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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, May 30, 2004

The Companions by Sheri S. Tepper. New York: HarperCollins, 2003. ISBN: 0-06-053821-X.

This is the best Tepper sci-fi novel I've read in quite some time, perhaps the best since Grass, probably the first of her novels I ever read. What I liked about it was not so much what eventually turns out to be the primary theme (humankind's relationship with companion animals, especially dogs), but rather the fascinating world of Moss (an alien planet under human exploration), and the main character, Jewel, whose survival and adventures form the primary (but hardly exclusive) narrative thread.

The story is set in a distant future milieu in which an extremely overcrowded earth has decimated animal life, and an increasingly militant movement rabidly calls for the complete elimination of all animals except mankind. Humans are but one among many space-faring races found in the galaxy, most of them older and perhaps more advanced, in various ways. Interstellar and internecine quarrels and schemes take an increasingly important role as the plot develops.

The willog, an intelligent plant-like native of Moss, has to be one of the more charming aliens created by any science fiction author in recent years. One of the initially fascinating features of Moss is that its indigenous inhabitants communicate via a language of smells, a language neither spoken nor heard, but smelled.

The final culmination of the increasingly complicated plotlines is perhaps a little too pat, good wins over evil, the wicked get their just deserts. As I've said about at least one other sci-fi novel I've reviewed recently, there are enough good ideas for half a dozen novels, but somehow it didn't bother me so much here. Although I did feel that the plot became just a wee bit too complicated toward the end, with more players than were really needed. Still, all in all, a very satisfying and entertaining read.

I've previously blogged two other Tepper novels, The Visitor and Singer from the Sea.

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