.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Secret City by Carol Emshwiller

The Secret City by Carol Emshwiller. San Francisco, California: Tachyon Publications, 2007. ISBN: 978-1-892391-44-5

This novel is a genuine new twist on a classic SciFi theme, at least, I can't recall anyone taking quite this approach. We have some tourists from another world who become stranded on earth, and are basically just hanging around, waiting to be rescued. They look enough like humans to intermingle fairly easily, and not get caught.

By the time our story begins, our protagonist is a second generation alien. His parents have died, and he is no longer in contact with any others of his kind. He barely knows anything about his heritage, and doesn't know more than a few miscellaneous words in his native tongue. His clothes are wearing out, and his money is about gone, and he has no documents that would establish an identity. What to do? What to do?

Eventually, after a series of minor misadventures, he finds his way to the fabled secret city of his fellow aliens, built somewhere in the remote mountains, and disguised as ruins, overgrown with trees, vines and the like. There he meets three of his fellow aliens, a young woman, a young man, and the last of the original generation. Only she was a servant, not a member of the more privileged classes among them.

Naturally, he and the girl fall in love, and the other fellow jealously tries to destroy them. Finally, folks from the home planet show up and try to rescue them, but by now, they don't really want to be rescued, having begun trying to have a life together. They're not entirely sure they like the way their home world society is organized, either, as it seems quite class stratified.

In the book's least believable plot twist, it turns out that these aliens are very similar, if not identical to the Neanderthals that lived on earth all those millenia ago. I'm not really sure what purpose this particular aspect of the story has, and it doesn't seem that plausible to me, but heck, who cares?

The book shares one of the archetypical themes of much science fiction, especially that from earlier periods, namely, that earth and its inhabitants are somehow better, superior in some way or other, to the alien societies it encounters. As written, the story has a bit of an existential feel to it. Our protagonists have no real will to live until they meet and find one another.

While I wouldn't exactly call this a page turner of a book, as it doesn't just grab and compel you to finish it like some novels, it nevertheless has a charm all its own, and the story is ultimately rewarding. Recommended for all science fiction fans.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home