Publisher: DAW Books
First DAW Edition, 1976
Cover Art: Michael Whelan
Plot Synopsis (of cover): Dr. Orson Chubley stood before the rest of the managing partners at the New Utopian Terra Space Administrative Commission, his ample form rebelling against his khaki clothing through both the pressure of his girth and the excretions of his sweat glands. Below the neck, he resembled an overfull sack of greasy take-out food in a paper bag. Above the neck, he resembled a pompous gumdrop. Appearances aside, he was a respected computer scientist, and addressed the NUTSAC today in that professional capacity with exciting news. “Fellow Earthlings,” he began, “our computer systems have examined our personnel databanks, and they have found the ideal team to send on this long-term mission to frozen Titan. I’m very glad that we went with the Tatooine design scheme, and I’m excited now to reveal the three heroes who will be shuttled to our research station.” The NUTSAC chairman stood up from his front-row seat, a printout in hand. “Yes, Chubley, we know. We got the data yesterday.” Dr. Chubley was shocked. “Ah, you got the data yesterday, you say? Directly from the mainframe? Sir, the raw results need interpretation…” The chairman interrupted, “Well, then why don’t you explain them. Your first choice…” “The COMPUTER’S first choice,” Dr. Chubley corrected. “Uh huh,” the chairman said, “the COMPUTER’S first choice, Chelsea Beaver, is a clerical worker from the front office. She has no significant extraplanetary qualifications, except for a curious note here at the bottom noting her as being exceptionally promiscuous.” Dr. Chubley stammered, “Well, if I had to guess, I’d say the computer was attempting to create solidarity within the ranks of the lower-echelon employees by giving a prestigious position to one of theirs. It gives people hope, and will bolster recruitment.” The chairman cocked an eyebrow and responded, “Oh, right. Is that the same justification for this second choice, Rex Goodcock, the mail clerk? Again, no significant off-world qualifications, though it does note him, also, as exceptionally promiscuous.” Dr. Chubley uttered, “There’s lots of unrest in the lower ranks.” The chairman continued, “And the third. Care to explain the third choice, Chubley?” Dr. Chubley gulped, and wondered if he could get a refund from Amazon on those fuzzy sweaters and bulk condoms.
Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: When people refer to hard science fiction, they generally do so with a mind towards physics or engineering. There are exceptions, and this is one. This is a hard sci-fi book centered around evolutionary biology. A fun design, in theory. In practice, Stableford is a little hit-or-miss with it. There are bits that fascinate, and bits that drag on. There are also annoying bits where he gets way too social-science-y with his biology of adaptation. Still, it’s science fiction, so those who choose to bitch about things like that, I.E. me, should shut the fuck up or switch to romance novels. Moving beyond the dense biology, this isn’t such a bad little book. If you like alien politics and colonialism, there’s stuff here for you. It’s the first in a series that I haven’t read and therefore cannot vouch for or against, but if you desire an undertaking, an undertaking you may have. It’s occasionally preachy, though, so either gird yourself in your cocoon of cynicism or prepare to be mildly persuaded towards peace and love in the universe, man.
Rating: 7.7 Angry Crowbars to Giant Balls
Questions for Critical Cover-Viewing:
- Does Superman not have the heart to tell Lex Luthor that he’s really let himself go?
- When in history has a “biological surprise” ever been a good thing?
- In space, can anyone hear you shame-eat a whole pizza?