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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Right to Arm Bears by Gordon R. Dickson

The Right to Arm Bears by Gordon R. Dickson. Riverdale, New York: Baen, 2000. ISBN: 0-671-31959-0

This is the “first unitary edition” of three loosely linked stories that Dickson first published some 30-40 years ago. The three stories are titled Special Delivery (1961), Spacepaw (1969) and "The Law-Twister Shorty" (1971). The title of this unitary edition has nothing whatsoever to do with the stories, other than the fact that some title generating editor obviously just couldn't resist.

All three stories are set on a far planet, where the indigenous intelligent aliens resemble nothing so much as 9-foot upright-walking tool-using bears, called Dilbians, bears with a slightly warped (from a human perspective) sense of right and wrong. These Dilbians are at a fairly low technological level of development, and they live in an area of space hotly contested between humans and another intelligent space-faring race, the totally amoral Hemnoids.

All three stories tell basically the same story, the same plot is repeated each time, with different characters, and slightly different circumstances, although one Dilbian, the “Postman,” (that's his official Dilbian job), features prominently in all three. Essentially, a young, brawny human, with a certain way of thinking and acting, carefully chosen by Earth psychologists for that very reason, is dumped into a Dilbian situation in which he is forced to challenge one of the physically far superior Dilbians. A pretty Earth girl is invariably involved as well, although there isn't much opportunity for real romance to develop during the stories.

Much incipient humor is generated along the way as the hapless earthling tries to worm his way out of the situation. The end result, naturally, has a great deal of significance as to which side, Earth or the Hemnoids, will ultimately be able to add Dilbia to its sphere of influence.

Light, very lightweight science fiction, entertaining, and amusing, but not particularly challenging in the way that the best SciFi is. A definite 60's way of thinking and writing is evident. I'd give it about a 5 on a 1-10 scale, and recommend it for anyone wanting some light or humorous reading.


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