The Galveston County Daily News has gone to a five-day publication schedule. They dropped all print-edition book reviews and told me they no longer wanted book reviews from me. This is one of two reviews submitted to them I wrote prior to being told this. There will be a separate post later about my continuing printing weekly reviews later.
The Last Novel Jerry Pournelle Wrote Among His Best
By MARK LARDAS
May 3, 2020
“Starborn and Godsons: A Heorot Series Novel,” by Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, and Steven Barnes, Baen Books, 2020, 416 pages, $25.00 (Hardcover)
Jerry Pournelle was one of the great science fiction writers of the last 50 years. In 2015 he had a brain tumor removed, leaving him unable to write. He could plot and edit, but not write out the flow. To get him past this and Pournelle’s ensuing depression, two close friends and literary collaborators wrote a new novel with him. He plotted the story, they wrote it, and all three edited it.
“Starborn and Godsons: A Heorot Series Novel,” by Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, and Steven Barnes is the result. It is the last novel Pournelle wrote.
The story opens on Avalon, a planet settled by a slower-than-light colony ship. The colony was blighted by a carnivorous life form, known as grendels. These predators almost wiped out the human colony before being brought under control, destroying most of the colony’s technology base, and crippling it emotionally.
“Starborn and Godsons” begins a generation after the arrival on Avalon. The Earthborn, the original colonists from Earth, and settled the planet are old and dying off. The Starborn, born on Avalon are settling into a pastoral life, slowly forgetting their spacefaring roots.
Into the equation comes a new colony ship, populated by religious outcasts, who call themselves the Godsons. Their faith’s central tenant is that man is intended to colonized and rule the stars. Following patterns set in the Age of Exploration and American history they built a starship, populated it with believers and are on their way to achieving their dream.
What follows is a classic Pournelle story. Each group, Earnborn, Starborn, and Godsons have secrets they are keeping from the others, sometime deliberately, at other times inadvertently. Each group is blinded to some extent, by their biases and beliefs. Each has something the other groups need, but does not realize it.
Set in an exotic setting with intelligent alien life forms, the combinations of secrets and biases throw the groups into conflict. They becomes convinced the other groups are acting out of bad faith rather than ignorance. In the end “Starborn and Godsons” is a tale of the strengths and weaknesses of human societies.
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.