a planet where cultural evolution has been artificially frozen, and various power groups (or cults) want to re-link the planet with the rest of human culture elsewhere in the galaxy.

As to the Morphodite, he is a human who has been trained and tortured to gain special abilities. First among these is the set of skills derived from practical applications of a science that identifies a group's key individual (if such a science is possible), and second, the ability to induce a gender change to provide the perfect escape after one has assassinated said individual. As a side effect of the change, the Morphodite grows younger, and is also rendered sterile.

The Morphodite is an interesting book, with many plots. It's about culture, and the price of being static. It is about the costs of change, and it illustrates the truth of the adage 'be careful what you wish for, because you might get it'. And, above all, it is the story of the Morphodite himself, an innocent trained as an assassin, tortured to work out a new science, sold to do the destruction, and then betrayed and feared as something too dangerous to exist.

The Morphodite is not a happy story. Many people die, but the evil groups get their come-uppance, and the Morphodite finds him/herself and a purpose in life other than destruction.

Not quiet or fun, but definitely a good read.