A classic science fiction adventure from the backlist of Megan Lindholm, who also writes as Robin Hobb. Generations ago humanity abandoned Earth. Now they have returned. Far from home, the Human race tries to atone for killing Terra thousands of years ago. Rescued by the enigmatic Arthroplana in their mysterious Beastships, they have been inserted into the fragile ecologies of the alien twin worlds of Castor and Pollux, where they must make no impact, where every drop of water must be returned. Humanity has adjusted -- or ...
A classic science fiction adventure from the backlist of Megan Lindholm, who also writes as Robin Hobb. Generations ago humanity abandoned Earth. Now they have returned. Far from home, the Human race tries to atone for killing Terra thousands of years ago. Rescued by the enigmatic Arthroplana in their mysterious Beastships, they have been inserted into the fragile ecologies of the alien twin worlds of Castor and Pollux, where they must make no impact, where every drop of water must be returned. Humanity has adjusted -- or tried to. Despite the constant watch of the Arthroplana and the Human Conservancy, John Gen-93-Beta has agreed to captain the Beastship Evangeline on an unthinkable journey to a dead planet! Earth. And so begins an engrossing voyage of discovery for five travellers: John, his First Mate Connie, stowaaway Raef, Tug the Arthroplana and the Beastship Evangeline herself. On a planet none quite expected, each learns the power of being human.
Sci-fi pretence or bona fide classic? You decide..
Beginning this book you may get the slight sense that you're about to be overwhelmed; the initial multiple character perspectives are somewhat confusing, especially if you're accustomed to any of this author's other works, which most often concentrate on a sole, head-strong central character. But very soon into this title you'll be utterly immersed in the involving dystopian future brought to you by a writer of great skill and keen human insight.
During the first hundred pages or so my impression was that Lindholm had made a lot of concessions to the writing style I'd grown to love in such stories as Cloven Hooves, the Saga of the Reindeer People and the Ki and Vandien series, particularly relating to character. Also at times the plot and the genre seemed to grate slightly- Lindholm's idea for `Alien Earth' is original and engrossing, but to begin with at least the fit felt imperfect to me, as if the idea may have been forced into the science-fiction mould a little too unevenly in places. I certainly believed it to be a unique, detailed and authentic science-fiction title, but the general sense that pervaded the story as I began was that the author's heart lay elsewhere.
But then, as is always the case (how I can still doubt Lindholm after so many enjoyable, classic stories is a mystery to me...) the story becomes something a great deal more, transcending genre and plot with some wonderful character exploration and development. It may take her a little longer with `Alien Earth', but by the end I was just as thoroughly satisfied as I'd hoped to be and definitely left wishing for more.
The story begins by following all of the requisite genre conventions (almost to a fault)- the vastness and coldness of space mirrors the distances between the characters; characters who are obsessively self-aware and physically deteriorating under the enslavement of an enigmatic alien race steering human evolution towards their own shadowy goals. For a substantial portion of the story the warmth between the characters, the sympathetic handling of their day-today interactions- all that is familiar with Lindholm is scaled-down considerably in favour of an apathy and self-loathing adopted by the three main human characters, characters who epitomise humanity's pitiful plight. In this story humanity is subjugated, there is no collective identity and so no individual sense of self. Its remaining members are either docile or embittered, but eventually, through the extraordinary events experienced by Raef, John and Connie these characters are able to embrace their lost racial kinship by reclaiming their human heritage. The prose remains page-turningly gripping throughout and as the book progresses, particularly as Earth becomes something more than a mythic concept for these characters, that's when the book really improves and the characters become infinitely more likeable.
As a fan of this author I was not disappointed, but rewarded by a welcome deviation from Lindholm's norm. So I urge you to read this story if you're a fan of hers and not be deterred by a beginning that has a slightly less comfortable introduction than her other stories. `Alien Earth' is experimental and it's intriguing and there are some hauntingly familiar themes, many of which have strong shades of her future writing as Robin Hobb, particularly in relation to her 'Liveship Traders' Trilogy and the relationships between the liveships and their crews. Even if it isn't exactly your cup of tea `Alien Earth' is a must-read.
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