cover image The Caterpillar's Question

The Caterpillar's Question

Piers Anthony, Philip Jose Farmer, P. Anthony. Ace Books, $18.95 (264pp) ISBN 978-0-441-09488-2

A tiresome performance by two genre talents who surely can do better, this is the old space opera story whereby a brave individual from earth manages to outwit an entire race of superior beings, get the girl and save the galaxy. Jack is an impecunious artist who takes the job of driving 13-year-old Tappuah (``Tappy'') Concord, maimed in a childhood accident, to a distant clinic. During the journey, Tappy discovers her destiny as the host of the Imago, an entity that spreads general goodness to any sentient being. The Imago has picked a human host because humans are from a backwater world, unimportant in the general political scheme of the galaxy. Meanwhile, the Gaol, a stereotypical bad-guy race who use humans as slaves, want to crush the Imago because compassion and emotion are anathema to them. With the help of an android and a Gaol who has come under the Imago's influence, Jack manages to keep Tappy from being imprisoned by the Gaol (pronounced in the British fashion, ``jail''--subtlety is not the novel's strong suit), and helps the Imago spread happiness throughout the galaxy. Every plot angle is utterly predictable, including Jack's angst over his growing love for adolescent Tappy. (Oct.)