Thursday, 25 January 2001

Phillip Mann: Pioneers (1988)

Edition: Gollancz, 1988 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 729

In the future envisaged in this novel, humans have attempted to colonise the universe in a rather strange manner (probably suggested to Mann by short stories by Brian Aldiss). They sent out the Pioneers, who have been genetically altered to make them able to adapt themselves to an extremely wide range of possible environments. (They evolve in a non-reproductive manner, changing their own genome and bodily structure in an unspecified and frankly rather unlikely manner.) But as the Pioneers have prospered, Earth has begun to decline, as the human reproductive powers have declined. So the Pioneer Rescuers are sent out to bring back the Pioneers for the sake of the ancient genes only they now contain. (The Pioneer programme is made more unlikely as each planet has just one Pioneer, not a colony.) The novel is the story of a couple of the Rescuers.

The scenario of the novel is patchy, and so is the writing. Parts are excruciatingly poor (the account of the rescue of Pioneer Rip is like one of those cliched Star Trek episodes in which advanced aliens play psychological tricks on Captain Kirk), while other sections are much better. Judging by A Land Fit For Heroes, which I read part of before giving up, the poor parts are more typical of Mann's writing. Not recommended.

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