Tuesday, March 4

Foreigner - Robert J Sawyer

Sal-Afsan, blinded as punishment for daring to contradict the teachings of the church, is gravely wounded when he trips in the street and a chariot wheels over his head. He survives and, perhaps as a result of the sustained healing required to mend the cranial damage, his eyes grow back - an unheard of miracle! But, though his pupils constrict to light, and the orbs track movement, Afsan still cannot see. His friend, Emperor Dy-Dybo, still feels guilt for having ordered the blinding, and hopes to make amends by trying the new talking cure. Its proponent, Mokleb, has a theory that there are two minds, the high and the low. The high is in charge of all the things we're aware of, while the low contains our unknowable selves, visible only in what it lets slip, and in our dreams. Through talking, she believes, it is possible to uncover truths about ourselves that can resolve conflicts we're unaware of.
Quintaglio society has already sustained several significant shocks in the last few kilodays - from Afsan's own revelation that the Land is a moon orbiting a planet, the Face of God, and will break into rubble within 300 kilodays, to his son Toroca's discovery of evolution. It is essential that they discover a way to leave their home if their race is to survive, and an inventory of all the Land has been underway for some time now. But perhaps the most frightening discovery is to come - another land, with sentient creatures in some ways like the Quintaglio but in otherwise curiously dissimilar. They are yellow instead of green, slightly smaller, use weapons to hunt and, most shockingly, have no territoriality. So abhorent is their existaence to most Quintagliot hat the sight of them triggers dagamant, a mindless killing rage, in all Quintaglio. All, that is, but the territorialityless Toroca.
In this final part of the spectacular trilogy (beginning with Far-Seer and continuing with Fossil Hunter) , the themes of scientific advancement (Mokleb as Freud) and societal change continue. I can't think of anything to add about the greatness fo Sawyer's prose, except to say that this is truly some of the best writing in any genre that you can come across. Just perfect. - Alex

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