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2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
Editor:  Ernest Lilley
Associate Editor: Sharon Archer

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Aug02 Contents
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Events/Cons:
CanVention 22 and the Aurora Awards
If It's Tuesday, this must be TOR

Feature Interview:
Ken Macleod

Feature Review: Cosmonaut Keep by Ken Macleod

BBook Reviews
The Alchemists Door
by Lisa Goldstein
Alternate Generals II
ed by Harry Turtledove
Argonaut by Stanley Schmidt
Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks
The Iron Grail by John Woodstock
The Sacred Pool by L. Warren Douglas
The Sky So Big And Black by John Barnes
Spaceland by Rudy Rucker
Straw Men by
Michael Marshall Smith
Sisters of the Raven by Barbara Hambly
To Trade The Stars by Julie E. Czerneda
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror
, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Graphic Novel:
Murder Mysteries. Original short story and radio play by Neil Gaiman. Graphic story script and art by P. Craig Russell
Zine: The Journal of Pulse Pounding Narratives

SFMedia:
Film:
Austin Powers: GoldMember

Metropolis (2002) Restoration
& Metropolis Essay
PowerPuff Girls
Reign of Fire
Signs
Simone

 

The Longest Way Home by Robert Silverberg
List Price: $25.95
Hardcover - 304 pages (July 2002)
Avon EOS; ISBN:
038097858X
Review by Ernest Lilley
Check out this book at: Amazon US / Amazon UK

Joseph Master Keilloran of House Keilloran has the bad timing to be away on a visit to his kinfolk the Getfen when he awakes in the middle of the night to find himself in the middle of an slave uprising. After 1500 years of subjugation, the Folk have decided to throw off the yoke of oppression in
one long night of bloodshed.

Millennia before, human explorers had come to the planet Joseph's people call Homeworld and settled down to ultimately adopt a quiet agrarian lifestyle. Calling themselves the Folk, they seem to have lived in balance with the land and the native alien populations, who took little notice of them. Then the Masters arrived, subjugated the earlier settlers, and set themselves up as slave owners, complete with plantations and manor houses.

This arrangement seems to have worked for quite a while, until the unexpected, even unimaginable, uprising that kills, as far as Joseph knows, every Master on the northern continent of Manza.

So, after being saved from being killed in his bed like the rest of the Masters, he's whisked out of the manor and into the woods by a faithful servant who can't adjust to the idea of usurping the Masters that had enslaved her people millennia ago.

Joseph, who has never known hardship, always slept in a clean bed, and whose hardy teenage appetite has never been frustrated finds himself anew in the long trek southward to his home. 

Ten thousand miles is pretty far from home, considerably more than a day trip, which he knows intellectually, but has a bit of trouble grasping in reality. Always in danger of starvation, he manages to keep himself alive by learning some woods craft, making use of his handy kit of Swiss-army knife type gadgets, and by finding a place among the indigenous native tribes he meets in the wilds.

The whole experience shakes his world, made up of hereditary lineages of human estate owners and enslaved human folk populations, to the core. Early on he spends time with the Indigine, one of the several sentient alien races, whom his father had studied a bit, and finds a role healing their sick. He also learns about their worldview, in which seasons come, and seasons go, but the important things are not of this world...which means that the humans are just a chapter in the book of life, and not important beyond their tenure, however brief or long it may be.

Joseph finds that he is part of a larger universe than he had imagined.

He also finds that he likes the isolation that his forced march has imposed on him, and he wonders who he will be when he returns to his family so far away, returns to take the reigns of the estate as he has been groomed to do since birth.

Along the way he makes friends with the Indigene chief, though the notion of friendship turns out to be alien enough to them that he never knows where he stands. Useful as a doctor, he gets traded from tribe to tribe, mostly in the direction he wants to go, until he finally has to set out on his own, nearly dying as he struggles to cross a mountain range and collapsing at the outskirts of a Folk village. Emaciated and nearly dead, he is taken in and healed by the race that sought to kill all like him, protected by the differences between himself and the distant cousins that he had come to visit. In the arms of a Folk girl nearly his own age he finds both comfort and confusion as struggles to redefine his place in the universe.

At 304 pages, The Longest Way Home isn't the longest book you'll encounter, though it may well be the start of another series for this grand master. If so, it has an excellent beginning, and plenty of room to develop, but if not, the book can stand by itself quite nicely. It poses plenty of questions about the human condition and if it doesn't answer them all, that may be all the better.

Joseph's trek across the alien wilderness and his encounters with other races and folkways feels almost like an Ursula K. LeGuin story, and it would be a terrific novel for readers in their mid teens to discover. Librarians please note, that there is a pretty solid sex scene in there somewhere (pg 203-210), but I hope that doesn't make it a banned book these days. It definitely belongs on library bookshelves. 

Ernest Lilley is Editor and Publisher of SFRevu. He also writes about technology in his publication TechRevu (www.techrevu.com) as well as being a frequent contributor in online and print publications like Byte.com, Digital Camera, Pen Computing and others. He likes station wagons with stick shifts, PDA's with keyboards, and SF with ideas.