Copyright 1992 by
I first read this on the 23rd February 2003.
The alien Arthroplana came to Earth and told us that we'd
damaged our Earth irreparably and that it was now dying. They
rescued several score thousand
humans upon their star-crossing, living spacecraft, the Beastships.
The Conservancy government is committed to maintaining humanity
while minimizing the ecological impact of the colonies. Humans
interactions with their new home worlds are carefully restricted
and balanced. The Conservancy controls breeding and reproduction.
Over the generations they have reduced people's physical size to
decrease the resources they consume. They have greatly extending
prepuberty and reduced the period of sexual maturity. They strive
to build an elfin humanity that will leave no mark on the worlds
The underground opposition to the Conservancy is Earth Affirmed.
This organisation still has some hopes for a more independent
mankind. They have convinced the Conservancy that a mission should
be sent back to the Solar System, back to inspect the dying or dead
Earth. The mission would settle once and for all whether there was,
or will be, any hope for Earth itself. The conservancy believe
that with Earth's destruction confirmed, humanity will be content to
continue its fading, shadow existence.
For its part, Earth Affirmed hope to find some
evidence that Earth will be repairable, recoverable, at some distant
John Gen-93-Beta, ancient captain of the Beastship Evangeline, is
given the mission to return to Earth and to confirm that it is indeed
a dead and poisonous planet. John's crew is Connie, a sensitive woman
whose psychological problems have been "adjusted" but even she believes
that she remains dangerously unbalanced.
The humans will be accompanied by the alien Tug, an Arthroplana who,
encysted within the body of Evangeline, is the real master of
the living ship. Tug is intelligent, amusing, sadistic and utterly
A moral book, clearly in favour of good parenting and warning of
the perils of parasitism.
It has engrossing characters, that
develop, deepen and learn about themselves as the novel progresses.
The alien Tug, so appropriately named, and Terrence Rafferty, the oldest
man alive, are particularly intriguing creations. Of course, the
Beastship itself, Evangeline, is quite magnificent.
This is a gripping, enthralling read. Initially I thought this was
a very unusual book, but as the end approaches it becomes a more simple
but very superior, old-fashioned SF novel.
Very good indeed.
Loaded on the 28th February 2003.