Pandora’s Planet Christopher Anvil

Default Smiles Imagine you’re an alien race, and you’ve conquered the world. Things seem to be going pretty well for you, right? Except for the fact that the Earthmen don’t seem to act very conquered. They keep attacking. And worst of all, they keep talking. They just. Don’t. Stop. The general consensus seems to be that humans are worrying not really because they’re determined and intelligent fighters, but mostly because they’re really, really good at conning people.
Happy Sharky2 That’s it. That’s the whole story in a nutshell. Earthmen give everyone else a headache. Stay far, far away from them. This is essentially the summary that made us want to read this short book. Even better, it’s from the point of view of the aliens, so you can experience the headache and confusion first hand.
Default Smiles It’s a rare case where I’m actually rooting for the conquering aliens. Or at least I sympathise with them and I just want them to have a peaceful life away from this mess they’ve gotten themselves into.
Default Sharky They did it to themselves. They’re taking over these planets to ‘better’ them and bring them into some unified collective. But first of all, they said right at the start that the only reason they conquered Earth was because the humans weren’t prepared for the first strike. It’s just weird to me that an attempt to supposedly help and better another planet doesn’t involve diplomatic contact and aid, it’s just a straightforward attack and take-over because clearly they are the superior race and will tell us how to live ‘properly’. That’s been done more than enough throughout history and we don’t want that anymore thanks. Not that our main characters aren’t great, and they’re actually pretty decent people. It’s just that the entire racial mindset bothers me.
Surprised Smiles A major problem I have with the book is that some chapters are really abrupt. They’re either too fast, or they just HAVE things in them without explaining why. We found out that this book is actually cobbled together from several short stories, which explains the problem, but doesn’t fix it. I think I actually skipped half of a chapter because I didn’t really know what was going on, and I didn’t lose out on anything from skipping.
Happy Sharky2 The first couple of chapters are the strongest, since they make up the short story that inspired all the others. There’s a lot of fun to be got out of the fact that the aliens are a fairly straightforward people, and don’t know how to deal with a race that can talk someone around to their point of view, or sell them something completely useless by making it sound like a good deal. There's definitely a moment where the aliens end up mortgaging their ship to pay for a holiday house, and then both house and ship get repossessed. It’s not laugh out loud funny, but it’s a good time.
Default Smiles Oh wow, those first couple of chapters. Basically the book follows two main plotlines, and they both come out of that short story. By the end of all the headaches and confusion, one of the aliens decides it might be a good idea to give the humans interstellar travel.
Default Sharky A stupid idea, really.
Shocked Smiles The plan is, that since they’re so good at ideas, and they’re dangerous in groups, maybe if they spread them throughout the galaxy a little, they’ll be more harmless and be able to pass along their beneficial ideas. The resulting mess is the first plotline, still from the point of view of the aliens.
Default Sharky A stupid idea, really.
Shocked Smiles And they also give one of the humans a place in their army as a sort of special forces to play the same kind of tricks on other races that they played on these aliens, with other sneaky humans under his command.
Surprised Sharky A stupid idea, r- … well actually that one turns out pretty good, amazingly enough. The ‘second’ plotline, though it’s actually a very small one, is just two chapters which are separate adventures of this human and his crew, as they get called into emergencies where conquered planets just won’t stay down. In concept… using a conquered race to conquer other races… yeah, I’ve already said I really don’t like the whole mindset of the aliens, it’s uncomfortable if you think about it too hard.
Happy Smiles So we suggest you just don’t think about it, and just try to take it as a fun sci-fi adventure. And the other planets are really interesting. The problems the special forces face are pretty unique and there’s even a few cases where it looks like the ‘conquerors’ have painted themselves into a corner and oh no it looks like we’re all about to die.
Confused Sharky Well yeah, they’re definitely fun. But they have a massive share of hand-waving involved when you find out the special forces have genetically engineered wasps and gorilla soldiers and it’s never explained how that happened. It can get… weird. The wasps especially. They show up right at the beginning of the special forces plotline and we’re expected to just go along with it?
Default Smiles Basically. So, well, the main plotline predictably goes south because it turns out that when you spread a few humans around a place where the native population is willing to listen to new ideas… well, let’s just say one of the chapters is named ‘Contagious Earthitis’. It reaches a point where the solution to salvage the problem may or may not seem like a huge cop out to you.
Confused Sharky I really want to say it comes out of nowhere, because it just feels like it does, but the ending was mentioned right in the first couple of chapters. It’s just that because it was never brought up again, it seems way too convenient.
Happy Smiles I thought it was brilliant, but there you are. We never agree on the important things like interstellar war or where to order take-out.
Angry Sharky 4 said you could decide!


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