Friday, November 4, 2011

Book Review: 'Brothers of Earth' by C. J. Cherryh

2 / 5 Stars

‘Brothers of Earth’ (245 pp.) is DAW Book No. 212; it was published in October 1976, with cover art by Alan Atkinson.

‘Brothers’ adheres quite closely to the premise regularly employed in author Cherryh’s science fiction: through circumstance, or his own volition, an Earthman finds himself immersed in an alien world and an alien culture. 

Success of his mission, or perhaps his very survival, depends on his willingness to adapt to the alien culture and gain the respect of its people. The alien culture is usually depicted as being fair and equitable in its own right, if not in some ways superior to that of Terran culture. 

And, more often than not, our hero finds himself bereft of laser, disintegrator ray, railgun, mini-nuke launcher, phase plasma rifle in the 40-watt range, and other ordnance, leaving him with no choice but to undergo various humiliations and abuses, with no way to respond save to grin and bear it, and hope his persecutors will eventually relent.

In the case of ‘Brothers’, the hero is spaceman Kurt Morgan, the lone survivor of a battle between the fleets of the Federation and the rebellious Hanan faction. Morgan  crash-lands on a nameless Earth-type world, whose inhabitants are a race of humans akin to the Polynesians of Terra.

In due course, Kurt Morgan and Kta, his native minder, find themselves caught up in various religious and political conflicts among the native peoples, and forced into choosing sides in a violent civil war. It’s up to Kurt to demonstrate that his loyalties stand with Kta and his kin, even if so doing ruins the last, best chance Morgan has of regaining contact with the Federation, and eventual rescue…..

I found ‘Brothers’ to be a competent, if not particularly original, Cherryh novel. With the exception of the book’s middle section, where the narrative takes on some degree of momentum, most of the text is devoted to lengthy explorations of the emotional interactions between Morgan and his friend Kta. 

While I can’t claim to be an aficionado of so-called ‘slash’ fiction, it’s clear that in many ways ‘Brothers’ is a more chaste incarnation of the Kirk/Spock pieces regularly produced in the 70s by a subset of Star Trek’s female fans.

The novel is centered on the relationship between Morgan and Kta, and rarely strays from this path; I’m not disclosing a major spoiler to say that early on a female love interest is deployed, but then quickly removed. Other female characters are introduced in the course of the narrative, but these characters serve as vehicles by which Morgan and Kta can further cement their dedication to one another.

Cherryh fans will want to have a copy of ‘Brothers’ on their bookshelf, but I suspect all other PorPor fans will want to read it only if they have nothing more pressing on their calendar.

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