Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Fall Of Mankind [Review: Brothers Of Earth]

Kurt and Djan are human warriors from opposing sides of an interplanetary war that has all but destroyed both their civilizations. The sole survivor from his warship, Kurt finds himself alone and stranded on the surface of an uncharted planet. He is found by the nemet, indigenous humanoids, but soon discovers that this region of the planet is ruled by Djan, who has taken power with her cache of advanced weapons although she is also the sole survivor of her own Hanan crew.

Brothers Of Earth is C.J.Cherryh's second novel, published in 1977 with an original RRP of 80p. It hasn't aged at all. Between them Kurt and Djan's actions tear apart the society they are living in, causing death and destruction, and this tale of interfering in foreign affairs without taking the time to understand them instantly translates to more or less any international news story of the present day. Kurt spells this out when he tells the nemet the horror of war on a human, mechanized scale and tries to persuade them to avoid his and Djan's races' fates. The nemet society is complex, and does not feel alien or idealized: rather it recalls a post-colonial society with a deep history, family, national, social and cultural divisions and long-held grudges and it is this complexity which Djan misses and Kurt only learns through his mistakes.

While Kurt and Djan are newcomers and believe, in different ways, that their own experiences give them superiority and a right to advise the nemet, the planet also contains a colony of humans descended from Djan's people, the Hanan, who have degenerated into tribalism following a century without contact from their homeworld. As well as a plot device, the presence of this tribe in the novel is a reminder of the worst qualities of humanity.

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