Since this is a blog entry rather than a formal review, I can just give you my reactions. This is my second Mike Resnick book, and let me start by saying that I didn’t really like it. That is not to say that it was a bad book. There are many books that I think have merit, but that I don’t really like.
I think the problem with this one is that while the story itself had many points of interest, I didn’t like any of the characters all that much, and found the general theme not terribly compelling. This is an “African explorer” tale written on the backdrop of a galaxy dominated by humans. Much like Europeans descending on Africa or the Americas, the humans find themselves superior, at least in firepower, and they treat the alien species encountered, intelligent or otherwise, like natives at the height of colonization.
The characters could likewise be taken from a stereotypical story of that era. There’s the adventuresome journalist (Markham), the guide with a sympathy for the natives (though not necessarily the backbone to make it stick), the hunter who has lived there all his life and knows how things work, and of course the many natives who are often slaughtered just because they are at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Nonetheless, Resnick spins a pretty good tale, and one that gives one something to think about. I’d think one could do some serious moral thinking about the choices made by the surviving characters in the last few chapters. While the natives are not developed in that much depth, they are developed to a sufficient extent that you can wonder what things could be like for them if their culture had a chance to grow rather than be run over by the human “Democracy” as the apparent federation of all the human worlds is called.
The story telling is in the same interesting, bold style that my previous reading of Resnick has led me to expect, and I would read this under about the same circumstances. I think the problem here is that I generally want to sympathize with one of the major characters in a story, and I don’t find any opportunity here. The natives seem the most interesting to me, but we don’t really get to know them all that much. So combining that with a background that doesn’t interest me I was probably put off an otherwise interesting story. Thus this becomes an example of a story I don’t like, even though it’s not a bad one!