Transfiguration by Michael Bishop (SF Masterworks) (book review).

Michael Bishop (1945- ) wrote ‘Transfiguration’ in 1979 and I think this is the first time I’ve read any of his books. The first third of the book is that of another book by Thomas Douglas Benedict, informally Ben, and his life amongst the sentient apelike lifeforms, the Assadi, on the planet BoskVeld. It is the key reading of anthropologist Elegy Cather as she does her own investigations and unravelling what this environment.

You would expect the book to change to Cather’s perspective but instead still from Benedict’s viewpoint as they do their studies.

The investigation of the native species, more so because they look like early primitives, Benedict and Cather introduce Bojangles, I think a trained chimpanzee, to join with a tribe. They then discover their more cannibalistic tendencies to conserve genetic information which is the strength of Bishop’s story as Science Fiction. The ‘transfiguration’ itself is the main spoiler and has a similar feel to Robert Silverberg’s ‘Down To Earth’ novel a decade earlier. I should point out that I didn’t pick both books with that in mind and, if anything, was surprised at the similarities.

The story is very much underplayed and plays up the personalities involved, making them more complex even for over forty years ago. It’s hardly surprising that they are in over their heads into a complex decision.

In many respects, ‘Transfiguration’ is typical of its time and how people would deal with an alien species at that time. Don’t be eaten.

GF Willmetts

February 2022

(pub: Gollancz, 2013. 320 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 9.95 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-09309-6)

check out websites: and


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.