Wednesday, 12 January 2000

Anne McCaffrey: The Tower and the Hive (1999)

Edition: Bantam
Review number: 419

The fifth, concluding, novel in The Tower and the Hive sequence is, unfortunately, something of a disappointment, even in a series which has already declined from its best. The books are among McCaffrey's most juvenile and have few redeeming features other than being fun to read.

The plot continues the story of the telepaths' leading of the resistence to the genocidal attacks on human and Mrdini planets of the insectile Hivers. The issues raised - xenophobia, pacifism, alien cultures, and so on - are treated at a superficial level. The telepathic Talents are always right, and it is made clear that any reasonable person would agree with what they do (opposition always comes from "fanatics"). A far better analysis of the issues involved in such a war, with a similar social insect style alien, is contained in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and its sequels. (They are also aimed in part at the younger end of the science fiction market.)

McCaffrey also here includes a subplot seemingly based on ideas frequently associated with homophobia. A homosexual character - a rarity in science fiction even in the late nineties - is "reformed" when he is manipulated into falling in love with the "right" woman. The main aim of both men and women is seen to be to have a family. McCaffrey's writing about sexuality has been more interesting and less potentially offensive in the past, for example in the early Pern novels.

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