Pallas

L. Neil Smith, Author Tor Books $23.95 (447p) ISBN 978-0-312-09705-9
Not so much a novel as a stultifying political treatise, the latest from the author of Henry Martyn is set on Pallas, an asteroid ``terraformed'' to be suitable for human life. Two societies compete for dominance: the Greeley Memorial Utopian Project, a totalitarian communist collective, and the Outside, a haven for freewheeling, gun-toting, Old West-style individualism. Born in the collective, Emerson Ngu manages as a teenager to escape to the Outside, where he fits smoothly into the loose, anything-goes culture. The book's meager plot concerns the collective's occasional attempts to recapture Ngu. Smith's writing is palatable enough, but he fails to create a convincing fictional environment (details such as the asteroid's minimal gravity are mentioned only in passing), and the characters are mere puppets mouthing his political views. His ``utopian collective'' is a simplistic straw man, and the individualistic society he clearly intends to glorify is unconvincing and blatantly based on the works of Ayn Rand (one chapter is even called ``The Fountainhead''). Rand's fans might find the book appealing, but there is little here to entice other readers. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1993
Release date: 01/01/1993
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