Messing Up the Eco-System

Legacy of Heorot - 'Larry Niven',  'Jerry Pournelle',  'Steven Barnes'

Sometimes I wonder whether the more authors a book has the worse it becomes. Actually, come to think of it, I struggle to actually think of any work of literature that has more than one author – it seems as if for a book to enter into the annals of greatness the book has to be written by a single author. To me this isn't actually all that surprising because artists tend to work alone. In fact, when one considers music the same seems to apply, considering Bohemian Rhapsody was allegedly written by a single person (though I was always under the assumption that Queen, a four piece band, actually wrote the song, but then again people seem to think that Freddy Mercury actually wrote the song, Queen just performed it).


Anyway, as you can probably tell, this book was written by three people, which makes me wonder how a book is actually written by three people – do they write a chapter a piece, or do they just write specific characters? In either case how is it that they actually put the book together – do they sit down and work it out around some really bad cups of coffee, or do they argue about it around some really bad glasses of wine, and then go away, write their own sections and let the editors work it out. Or is it that they simply draft the outline of the book and then let poor Larry Niven sit down and put it all together. Well, however they do it the final product really didn't turn out all that well.


So, the story is set on a planet orbiting Tau Ceti. The characters had just come out of a hundred year long sleep and are now setting up for a new world on what appears to be a paradise. Unfortunately there was a problem with the hibernation pods and apparently everybody has emerged from deep sleep somewhat stupider. Mind you, if we are talking about the best and the brightest, maybe it is simply the fact that the one thing that they lack is common sense – this seems to always be the case when you put a bunch of academics together, the one thing that they all seem to lack is common sense. Anyway, they land on this world and in their mind it is a paradise, and after a number of surveys they believe that there isn't actually anything hostile on this world, that is until a nasty monster comes along and starts ripping everything apart. However, they don't actually believe that it was a monster, but some guy who is sulking over the fact that nobody believes that there is anything hostile on the island – that doesn't sound as if the hibernation pods had busted, that just sounds like your typical bunch of human beings who want to live with their heads in the sand – climate change anybody?


Anyway, they eventually realise that these creatures exist after one of them almost completely destroys the camp, so they decide to go out and hunt the rest of them down and kill them. Well, that turns out to be a particularly smart idea because it also turns out that these creatures have a natural way of keeping their population down – they eat their young. In fact, it turns out that they are like frogs – as babies they start off as fish, but when they mature they turn into these monsters – so, the mature creatures basically eat the babies, which keeps the population down. However, now that they have basically gone out and killed all the mature ones there is nothing keeping the population down, so they pretty quickly discover that the whole island is swarming with monsters. Mind you, the other catch was that they only eat their young if there is nothing else to eat, so when the colonists arrive with all their live stock, all of a sudden they have something else to eat.


As I mentioned, this book was rather dull and boring, and in fact is the first part of a trilogy. Sure, it did do well to explore how humans have this nasty habit of completely ruining an eco-system with their introduced species. For instance, the landed gentry introduced foxes into Australia simply so they might have something to hunt, and not surprisingly they have gone and run havoc across the environment. Mind you, the farmers then get criticised by the likes of PETA when they try to cull the foxes due to them causing issues with their live stock. Then again, I do see where they're coming from because technically humans are an introduced species, and a pest, but we don't go around culling ourselves.


Mind you, the other interesting thing is that we all know that the colony is going to survive, but then again this novel does play out like a movie, and unless the creators are really clever, we never actually have the protagonists lose. Okay, they have to adjust the way the colony works, namely that every man gets to have two wives (namely because half of the male population was wiped out when they went to war against the monsters – they called them Grendels after the monster from Beowulf), however the colony does manage to survive. The other interesting thing is that the planet is ten light years from Earth, and they took a hundred years to get there from Earth, and they are talking about advertising for new colonists. Well, they didn't think that through all that much because first of all it is a twenty year round trip for any communication, and even if another colony ship was sent out, it would take a hundred years for them to arrive, and that doesn't take into account humans developing new technology. Mind you, as yet I don't know of any book where the colonists arrive at a planet after travelling for a hundred years only to discover that while they were asleep humanity has invented the FTL drive and the planet has already been colonised.


Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1878686760