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Metareview: The Lani People

by JF Bone (USA, 1916-1986)

(1962, Bantam (US) mass market paperback; Corgi (UK) mass market paperback; free ebook: www.gutenberg.org/etext/2509)

Review by Peter D Tillman

I reread this last night, for the first time since it was new, and it's not bad: "C+", an entertaining period-piece, if you can get past cover scanthe bad science and pulpy prose.

The only thing I remembered about the book was the notorious cover: home.sprynet.com/ ~dbrukman/Lani-People.html, which is pure teenage-boybait (and why I've kept the book for 40 years). Artist (uncredited in the Bantam ed.) was Mitchell Hooks. You won't be surprised to learn that the cover art (and blurbs, at www.trashfiction.co.uk) are almost pure tease. Nothing in the contents would have shocked Kay Tarrant, John W. Campbell's Mrs. Grundy.

I was surprised how much info there is on the net on this obscure old pb. It even makes Lawrence Watt-Evans's Golden Oldie list [1]: www.sff.net/people/lwe/miscellaneous/favorite.htm

"The lani are discovered on a distant planet in the far future; they look human, save that they have tails. A lani with her tail removed is indistinguishable from human.

"The law says, however, that the key is interfertility; anything that humans can breed with is human, and anything they can't breed with is just an animal. The lani, therefore, are animals, and the story follows the adventures of the young veterinarian hired to tend a lani herd as he gradually discovers the history and true nature of the species. It's got adventure, romance, excitement, and a dose of thought-provoking questions as well. Worth reading, definitely."

The setup is 1950's standard-SF: the Brotherhood of Man loosely governs the 6,000 human-settled worlds, which are linked by hyperspace (spindizzy) FTL spaceships and Dirac communicators. Humans have been in space for 5,000 years, but their culture is (surprise!) just like the USA in 1960....

Watt-Evans likes it more than I do -- my reaction was closer to David Brukman's: home.sprynet.com/~dbrukman/Lani-People.html

"The novel is several decades old, and the science basis is implausible even for the time of its publication. However, the central themes -- discrimination, greed, morality, justice, interstellar law, love -- are durable and appealing. While unsophisticated, the character description is skilled, and the resulting interaction is satisfying, if predictable."

Note that Bone's moral-philosophy lectures are pretty damn tedious. And you are likely to question whether a 4,000 year-old abandoned spaceship could really be fixed up (in secret, on nights and weekends) by the vet and his girlfriend....

Anyway, it's all of 152 pp. long, so it would make a practical (and free) ebook. Worth a try. And the cover is killer!

[1] which is quite nice, but I (and a lot of other readers) purely hated Warp Angel. Caveat lector. [...back]

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