The novel opens with an entirely gratuitous sex scene (!) that will probably generate unease, even queasiness, among those modern-day readers unprepared for the more…. liberal …..standards for such material that existed in the 60s and 70s.
The narrative is set on Earth, centuries after WW III has destroyed civilization. Mankind is reduced to nomadic bands of stone-age tribesman, who regularly engage in combat for prime real estate, and access to females.
Berry is Chieftain of the Landos tribe, and unusually bright. When Berry hears rumors of a strange tribe called the Night Comers, who abduct women from sleeping campsites during the nighttime hours, he decides to set up a primitive alarm system around the confines of his camp. As far as Berry is concerned, should the Night Comers target the Landos tribe, they will be met with violence.
On a frosty night, the Night Comers do indeed visit the Landos tribe, and Berry’s preparations are for naught, as the Night Comers are seemingly invincible.
Stunned and disheartened, Berry pursues the kidnappers and their female captives.
When Berry discovers the origins of the Night Comers, what seems to be an unusual act of kidnapping morphs into something much more profound....and a savage tribesman from the wastelands of Earth will find the fate of Mankind in his hands….
Edmund Cooper wrote quite a few sf novels during the 70s. Some of these were well-written (The Cloud Walker comes readily to mind), and can well stand alongside the more lauded novels of the era.
Others were simple pulp fictions, designed to earn the author a living. ‘Slaves of Heaven’ falls into the latter category. Cooper (like his US contemporary, Robert Silverberg) regularly wrote softcore porn novels to supplement his income, and ‘Slaves’ comes across as one of these novels, given a hasty re-working for the sf market.
The novel is suffused with a sly, almost self-parodic air. Berry, being a barbarian, uses a determinedly stilted manner of speaking, a manner of speaking that is devoid of the use of contractions. To top it off, Beery can’t help couching most of his dialogue in the form of aphorisms and platitudes, straight out of a script for a Kung Fu episode. Readers will need to prepare themselves for a steady diet of passages such as these:
“Chief, a wise man does not seek death unless he is in great pain. Only fools seek death to solve their problems.”
“The fire-talk is ended,” said Berry. “I command you to take the body of Oris to lie with those who died this day in defense of the clan. Tomorrow- whatever the day brings forth – we shall travel. I have spoken.”
‘Slaves of Heaven’ is a fast-moving and reasonably engaging adventure novel, but nothing more than that.