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Monday, May 28, 2007

cover of Darkover Landfall

A colony spaceship from Earth runs into trouble and crash-lands on an unknown planet. The people are torn between doing their best to settle and survive and trying to get their spaceship fixed so they can go on to their original destination-- a colony planet already checked out by Earth explorers, with a mining outpost and communication links back to Earth. A small team goes on an expedition to a nearby mountain in attempt to get a sense of the size of the planet and use the stars to determine their location in space, but the world begins to affect them-- especially once they encounter a strange pollen with a powerful, hallucinogenic effect. One person also has a mysterious encounter with a telepathic alien; to this alien race, humans minds are like a door barely ajar which is only slightly more open when under the influence of the pollen, but the aliens sense that humans may be dangerous and keep their distance. Ultimately, this book is a tale of survival and adaptation to a completely new environment.

Most of the book follows geologist Rafe MacAran. He's the one who leads the expedition to the nearby mountains, and he quickly falls in love with this undiscovered planet. There's a lot of conflict between the crew of the spaceship (who didn't plan to be colonists) and the others; the spacefarers are afraid that by reverting to lower levels of technology they will become savages, so they do everything in their power to fix the spaceship, and when that fails they begin trying to encode ever last bit of knowledge they can into a computer, to preserve it for later generations. Eventually, they recognize what Rafe figured out more quickly-- it is better to adapt to this new world and let their descendants develop technologies apropriate to this different world.

There are some interesting social/cultural points in the midst of this. One of the colonists is a "Reformed Catholic" priest, and he has to deal with whether or not a religion based on events that happened on a different planet is relevant here (and his own faith is shaken by the horrific things he did under the effects of the hallucinogic pollen. Also interesting is the women who struggle with not wanting to have children-- for their colony to survive and prosper, they need as many children as possible from all the fertile women, but many of those women have been psychologically ingrained with no desire for children, because they grew up on an over-populated planet and chose careers (like crewing a spaceship) where that makes sense.

I appreciated the fact that Bradley avoids easy answers. This is most apparent in what looks like an obvious romantic pairing early on-- in fact, it does not result in quite the usual story-book ending. I think the same holds true for the other issues in the book, too.

Title:Darkover Landfall
Author:Marion Zimmer Bradley
Date published:1972
Genre:Science Fiction
Number of pages:160


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