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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

March 28, 2006

Karen Traviss: The World Before

The third in her series set on or around Bezer'ej, The World Before continues where Crossing the Line left off.

Rather than feeling like a satisfying conclusion to a trilogy, this feels like a marker on the way to somewhere else, and there are indeed at least two further sequels to follow. It's difficult to say much about a 3rd in a series without spoiling earlier episodes, but suffice it to say that for those who have read this far, there are twists to the story that keep it getting more interesting.

For example, the humans who encounter the main aliens here, the Wess'har, learn to fear them because of their extremely strict environmental policies and their view that all beings have a right to exist without interference from others. In such a context, the proliferation of humans - even on their own planet - at the expense of other life-forms and the biosphere, comes to seem like an out-of-control infestation.

But it turns out that these Wess'har are a colony of softy liberal pacifist hippy environmentalists who left their home planet thousands of years before because they wanted to have even less impact on their environment than was culturally acceptable back home. The World Before, the place they come from, holds even more mystery, and needless to say, the home planet Wess'har turn up in this episode and seem determined to deal with the human threat by any means necessary.

There's a lovely moment in this when a Wess'har scientist resurrects a pair of parrots from a gene bank and finds them not only beautiful, but intelligent enough to learn speech. Now, think of the way parrots get treated and threatened and exploited in this wonderful world of ours and imagine what the Wess'har might think of us!

The question at issue here is actions vs. motivations. We all know about the Road to Hell, but the humans here encounter a species that doesn't care what you thought you were doing or what you wanted to happen. They make judgements based on actions and their consequences alone. There's no such thing as an accident, or collateral damage that is somehow excusable: you are responsible for your actions.

Another cracking read from Traviss, and can't wait for the next instalment.


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