knew there was a reason to store all those paperbacks up in the attic. Found this scifi-er, something I bought in 1985 (before I was married, b’Gad. I was still at NRL and going to college to learn Fortran on punch cards). But this review isn’t about my life, it’s about Orion Treet, a traveler and gentleman of the world, and also a historian (meaning a man running ahead of his debts) who gets hoodwinked into a mission to fly out to a corporation’s hidden colony world and report back about their efforts now that they’ve been there a year. But a year is a relative thing, especially with wormhole shortcuts, and when they do land, it’s thousands of years in the future. And just as luck would have it, they land near the wrong city.
It turns out that Dome (which is a massive environmental shield providing its huddled, weary masses a place to be repressed in) was one colony, and Fierra (the people heaved out for being too elvish and liberal, I suppose) are the other. Rapidly the travelers become embroiled in the perpetual power struggle that is pretty much norm in Dome. And since they are new and unknown, they are pawns in that endless bigger game.
Eventually Treet and his space buddies (with the help of one of the directors who is currently slowly losing his powerplay) manage to break out of Dome and flee across an endless desert (well, they do have a couple of skimmers, some air, but not much else. Playing out like castaway, we follow their struggles (personal and otherwise) in the sandy wastes. Eventually they reach Fierra, a utopian city where everyone is happy and peaceful, the architecture stunning, and there isn’t so much as a garish red McDonalds to be found. But Treet knows that Dome is scheming, that once they know where Fierra actually is (which they don’t, which is magnificent as far as keeping a populating on war footing for thousands of years (Yeah, I’m still worried about the Assyrians)) it’s lights-out, elves!
There is some of that inexplicable weird shit, like big eels that live in a lifeless river – like, what do they eat? And a cloud thing of sorts that infects the travelers, sickens them until they crust up into cocoons, and when they crack out of them, they are all youthful again (what did the Guide say about Babelfish?). But outside of that 1985 inability to recognize the power and world-shaping of modern computers, and some questions I had about how tricky it would be to hide an illegal colony from the governments of the world, and why your first ship out wouldn’t be carrying supplies or something useful but a historian, well, beyond all that, it was a fun read. That’s the trick with any data scifi – just let it go and enjoy the story. Which I did. And I did.
Fortunately this one came double-bundled – meaning I’ve got the first and second books together. So we’ll find out what happens to Treet and his friends (not all friends now, not at the end of this part) and I’ll dutifully report what I find and what I make of it.
But first, we’re going back to 1880 for another crazy-old scifi, then it’s likely off to a destroyed moon. Stay tuned.