I’ve been reading a lot of Mike Resnick’s work lately, especially after encountering his short story Kirinyaga, and then the book built from a number of short stories set in that world. He’s always an exceptional storyteller.
With that, I picked up Paradise, currently it appears only available used. I got my copy from my local public library, on which let me make a comment. Support your public library. It’s a wonderful institution.
Now Paradise is not a book with a theme I would normally enjoy. But this book is interesting and thoughtful and provides a variety of characters to love or hate, or more likely feel ambivalent about. (Don’t even think of mentioning the preposition at the end of a sentence!)
The lead character is a writer who writes first about the people who have been involved with the early years of human contact on the planet Peponi, which means Paradise in a local language. One thing leads to another until he finally visits the planet he has been writing about and gets a direct view.
The problems frequently reflect those of colonialism here on earth. I’d like to think we’d have better sense by the time, if ever, that we contact other sentient species on other worlds. Realistically, that’s probably not a very realistic hope. Even more, just what would “better sense” be in this context? There’s a great deal of room for wondering just exactly what each person should have done in this story. Certainly there are many specific things that are either definitely bad or definitely good.
But even assuming that the exploiters could be kept off a world like this, what would happen with the philanthropists? One imagines that perhaps a Star Trek style non-interference directive (obviously better defined and better enforced than in the series) might be the only answer. No two species would actually meet until each had developed a certain level of technology. But thinking about that leads me to many questionable situations as well.
Moralizing aside, or perhaps because of it, I really enjoyed watching the various characters work through their situations. Each is constrained by his or her own background and situation, and often there are not nearly as many choices as the outsider, such as a reader might think.
Now don’t get the idea that this story is made up of philosophizing and moralizing. The story is well told and well worth reading for fun as well as for thinking. Resnick sneaks the thinking into the cracks and you get caught up asking yourself questions, or at least I do, but perhaps I’m strange.
I strongly recommend this book whether you have to order it used or find it at your public library. Get a copy and enjoy!