Genre: Science Fiction
Book Review by William Shaw
Have you read this book?
A medieval city of low buildings has grown around a tall spire. It is the only city on the planet Corvan, a human colony world that has always been isolated from Earth. A small group highly evolved humans called the Tecs live in a technology rich environment on buildings attached to the Spire whilte the natives live in relative poverty in the city below. They are dominated by the Tecs, who have great mental powers. The natives supply all the Tecs food. The Tecs sustain the belief that they and the natives are genetically mismatched and cannot interbreed without intervention. Such intervention is unacceptable to natives.
The story revolves around a tec/native cross breed, Jack Crossman, the the product of a relationship between a male tec and a native mother. Their relationship is not accepted by Tec society and when Jack’s father dies, his mother is forced to flee to the family farm outside the city. Ostracized by the natives, when his mother dies he returns to the city and falls under the sway of the local mob chief, Ram-sai.
A disaster causes the Spire to disappear and the most of the Tecs are killed. Only the current leader and his daughter, Sarah, survive together with a few lower echelon tecs. Ram-sai poses as a champion for the natives to put an end finally to Tec domination, yet he has his own plans for domination. After a surprising journey back to Earth, on their return to Corvan, Jack and Sarah are thrown into an uneasy alliance, caught between the still powerful Tec remnant and the native revolution.
This is a powerful story of rich vs poor and the domination of high technology societies. The schism between the two societies, created by the Tecs, is maintained by them purely for their own benefit. Tec society is itself divided into levels; only the highest levels have power. All Tecs ignore the native population. Tecs have, by virtue of their power, eliminated most native crime. Ram-sai is a small time criminal with grand ideas. Crossman is caught between the two groups–as we discover his story it fleshes out the inequalities.
Corvan in miniature is a paradigm of us now. The Tecs have all the technology (hence the name for those who came late!). The natives steal what technology they can from low level Tecs. One minor difference is that money is in play, but has not yet begun to impact. Removal of the Spire is a blow to the tecs, both physical and mental; it brings a type of Revolution, but it is slow. The natives don’t even realize their status as slaves–Ram-sai has to prod them. The characters are very well realized. Crossman has as much trouble with his own lassitude and failure as he does with the revolution. He just wants to be left alone; an anti-hero with a midlife crisis. Sarah looks like a Princess and acts like one. Her agenda is to return to the status quo just as any royalty would.
There’s no happy ending here. although there is some hope held out for negotiation and peace in the next book. I enjoyed this book, but it is my kind of story: no dragons or wizards or aliens just humans doing what they always do. So judge the rating with that bias.